The fact that Japan was the first stop on the secretary of State's Asia itinerary was a strong start. (In 1998, President Bill Clinton sent a different message, bypassing Japan completely after a week-plus trip to China.) She'll visit Indonesia, South Korea, and then China. Her invitation to Prime Minister Taro Aso to meet President Obama at the White House next week will also go down very well, a boon to the floundering Japanese leader. His approval ratings have fallen below 10 percent and could hit a new bottom given his finance minister's resignation after apparently showing up intoxicated at a G-7 forum last weekend.
Of course, Clinton hedged her bets, also meeting with opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa.
The two countries' central focus is inevitably the global financial crisis. Japan set an unhappy record yesterday as its export-dependent economy registered its worst drop in GDP since 1974 – 12.7 percent. Some economists say the term "depression" may soon trump mere recession.