Many people nowadays think of Japan as a society that can do no wrong. But Japan sometimes seems as if it can't do anything right when it comes to foreign policy. On that, the rich new kid on the block gets little respect.
Take the Persian Gulf crisis. Having quietly retreated to the sidelines after an unsuccessful attempt to send troops to the gulf, Tokyo now is slowing its military spending while boosting its support of U.S. troops stationed in Japan.
That's good news on two fronts: Asian countries, wary of Tokyo's military buildup, are relieved. Closer to home, Washington had been pressing Tokyo to pick up a bigger share of the tab for maintaining 50,000 U.S. servicemen and women in Japan. That should ease the U.S. deficit, now burdened by the costs of Operation Desert Shield.
Tokyo's new five-year defense budget caps annual spending increases at 3%, compared to 5% before. Its share of expenses at U.S. bases will rise to 50% from 40%. With its defense spending pegged at 1% of a rising gross national product, the military budget has been growing.