Even so, the law of unintended consequences seemed to be at work. Japan's emergence from the postwar cocoon in which it had wrapped itself after World War II and from which it seemed to be shedding has come into question. Japan's hopes for attaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, always tenuous at best, have been set back.
The "Asian Gateway Initiative" proclaimed by Abe last spring appears in jeopardy. It was to have eased Japan into a "responsible role in the development of Asia" and to have had Japan take the lead in forging "an open regional order," emphasizing economic progress.
Just after he took office, Fukuda said in a policy address: "Maintaining the solid Japan-US alliance and promoting international cooperation are the foundation of Japan's diplomacy." He pledged "that Japan will realize its responsibilities commensurate with its national strength in the international community, and become a country which is relied upon internationally."
Those aspirations have dropped below the horizon, at least for the immediate future.
Richard Halloran is a writer based in Hawaii.