The Asahi Shimbun interviewed Richard Armitage on December 27, 2008. Armitage said two interesting things in that interview.
“Usually when a new administration comes in--and I mean back to when (Richard) Nixon came in--Japanese officials show up and they tell the president and secretary of state what they can’t do,” said Armitage. “We cannot do that because of political constipation.”
In this quote, Richard Armitage basically explains political theater. Japan can’t do anything because of “political constipation.” Political constipation is presumably another word for political theater.
The other interesting quote had to do with North Korea.
“The Obama administration has got to repair the semi-torn fabric of the U.S.-Japan relationship and the semi-torn fabric of the U.S.-Korea relationship,” said Armitage. “We’re not apart, but the North Koreans have driven a wedge between us. The North Koreans have made Japan the odd man out. This is part of their strategy. We’ve played into their hands. When President Bush made the decision to delist North Korea from the states which support terrorism, I’m sure the North Koreans were throwing themselves a party at Pyongyang. They win, we lose, and they get a bonus. What's the bonus? Anxiety in Japan, some detriment to the U.S.-Japan relationship. I was not in favor of the way the abductee issue was handled in the last several months. So I think that the decision to delist was a bad one.”
This shows that Japan was “angry” with America for removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In reality, however, this was another example of a zero sum game. North Korea and Japan were actually working together. America was in a no win situation. On the one hand, America could delist North Korea which would make Japan angry. On the other hand, if America refused to delist North Korea then North Korea would have presumably continued along its path of hostile behavior.
As a side note, though Armitage denies it, I bet he supported the decision to delist North Korea. In the good cop / bad cop game that we like to play with other nations, Richard Armitage is our good cop for Japan, meaning that, on the surface, he appears to support the Japanese position on issues like North Korea. His true feelings are probably much different, however.