Sweet gesture brings defense ministers closer

Photo taken from Nobuo Kishi’s Instagram account
Cookies served at the Japan-U.S. defense ministers’ meeting in May

A relationship can be deepened after an unexpected incident. For Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, it was a conversation over cookies.

At a Japan-U.S. defense ministers’ meeting at the U.S. Department of Defense on May 4, cookies decorated with icing depicting the two countries’ national flags were served. The flags, adapted to the round shape of the cookies, were surrounded by a border of cream piping.

Kishi was looking forward to taking them to eat later, as he has a sweet tooth.

Just after the meeting started, Austin, looking concerned, informed Kishi of stains on the sleeve of his shirt. It was the cream. Kishi was disappointed that he would not be able to take the cookies back home, but then Austin said that another set of cookies would be provided as souvenirs.

The meeting progressed smoothly, and the two moved into a separate room afterwards for talks on the reliability of the U.S. expanded deterrence, including through its nuclear umbrella.

The two defense chiefs had already held talks seven times, some over the phone. But for Kishi, it was the first time he got a feel for the kind of person Austin was.

“He is a person of integrity, who pays attention to details,” Kishi said of Austin.

After returning to Japan, Kishi posted a message on his Instagram account, saying: “I could not eat the Japan-U.S. cookies during the meeting. I fully enjoyed them after coming back.”

Unlike the colorful confections, the security environment surrounding Japan and the United States is not really sweet, with heightened threats from Russia, China and North Korea. Expectations are high for Kishi and Austin, who seem to have deepened their trust in each other.