- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Get-tough Japan policy

The Council on Foreign Relations is urging the next U.S. president to adopt a tougher trade policy toward Japan and avoid past mistakes that Tokyo exploited.

"To support a renewed Japan focus in Washington, the new administration should pursue a proactive trade policy," the council said yesterday, promoting a report due for release Friday.

"Years of trade-jousting with Japan have taught valuable lessons: Success requires leverage; it pays to have specific demands; short time-frames lead to truncated results; [and] fragmentation within the U.S. government has frequently been Japan's most powerful ally."

Whether it is President Gore or President Bush, the next U.S. leader should challenge Japan to join the United States in creating an open marketplace free of tariffs and over-regulation by 2010, said the report by Bruce Stokes, the council's senior fellow for economic studies.

"The time is ripe for a bold new initiative to recast the U.S.-Japan economic partnership for the 21st century," Mr. Stokes said in the report, titled "A New Beginning: Recasting the U.S.-Japan Economic Relationship."

"Passivity in the face of the staggering economic problems facing the world's second largest economy and America's principal ally in Asia would be a profound mistake.

"Charting a new course for the U.S.-Japanese economic relationship will require American assertiveness and a bold vision for a better future. It would be a fitting legacy for the new U.S. administration, a new Congress and a new Japanese government if they have the courage to begin to write it."

The council warned that "U.S. willingness to resolve mutual problems" depends on the continued success of the nation's economy.

"A new, proactive U.S. policy toward Japan is needed to maximize the potential of the U.S.-Japanese economic relationship and to cope with the inevitable problems in day-to-day ties between the two largest economies in the world," the council said.

No 'political dwarf'

Kazuo Kodama remembers that when he was studying at Oxford in the 1970s, he was asked a question on an exam about why Japan was an "economic giant but a political dwarf."

The answer was easy. Japan's postwar constitution prevented it from using the military or even threatening the use of force to solve international disputes, he said.

Today Japan has reversed roles. Its economy is struggling to recover from crises in the 1990s, while it has abandoned its "one-nation pacifism," said Mr. Kodama, now press spokesman at the Japanese Embassy.

Mr. Kodama, in a recent speech in Los Angeles, noted that Japan dispatched minesweepers to the Persian Gulf in 1991 after the liberation of Kuwait and sent ground troops into peacekeeping operations in Angola, Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique and the Golan Heights. Tokyo also sent troops to help Rwandan refugees in Zaire and hurricane victims in Honduras.

"We continue to work for the prevention and settlement of regional conflicts. Such cooperation includes the Middle East peace process, peacemaking, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor," he said.

Mr. Kodama said the end of the Cold War meant little in Asia.

"We must not forget the salient truth that in East Asia, the Cold War is not over yet," he said. "The Korean peninsula is still divided. North Korea is a country shrouded in layers of shadow and intrigue… .

"North Korea's economy remains in constant and steep decline… . It does not seem to have abandoned its policy of infiltration through such means as sending submarines or spy ships into the territorial waters of [South Korea] or Japan.

"We, therefore, remain vigilant and must maintain a reliable deterrence, just as NATO did in Europe."

Mr. Kodama said Japan was "deeply affected" when North Korea test-fired a Taepo Dong missile over its territory two years ago.

Mr. Kodama said Japan had to abandon its military isolationism. After it was defeated in World War II and rebuilt by the United States with economic aid and military protection, Japan eventually realized that the world expected it to do more than provide financial support to international peace, he said.

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