- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

Stephen D. Cohen, a professor in the School of International Service at American University, was interviewed this week by reporter Ted Hattori. An international economist, Mr. Cohen served as chief economist with the U.S.-Japan Trade Council. His books include "An Ocean Apart: Explaining Three Decades of U.S.-Japanese Trade Frictions" (1998).

Question: What is the current state of U.S.-Japan relations?

Answer: In economic terms, the relations are in good shape. Economic problems and frictions used to be very bad in 1970s, '80s and early '90s, but right now there's no bilateral problem. An upcoming, escalating problem is Iraq. It will be a major factor in U.S.-Japan relations.

The Bush administration's attitudes toward Japan will be influenced by whether [President Bush] gets verbal support and perhaps some economic support, and what possibly will be military actions in Iraq.

Q: Does Japan have a strategy in diplomacy?

A: No, I don't think Japan has a really clear strategy, because the Japanese are still not certain of their place in the international political order. [On the other hand, Japan] had a very clear strategy in terms of protecting its economic interests. From the Japanese point of view, the U.S.-Japan relation has been a very important objective. I think it was a strategy in Japan's diplomacy to maintain good relationships with the U.S.

Q: Are the Japanese like primary school students?

A: No, because the Japanese say no when they want to say no.

I'm old enough to remember the textile dispute back in 1970s. They did not think the U.S. demand to Japan made a lot of sense. And they were absolutely right. And they said no. They said, "We are not causing the problem."

Q: Will Japan help the U.S. effort in Iraq?

A: I think they'll help in terms of words and probably money, just as in the Gulf war. It definitely does not repeat not need to be military support. And I don't think they'll help in military terms because it's against their constitution. And their military participation is not needed.

If the U.S. asks I don't think it will I think Japan will say no. And I agree with that.

Q: What topics are coming up in meetings of high U.S. and Japanese officials?

A: Certainly Afghanistan. The worldwide fight against terrorism. Iraq. And the outlook for Japan's domestic economy. In terms of future outlook, I think, the Japanese economy is much worse than the U.S. economy.

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