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News Releases on Asia

June 8, 2001

June 8, 2001 | News Releases on Asia

Bush Should Plan Tokyo Summit To Strengthen US-Japan Ties, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2001-President Bush has traveled to California, but he should go even farther. To Japan-and soon-says a new Heritage Foundation paper.

Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi arrives here for a summit this month. To further strengthen ties between Japan and the United States, President Bush should pay a reciprocal visit to Tokyo in October, writes Heritage analyst Balbina Hwang.

A presidential visit to Tokyo would show the world that Japan plays a critical role in ensuring peace and stability in Asia and contributes much to the region's economic vitality, says Hwang, an expert on northeast Asia. The visit also would demonstrate the Bush administration supports the new prime minister's efforts to institute political and economic reform.

Koizumi was elected prime minister in April on a platform of economic and political reforms not seen since the 1873 Meiji Restoration, when a group of young samurais created an "economic revolution" by melding traditional Japanese values with Western entrepreneurial institutions and practices, the analyst says.

Such reform is needed, Hwang notes, because for most of the 1990s, Japan's economy has floundered with stagnant growth and increasing debt. At the start of 2001, public debt reached 130 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), totaling more than $5.6 trillion. (By way of comparison, U.S. public debt stands at less than 33 percent of GDP.)

Hwang writes that, besides visiting Tokyo, the Bush administration can improve U.S.-Japanese relations by:

  • Supporting Japan's interest in revising its constitution. Japan and the United States are military allies, but clauses in Japan's 1947 Constitution-including one that says the Japanese people "forever renounce war"-make it difficult for Japan to deploy troops for peacekeeping operations or even joint military exercises. Hwang says that President Bush should support Koizumi's desire to revise (or at least reinterpret the meaning of) the Japanese Constitution. The president also should press for Japanese cooperation on developing a missile-defense system that can be shared between the two countries.
  • Encouraging economic reforms. In meetings with the Japanese finance minister, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill should encourage immediate reforms that will reverse Japan's economic slump, such as rooting out corruption in Japan's banking system and demanding accountability on bad loans made by its banks and corporations. "At a time when the U.S. economy is slowing down, reviving the Japanese economy, the world's second largest, is imperative-not just from a U.S. perspective but from a global perspective as well," Hwang says.
  • Suggesting that members of Congress and the Japanese Parliament meet more often. In particular, dialogue between the lawmakers should focus on ways to promote trade and on the benefits Japan will derive from liberalizing its economy, Hwang writes.

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