Japan has expressed its reluctance to help finance an $8.25-billion U.S. supercollider project, a Cabinet member disclosed.
Akiko Santo, director general of the Science and Technology Agency, said the government conveyed its position to U.S. officials at a U.S.-Japanese science conference that concluded Friday.
It was the first high-level announcement of Tokyo's position.
Santo said the U.S. delegation led by Allan Bromley, the science adviser to President Bush, asked for Japanese financial help for the particle accelerator. She said Bromley did not specify an amount, but Japanese news reports have said that Washington would seek up to $1.6 billion.
Japan's decision is likely to set the tone for future Japanese-U.S. relations after Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu's two-year term expires this month.
U.S. officials have said that the financially troubled project is certain to be high on the agenda when Bush visits Tokyo next month.
The supercollider, a 54-mile racetrack-shaped tunnel, is aimed at exploring the origin and nature of matter by causing protons to collide at high speeds in the underground ring.
The project, awarded to Texas, requires a third of the total financing, or about $2.8 billion, to be put up by sources outside the U.S. government.
Texas pledged $1 billion. India, the only foreign donor so far, pledged $50 million, leaving nearly $1.8 billion to go.
Europe has its own supercollider project, leaving Japan the most likely major funding source.
But working-level Japanese officials have for nearly a year carefully avoided making any commitments despite a U.S. offer to make Japan a co-owner.
An Education Ministry official said last week that funding in the amount sought by the Bush Administration is "almost impossible."