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Albright Assures Japan of Good Relations

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Seeking to ease Japanese concerns, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was dispatched to Tokyo on Friday to assure officials that improving U.S.-Chinese ties will not hurt America’s relationship with Japan.

In her meetings Saturday with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Foreign Minister Keizo Obucho, Albright also planned to deliver an American message of support for Japanese efforts to pull out of recession and help cure Asia’s economic woes.

President Clinton, who ended his nine-day trip to China on Friday, decided not to make a stop in Tokyo on his way home. So Albright’s brief visit here is partly designed to repair any hurt feelings, the White House said.

“One of the purposes of Secretary Albright’s visit is to assure the Japanese that relations with China are not a zero sum game,” presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said. “If U.S. relations with China improve, that does not mean relations with Japan are not good.”

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The administration is careful to note that Clinton will welcome Hashimoto for a state visit in Washington on July 22, reinforcing Japan’s position as a top ally and key trade partner.

Since the end of World War II, when China and the United States were allies against Japan, the United States has guaranteed the island nation’s defense--much to Beijing’s irritation.

Clinton, however, has for several years been working to increase cooperation with China on a range of issues. In the Asian financial crisis, for example, Beijing has refrained from devaluing its currency, avoiding a move that could trigger another round of falling monetary values.

Some Asia watchers see Clinton’s decision to bypass Japan as a bow to China’s Jiang Zemin, who didn’t stop in other countries after his visit to the United States last October.

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Hashimoto’s U.S. trip will come 10 days after crucial parliamentary elections, viewed as a referendum on the prime minister’s management of Japan’s economy, which is at its lowest ebb since the devastation of World War II.

Clinton, in his departing news conference from Hong Kong, praised Japan for announcing a plan to gradually shut down banks weakened by bad loans, and he urged further steps toward recovery.

“I don’t think anyone seriously believes that the financial situation in Asia can get better . . . unless Japan can grow again,” Clinton said.


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