Japan-U.S. Relations are in transition

by Michael Beckley | 5/12/93 10:00pm

Consul General of Japan Toshio Mochizuki described the current relationship between the United States and Japan and forecasted the path Japan will take in the future to a crowd of about 50 people last night.

Mochizuki expressed concern that President Clinton's trade policies are beginning to reflect what he termed the "traditional Democratic party's inclination towards protectionist policies."

He said the Japanese government is taking a more activist role in opening its markets by reducing customs duties and removing many unseen barriers to trade such as burdensome government regulations and weak enforcement of Japanese anti-trust law.

Still, he said, the U.S. has proposed requiring Japan to import a specified minimum number of American goods. He added that the U.S. plans to impose sanctions to enforce the policy.

"The U.S. side has made a unilateral judgement," he said. "[The U.S.] is taking the simultaneous role of prosecutor and judge." Mochizuki blamed many American companies for failing to adapt to the Japanese market. He said that while BMW and Mercedes sell very well in Japan, Detroit has only recently begun to offer right-hand drive vehicles.

He warned that the Clinton administration may be, "rushing headlong into managed trade or protectionist policies."

Mochizuki reported that Japanese Prime Minister Miyazowa's rejection of the import quotas on U.S. goods has earned him the title "the man who can say no," a reference to a book highly critical of U.S. trade pressure entitled, "The Japan That Can Say No."

Mochizuki said Japan and the U.S. are undergoing economic and social change and that relations will improve if both countries can succeed in putting their own houses in order.

Despite the controversy, Mochizuki said, "Our relationship needs to be viewed in its entirety, not only focusing on problematic trade issues."

Mochizuki also discussed Japan's future role in international relations.

He said Japan is "willing to play a more active role in maintaining world peace." Japan's sending of peacekeepers to Cambodia and Mozambique represents a "major step towards assuming larger international duties," he said.

Mochizuki said he couldn't overemphasize the importance of a continued U.S. military presence as a stabilizing factor in the Asia-Pacific region. "A strong America is a source of security to the rest of the world," he said.

While Mochizuki said Japan is very anxious about North Korea's nuclear program, he denied reports that Japan is itself preparing to re-arm. "[It is] very clear that under the present constitution, Japan cannot be a military superpower or even a military power that is able to threaten neighboring countries," he said.

Mochizuki expressed hope that a diplomatic solution will avert an arms race in the region.

He said increased U.S. and Japanese cooperation could be effective in meeting the diverse challenges of global issues like overpopulation, AIDS and the international narcotics trade.