Japan's High-Profile Summit Role Kaifu Wins Nod to Resume Loan to Chinese

Article excerpt

AFTER doffing his cowboy hat at the end of the Houston summit, the newly assertive prime minister of Japan, Toshiki Kaifu, came away with two trophies in his diplomatic pouch.

Both will help Japan in its drive to reshape the political landscape in a still-tense Asia as much as its six Western partners are altering a post-cold-war scene in Europe, Japanese leaders say. (Summit wrapup, Page 3.)

One trophy is a wink of consent from summit partners for Japan to gradually resume a $5.5 billion loan to China, a major break in the year-long economic sanctions against Beijing.

The other trophy is tacit support by its West European partners for Japan's claim to four islands invaded by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II. Although the summit only "notes" Japan's interest in the islands, Tokyo hopes to use this breakthrough in coming negotiations with Moscow to settle the accounts of Soviet expansion in Asia under Joseph Stalin.

"A new age for Japan is being opened to us," says Kazuo Aichi, director general of the international bureau for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. "The presence of Japan in the world is bigger, and we are forced into a situation where we have to initiate things ourselves."

The surprisingly stronger voice for Japan at this summit, compared to its meeker presence at earlier gatherings of the seven major industrialized nations, reflects Tokyo's concern over keeping pace with rapid East-West changes as well as its desire for a political role more equal to its economic clout.

"Japan was much more vulnerable at earlier summits, when the focus was on trade issues," says Seizaburo Sato of the International Institute for Global Peace.

President Bush told reporters at the summit that Japan is a sovereign country that "can make up its mind on a lot of questions." With so many differences among the summiteers after the decline of the Soviet threat, the Houston meeting was tagged as the "Going-My-Way Summit."

Japan decided to go its own way on aid to China for a number of reasons. …