Quayle: US Relations with Japan Are Strong He Notes Japan's Global Contributions, Calls Nations `Closest of Allies'

Article excerpt

BY almost any measure, tensions between the United States and Japan remain high. Yet US Vice President Dan Quayle insists that the relationship between the world's two largest economies is strong and improving.

In an address to the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations here this week, the vice president termed the two nations "the closest of allies" and chastised America-bashers in Japan and Japan-bashers in this country for hurling "degrading insults" at one another.

He said that intensive trade negotiations with Tokyo have paid off in reduced trade barriers and a rise in US exports.

Quayle will put the same case directly to Japanese officials on a four-day trip to Tokyo beginning May 12. The occasion is the 20th anniversary of the return of US-occupied Okinawa to the Japanese government. Quayle will be the first high-level administration visitor since President Bush flew to Tokyo with top US auto leaders last January.

The May trip may not offset past damage or result in any basic policy redirection, but it is very important in the context of the poor state of US-Japanese relations, says Daniel Unger, an assistant professor of government and East Asian expert at Georgetown University.

"Quayle is someone who can clearly say, 'Yes, we have problems but we also have interests in common,' " Professor Unger says. "That's something I think Bush really is not allowed {politically} to say at this stage."

"I think the trip is tremendously important because it appeals to the sense of partnership {in Japan} that's compatible with some degree of a greater national consciousness," says Kent Calder, director of the US-Japan program at Princeton University.

"I think the Japanese have felt that we have not been reciprocating for the huge contributions they made in the Gulf war. We should definitely send a major figure in the light of what happened during the visit last January."

In a meeting with a dozen reporters after his council speech, Quayle stressed Japan's global contributions, including its payment of 72 percent of the non-salary cost of supporting US troops stationed in Japan. …