Albright Stops In Tokyo After China Visit To Reassure Japanese
TOKYO (AllPolitics, July 3) -- On her way home from China Friday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stopped off for a short visit to Japan, trying to reassure officials in Tokyo who are uneasy about a closer relationship between the United States and Beijing.
"One of the purposes of Secretary Albright's visit is to assure the Japanese that relations with China are not a zero sum game," said White House spokesman Mike McCurry. "If U.S. relations with China improve, that does not mean relations with Japan are not good."
Albright accompanied President Bill Clinton on his nine-day tour of China, which ended Friday. The president opted not to make a stop in Tokyo on his way home -- but sent Albright instead to repair any hurt feelings.
Saturday, she is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Foreign Minister Keizo Obucho. The secretary planned to deliver an American message of support for Japan's efforts to pull out of a recession and help stabilize Asia's battered economies.
Since the United States defeated Japan in World War II, the two countries have developed a close relationship, becoming key trading partners. During the same era, the United States and China -- allies against Japan in the war -- have become estranged. One thing that has been an irritant to the Chinese is the U.S. guarantee to defend Japan should it be attacked militarily.
But in the last few years, American policy has been to increase cooperation with China on a range of issues, hoping to foster closer ties. Some Asia watchers see Clinton's decision to bypass Japan during his trip as a bow to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who didn't stop in other countries after his visit to the United States last October.
However, administration officials have been careful to note that Clinton will welcome Hashimoto to Washington later this month for a state visit.
In a press conference in Hong Kong at the conclusion of his Chinese sojourn, Clinton also 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 grown again," Clinton said. "It's going to take real concerted actions."