February 24, 1996 in Nation/World

Japan’s New Leader Gets Reassurance

Associated Press

President Clinton met with Japan’s new leader Friday and disavowed Pat Buchanan’s brand of tough trade policies, declaring that America’s approach should not be “based on fear or anger or rancor.”

“Our relationship should be one of respect and friendship, even when we have different opinions and different interests,” Clinton said at the opening of talks with Ryutaro Hashimoto. “It is not based on fear. It is based on respect and friendship.”

“I would hope that the Japanese prime minister would never be afraid of any American president,” Clinton said. “We have a partnership.” Hashimoto responded playfully to the president’s remarks, drawing back and raising his hands in mock fright and looking fearfully at Clinton.

Hashimoto sidestepped a question about Buchanan’s assertion that Tokyo was nervous that he might be elected president. “I’m confident the American people will make good decisions,” the prime minister said, speaking through a translator. “I’m not taking any sides, I must say.”

Clinton and Hashimoto, the combative Japanese trade minister who became prime minister last month, met in a tropical courtyard garden at an oceanfront hotel. Both sides said it was a get-acquainted meeting rather than a negotiating session. A full agenda awaits the two leaders when Clinton visits Tokyo in mid-April.

“There have been problems,” Clinton acknowledged. “We have taken these issues seriously, far more seriously than previous American administrations. But we have not attempted to approach them in an atmosphere that was based on fear or anger or rancor.

“We can be firm with each other, strong with each other, we can even disagree with each other,” Clinton said. However, he said it was important to have a strong partnership with Japan in security and economic matters.

“So I think we should all remember that this trade is a two-way street,” the president said. “When we raise barriers to others, they can also raise barriers to us. The goal should be freer trade and fairer trade.”

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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