Bush, Kaifu show no signs of progress

April 05, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- President Bush's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu was a session laden with warm words about the U.S.-Japanese relationship but no signals of progress on the numerous issues that continue to divide the two nations.

Indeed, the two made clear that on at least two issues -- Japan's contribution to help defray the costs of the Persian Gulf war and U.S. efforts to sell rice in Japan -- the gap remains wide. And the emotional issue of Japanese automobile sales in the United States was not even discussed, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.

Officials from both sides designed yesterday's meeting as a public relations effort aimed at smoothing feelings on both sides of the Pacific that have been bruised by disputes over trade and aid from Japan for the war effort.

A second, and related, aim was to bolster Kaifu, an administration ally who is in serious, perhaps fatal, political trouble at home, by showing that he is held in high esteem abroad.

Kaifu went out of his way during the joint news conference the two conducted after their meeting to emphasize his closeness to Bush, drawing a few gasps from Japanese reporters when he opened his prepared statement with the president's first name -- "George, thank you."

Despite the mutual praise, neither leader cited any specific progress on the agenda of nagging issues between the two nations.

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