It will take more than a sunny meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu to smooth over the troubled American-Japanese relationship. While the two government chiefs dutifully put their emphasis on blandness rather than bashing during their short summit in California last week, they could not wish some very real irritants out of existence.
At the top of the list is trade friction, emphasized only recently by Japanese threats to arrest American rice exporters trying to display their wares in Tokyo and by Japan's perch at the top of a U.S. list of unfair trading nations. Add to that U.S. criticism of Japan's refusal to send military personnel to the gulf war, and you get an unhappy situation that the summiteers tried to mitigate.
For Mr. Bush, the session helped him accumulate IOUs that, presumably, he will cash if and when Tokyo's support (rather bTC than its past sabotage) is needed to rescue the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Mr. Kaifu's objectives were more immediate. The Japanese prime minister could lose his hold on office if his candidate for the governorship of Tokyo does poorly in next weekend's election. Equally important, he needed a show of trans-Pacific solidarity before facing Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev April 16, date of the first visit ever of a Kremlin boss to Japan.