TOKYO -- Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe leaves today on a mission to build bridges with the Clinton administration but also to warn that the U.S. tactic of pressuring Japan on trade issues has created "a feeling in Japan that enough is enough."
Mr. Watanabe will not be threatening retaliation if the United States imposes trade sanctions on Japan, Foreign Ministry officials said. It is too early to say there is a consensus to get tough with Washington, they said.
But the Japanese do not feel they are responsible for a trade imbalance that approached $50 billion last year to the extent that Americans are blaming them, the officials said.
As a result, they said, "a dangerous tendency" to advocate that Japan adopt a "more independent stance" of its own in diplomacy is "creeping into the Japanese psyche." And, at the same time, U.S. badgering on trade issues has created a feeling that "enough is enough," they said.
Assuming that Japan will continue to cave in to U.S. pressure would be a "very dangerous notion" for Clinton administration officials to embrace, they said.
Mr. Watanabe, the officials said, will try to persuade U.S. officials that the two countries must strive to create a "framework" in which they can feel "more secure" with each other. "That is what this trip is all about," one of the officials said.
To the relief of the Japanese government, on the day before Mr. Watanabe's departure, the Clinton administration scheduled a short meeting for today so Mr. Watanabe can "pay respects" to President Clinton. Officials in Tokyo had feared that Mr. Clinton might not see Mr. Watanabe and that a presidential snub would have sent a message to a Japanese public already irritated with the United States that the White House was treating U.S.-Japan relations lightly.
In a separate interview, Yukio Sato, director of the Foreign Ministry's North American division, called Mr. Watanabe's visit "a very important first trip." Following it, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa wants to meet Mr. Clinton "as early as possible" -- sometime "from the end of March through April," he said.