Official: Two countries need to work together more

Japanese Consul General Yoshio Nomoto predicts the interdependent relationship between Japan and the United States will become even more important in the future.

Speaking Monday to an audience of about 40 at the University of Montana, Nomoto said the relationship between the two countries has had a great impact on the Pacific Rim and the world. Not only do the countries represent 40 percent of the world's gross national product, they also account for more than 20 percent of world trade.

"Japan and the United States share a commitment to democracy, the rule of law and the market economy," Nomoto said. "We work together intimately in the spheres of politics, economics, security, the environment, culture, technology and so on."

The United States is the sole superpower in the world, Nomoto said, and the importance of Japan can be seen in its economic influence: 70 percent of the East Asian economy. Its economy is seven times the size of China's, 10 times Korea's, 20 times Indonesia's and 53 times Thailand's.

In his speech, "U.S.-Japan Relations: Partners for the New Millennium," Nomoto discussed the future of the two countries' security, economy and culture.

Citing the upheaval in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, the unstable Korean Peninsula and tensions between Pakistan and India, Nomoto said the alliance ensures the security of Japan and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The recent establishment of Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines will allow Japan to help cope with the problems of Northeast Asia, he added.

Economically, the United Sates is the largest trading partner for Japan. Japan is the third largest trading partner, behind Canada and Mexico, for the United States. A new Japanese-financed plant, Advanced Silicon Materials Inc., provided almost 200 jobs in Butte. Japan also is one of the biggest customers of Montana agricultural products, especially wheat.

A new challenge, a globalized economy, is forcing Japan to restructure its economy. The traditional one-job careers are ending and, Nomoto said, Japan must open itself to the world.

The sister-state relationship helps with the cultural relations by promoting student and business exchanges.

Nomoto's office in Seattle estimates there are about 250 Japanese people living in Montana, most of whom are students. Almost 100 Montanans are participating in the JET program, which helps Japanese learn the English language. In the process, Japanese learn about America, and Americans learn about Japan.

In the future, the United States and Japan will have to work together to cope with regional instability, Nomoto said.

He cited problems with Asian economies, especially Korea, that Japan and the United States worked very closely on. He cited the uncertainty in North Korea, the political transition in Indonesia and the necessity of a triangular relationship with China as examples of how Japan and the United States must work together.

Japan, Nomoto said, hopes that China will play a more positive role in the Pacific. As a result, it is necessary for Japan and the United States to establish a constructive and cooperative relationship with China, he added.

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