Mori keen on Clinton talks

New prime minister may visit U.S. as early as May

Newly elected Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori indicated Thursday that he wants to visit the United States in the near future to hold talks with President Bill Clinton, government officials said.

In a telephone conversation Thursday morning, Mori told Clinton that he wants to visit the U.S. for talks before July’s Group of Eight summit in Okinawa Prefecture, a government official said.

Mori was quoted by the official as telling Clinton, “I would like to meet with you as soon as possible.”

Clinton responded by saying he looks forward to meeting with Mori at a time convenient for the new prime minister, the official said.

Foreign Ministry officials said they hope to arrange a visit around the end of Golden Week, in early May.

Mori plans to visit Russia later this month to hold talks with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin.

During their conversation, Mori asked for Clinton’s cooperation in ensuring the success of the G8 summit, from July 21 through July 23, saying, “(The Japanese government) aims to do its best to make the summit a success, while cooperating with the other G8 nations.”

Clinton promised his full support to ensure the summit’s success, the source said.

Mori also told the president he is convinced that further strengthening of the Japanese-U.S. alliance will benefit Japan and other Asian nations.

Clinton told Mori that he hopes to work with him in advancing bilateral relations, although the two nations must address important contentious issues, according to the official.

Mori also spoke to French President Jacques Chirac for 10 minutes on the telephone later the same day.

According to a Foreign Ministry official, the two leaders agreed to cooperate in promoting bilateral ties and making the G8 summit in Okinawa Prefecture a success.

Mori and Chirac expressed their hope for successful talks when they meet on the fringes of the G8 summit, which brings together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, the official said.

Chirac asked Mori to visit France whenever convenient, and the latter thanked him for the invitation, the official said.

Mori also talked with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung by telephone and asked him to visit Japan “at a time convenient for both of us,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

“I’d like to renew our invitation,” Mori was quoted as saying in a seven-minute telephone call he made to Kim a day after succeeding Keizo Obuchi as prime minister.

Mori did not propose any specific date, the official said.

But the two nations have been working to set Kim’s visit for sometime next month under Obuchi’s initiative to have the opinions of other Asian nations reflected at the G8 summit in Okinawa Prefecture.

Kim called for “advancing bilateral ties through even closer contacts” and “continuing cooperation on dialogue with North Korea and for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Mori requested a visiting senior member of the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday that Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji make a trip to Japan at an early date, a government official said.

“I would welcome a visit to Japan by Zhu. I would like to ask you to deliver this message (to the Chinese government),” the official quoted Mori as telling Zeng Qinghong, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Organization Department.

During the meeting at the prime minister’s official residence, Zeng told Mori that he would convey the request to the Chinese government, he said.

Zeng said, “I was honored to be the (Mori’s) first foreign guest. The Chinese government and the Communist Party are paying close attention to the Mori administration.

“I’m convinced that relations between Japan and China, and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party and the Chinese Communist Party will further develop under the framework of principles that have been established,” he said.

Obuchi still critical

The condition of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who has been in a coma since Sunday due to a stroke, remains critical but unchanged, Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said Thursday.

“The premier’s condition has not changed since morning . . . but it remains very grave,” the top government spokesman said at a news conference in the afternoon. Aoki said he talked to doctors shortly before the news conference.

Obuchi is hooked up to a respirator in an intensive care unit at Tokyo’s Juntendo Hospital.

Earlier in the day, Aoki denied reports that Obuchi had shown signs of recovery, stressing that he had received no such information from doctors treating the former prime minister.

Aoki said reports on Obuchi’s condition differ depending on visitors’ interpretation of comments by Obuchi’s family.

Tamisuke Watanuki, leader of the Obuchi faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told fellow faction members after visiting Obuchi on Wednesday, “His brain waves were fine and his hands were moving.”