Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi met with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Friday and pledged to bring about positive economic growth in fiscal 1999, stabilize the nation’s fragile financial system and quickly implement 24 trillion yen in stimulus measures.

Clinton endorsed Obuchi’s strategy for pulling Japan out of its longest recession since World War II but also urged Japan to take further measures, such as deregulating its economy and opening its markets.

The two leaders also discussed their shared concerns over North Korea’s suspected construction of an underground nuclear facility and reaffirmed their intention to promote cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea over security.

Clinton extended an invitation to Obuchi to make a state visit to Washington in May.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Obuchi at the close of his two-day visit, Clinton called Japan’s new 24 trillion yen economic stimulus package “quite good,” but added that it may not be enough. “I believe it is clearly not only in the interest of the world and the region but in the interest of the Japanese people for Japan to continue to move forward with Prime Minister Obuchi’s strategy,” he said. “(And) I know there are painful choices and difficult challenges for Japan.”

Clinton also said it would be “unfair” to criticize Obuchi’s policies before they have been given a chance to have an effect.

Obuchi explained to Clinton that Japan is doing its utmost to restabilize the nation’s financial system and achieve economic recovery. “Restoring Japan’s economy is quite important for the stability and prosperity of the world economy,” Obuchi told a news conference, pledging to achieve positive economic growth in fiscal 1999.

The government projects that Japan’s economy will shrink 1.8 percent this fiscal year, which ends March 31, which would mean a second-consecutive year of negative growth.

Economic growth was minus 0.7 percent in fiscal 1997.

Last month, Japan enacted a series of banking reform laws, including the new bank recapitalization law that has paved the way for the injection of public funds into capital-short banks.

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