• Kyodo


U.S. President Bill Clinton will fly to Japan for a one-day visit to attend the official funeral of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, a White House official said Thursday.

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told reporters that Clinton will leave here for Tokyo on June 7, after winding up his May 30-June 5 tour of Germany, Portugal, Ukraine and Russia.

The president will attend the funeral slated for the following day, flying back to Washington immediately after the service, Berger said.

“The president believes that it is extremely important, given the fundamental importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship, that the United States express its solidarity with the Japanese people and its support for our partnership,” Berger said.

Upon hearing the news of Obuchi’s death earlier this month, Clinton said, “I would like obviously to do anything I could to pay my respects, not only because of our relationship with Japan, but because of my personal feelings for him.”

China will send a top-level delegation to Obuchi’s funeral, while Russia is likely to be represented by a deputy prime minister-level official.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have already decided to attend the funeral.

Obuchi died May 14, six weeks after suffering a stroke and falling into a coma.

His funeral is being organized by the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Mori welcomes visit

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori expressed his appreciation Friday for the decision by U.S. President Bill Clinton to attend the June 8 official funeral for the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

Mori told reporters at the Diet building: “We highly welcome (Clinton’s visit) since he will express the condolences of U.S. citizens. I think former Prime Minister Obuchi would be grateful for that.”

He said he wants to meet Clinton during his one-day visit, but added a meeting has yet to be scheduled.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said Clinton’s attendance at the funeral would be “very significant” for bilateral ties.

“The president is going to attend the funeral in person, so we take this extremely seriously,” the top government spokesman said.