Japan on Wednesday began direct communication with the United States over Washington’s decision to abandon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a treaty aimed at curbing global warming.

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono told U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in a morning telephone conversation that Washington should resume participation in talks on implementing the treaty, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Kono reportedly told Powell that U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision last week to effectively abandon the treaty has disappointed many countries.

“I am very concerned about the influence that the U.S. indication of not supporting the Kyoto Protocol will have on international efforts to deal with climate change,” Kono was quoted as telling Powell during the 20-minute conversation.

Powell said he understands Japan’s stance but stood firm on the latest U.S. position, saying the pact is not beneficial to the U.S. and will impede Washington’s economic and energy policies, according to the officials.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said during Diet deliberations Wednesday that Japan will continue urging the U.S. to remain committed to the Kyoto Protocol because U.S. cooperation is essential to make the agreement work.

“I believe it is Japan’s important role to continue efforts to gain the understanding of the U.S.,” Mori said during a one-on-one debate with opposition leaders.

But he avoided calls for Japan to take the initiative and ratify the treaty regardless of Washington’s plans, saying: “This is an issue that we can proceed in without the U.S. if we want to. But that would not be a solution.”

The treaty, negotiated and signed in Kyoto, would require the world’s industrialized countries to impose binding limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases, which scientists believe are causing significant climate change.

Under the pact, the U.S. would have to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and certain other pollutants by 7 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

The same day, a delegation from the Japanese government and the ruling coalition left for Washington to urge high-ranking U.S. government officials and lawmakers to push for the U.S. to remain in the treaty framework.

The group includes Kiyohiro Araki, senior vice foreign minister, and Hiroshi Oki, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party House of Representatives member who chaired the 1997 U.N. conference on climate change in Kyoto as head of what was then the Environment Agency.

In addition, the Japan arm of an international federation of lawmakers addressing environmental issues sent a letter to Bush the same day urging his government to commit to the protocol.

The letter, written by Japan’s Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE Japan), was sent in the wake of Bush’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement.

Japanese outrage

Citizens and politicians held an emergency gathering at the Diet on Wednesday and criticized the U.S. decision to abandon an international accord on climate change.

They also adopted a statement calling for Japan to take the lead by implementing domestic measures and ratifying the agreement as soon as possible.

Participants repeatedly voiced anger and dismay at U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration for saying it would reject the Kyoto Protocol, an accord adopted at U.N. climate talks in late 1997 under which countries are to address global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“If the U.S. does not want to ratify the treaty, others countries must try to persuade it to do so. We need to take the initiative in Japan, because taking a leadership role is imperative,” said Yukio Hatoyama, head of the Democratic Party of Japan.

The declaration adopted at the gathering also called on politicians to consider adopting a Diet resolution protesting the U.S. position and pushing for domestic measures and ratification of the treaty.

“The U.S. position is also testing Japan. If the U.S. doesn’t go with the protocol, Japan needs to show the world that it will push ahead with domestic steps anyway,” said Mie Asaoka, from the nongovernmental organization Kiko Network.

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