Japan could overwhelm the United States economically by focusing on broadband technology, Sony Corp. Chairman Nobuyuki Idei said Wednesday.

According to Idei, the U.S. lacks a strategy in this area.

“I think (the U.S.) should be a leader in broadband,” Idei said in an address to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “If the Americans don’t do it, I’m encouraging the Japanese government (to make) Japan the leader of the broadband society.

“The American government is today busy fighting against other things,” he said. Idei also cited what he alleges is inaction by the U.S. against Napster Inc., whose free music distribution service over the Internet is leading to piracy of his company’s copyrights.

Japan has adopted a target to become a world leader in information technology by 2005. Its 2001 annual white paper trumpeted the arrival in Japan of the broadband era.

“The role of the government is quite important when technology changes,” Idei said. “So while America is sleeping . . . and while America criticizes Japan’s past 10 years as the ‘lost decade,’ we are working ahead for the future 10 years.”

To develop opportunities from broadband technology, new regulations to protect copyrights are essential, he said.

Sony aims to take advantage of the broadband era by offering related software and hardware, but copyright piracy and the growing technological knowhow of China and South Korea remain a major threat, he said.

While copyright piracy erodes Sony’s potential profits from music, game, movie and other software services, low labor-cost production of electronics by Chinese and South Korean rivals creates fierce price competition.

“For the industrial society or knowledge society — America and Japan — I think that proper intellectual property or copyright protection is an essential factor to compete with countries such as China and Korea,” he said.

Asked about the leadership of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Idei gave a positive rating to Koizumi’s performance under certain conditions. The problem stems from the political system, which Idei said is “based on the farming and fishing industries.”

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