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Japan's money and Pacific friendship

SUPPOSE a nonpartisan commission exists to promote friendship between the United States and another nation, it's doing a reasonably good job, and the country already has provided money in a kind of bank account to keep it going. Naturally Congress will agree to release the money, don't you think? Think again.

Just such a case now exists. The House of Representatives has refused to provide the money, and it is the Senate's turn to act. Fortunately considerable Senate sentiment exists to release the money, originally provided by Japan. Favorable Senate action could revive the issue in the House.

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The commission is the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. Its purpose is to promote long-term friendship and understanding between the two former enemies; it does so by making grants to encourage the studying of the Japanese language and nation in the United States, the development of American studies in Japan, and cultural and scientific exchanges. Last year it gave out 114 grants totaling about $3.5 million. In the long run the understanding that such grants can help provide will greatly benefi t the United States, as well as Japan.

But the trade imbalance between Japan and the United States threatens continuation of the program. The House of Representatives failed to give its approval to release the funding in a major appropriations bill it recently passed; members apparently were responding to the economic problems of some US industries, and to employees, threatened by Japanese competition in a host of areas.

Economic competition between the US and Japan may indeed be unfair in some respects, with Japan penetrating the American market with many products while making it difficult for many US goods to be sold in Japan, irrespective of the high dollar.

But the issues are totally separate. Friendship and cooperation between the two nations require long-term nurturing, which should be continued.

The money for the commission doesn't come from American taxpayers: In 1970 Japan put it in a trust fund, for the commission's use, to compensate the US for post-World War II assistance and the roads and facilities the US had built in Okinawa.

Other ways should be found to deal with the economic controversy. When a Senate appropriations subcommittee considers the friendship issue in September it should agree to release the funds; so should the full Senate, and a number of senators already have signaled they will support such action. If that occurs, the House then would have the opportunity to reverse itself: It should. --30--{et

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