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Emerging Japan

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ONE important development a new administration must take into account is the emergence of a new Japan. Until now, Japan's significance has been economic - its rise from a tattered land in the aftermath of World War II into an economic superpower. With that economic strength have come stirrings from within, and pressures from without, for Japan to assume a more significant political and diplomatic role internationally.

Japan is rich, and increasingly self-confident, the argument goes. It has benefited from defense spending substantially lower than that of other allies in the Western alliance. Now is the time, the argument goes on, for Japan to become a major political force.

That Japan's role is going to change, there seems little doubt. But how that role will take shape, and over what time period, is under debate.

How too, will such change affect the relationship between Japan and the United States? The US wants Japan to assume more of the economic burden of leadership. If Japan is to share more of the burden, it will want to share more of the power.

Questions like these were recently raised at a just-concluded conference here on the future of US-Japanese relations. Held behind closed doors to encourage frank discussion, it was convened by the Council on Foreign Relations of New York, and the Asia Pacific Association of Japan. A US delegation 13-strong met with a Japanese delegation of the same number. Participants included leading economists, academics, corporate executives, top present and former government officials, a few journalists, and military men.

It is not breaking the rules to predict that we will be seeing a more assertive Japan, intent on becoming a major player in international politics.

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