Kaifu's fate hangs on summit, expert says

By Terry Spencer
Staff writer
PALM SPRINGS -- Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu's government could quickly fall if President Bush pushes too hard for trade concessions during their summit meeting, said Hajime "Jim" Fujiwara, a Japanese author and businessman who lives in Palm Springs.
"Kaifu is a very, very weak man who is not strong enough and is not smart enough to handle pressure," Fujiwara said, adding that opponents within the prime minister's own party will use any misstep to force his ouster.
"The situation in the Japanese government is very complicated, which Americans don't understand," Fujiwara said. "(Kaifu) is a very small guy and totally incompetent."
Bush and Kaifu are scheduled to talk today and Saturday at the Club at Morningside in Rancho Mirage.
Fujiwara, 52, was born in Tokyo and left Japan 25 years ago. He lived in France for five years, earning a science doctorate at the University of Grenoble. He then moved to Canada, where he lived for five years before moving to the: U. S. 10 years ago.
He said he has written 20 books, many about the politics and economics of the oil industry and has been hired by one of Japan's leading news magazines to report on the summit.
Kaifu came to power six months ago after his Liberal Democratic Party -- which has ruled the country for 34 years -- was rocked when most of its leaders were implicated in a bribery scandal.
Kaifu -- who had been a minor figure in the party -- was chosen by his party's parliamentary delegation to be prime minister because he was untainted by the scandal.
"The reason he was not touched by the bribery is because he was not an important man," Fujiwara said.
Those politicians who were implicated will try to convince the Japanese people to reinstate them to power if Bush makes Kaifu appear weak.
"If Bush tries to act like a conqueror, engages in Japan-beating, Kaifu will be gone," Fujiwara said. "There are Japanese (politicians) who hate America and they would use (Bush's attitude) to their advantage."
Instead of pushing Kaifu on trade issues, Bush should seek his cooperation in aiding Eastern Europe and Latin America, Fujiwara said.
"Japan could make a contribution in those areas, but its corporations and politicians are interested only in making money," he said. "Bush and the Americans are globalists, but the Japanese who are coming to power are nationalists. And that could be very dangerous."

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