Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda fears a resurgence of trade protectionism may plague the world, and he wants to discuss the danger with President Carter at their March 21-22 Washington summit, Dukuda said today.
"A reversion to protectionism would be a political tragedy of global magniture, the prime minister warned. In his talks with Carter and at the May 7-8 summit conference in London of the industrially advanced nations, he would try to prevent the current world recession from causing "any rising tide of protectionism."
"If only in these meetings we can pledge together that we shall not repeat the folly we committed before the Second World War, I think we shall be making a worthwhile contribution to the whole world," he added.
Speaking at a luncheon meeting of the Foreign Corresponsents' Club in Tokyo, Fukuda said the current post-oil-shock recession resembled the economic slump which led to the out-break of the Second World War.In the Hoover recession beginning in 1929, the whole world was thrown into recession, he said. World trade shrank by 40 per cent and total world production fell by 30 per cent in the following four years.
Fukuda said he was troubled by the danger of new forms of protectionism "Which, if we don't do anything about them, will bring about worldwide poverty and depression. And we cannot permit that to happen."
Answering a question on the likely withdrawal of U.S. ground forces from South Korea, Fukuda hinted he has not given up hope of influencing the Carter administration's policy towards the whole of Asia is really finalized . . . I would think such an Asian policy would be formulated after discussing things with me."
Japan is "very interested" in maintaining peace in the Korean peninsula, he said, adding that any loss of the delicate power balance achieved there by China, the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Japan would be a major problem for all Asia. The U.S. withdrawal would have no effect on Japan's defense planning, the prime minister commented.
Fukuda also, indicated there was a divergence of views on the issue of "morality diplomacy" between Japan and the U.S. He fully agreed with Carter on human rights, Fukuda said. "But in actual implementation of this philosophy . . . the U.S. and Japan are in different positions. Japan must implement this philosophy in a manner befitting Japan's position.
As a trading nation reliant on neighboring countries for markets and supplies of raw materials, Japan invariably strives to avoid foreign policy confrontations. Asked today what advice he would give President Carter on moral issues in such countries as South Korea and the Philippines, Fukuda begged off: "It's a delicate question. I hope you will bear with me if I say 'no comment'," he related.
Describing relations with the Soviet Union as "difficult," Fukuda side he saw no easy solution to a territorial dispute over four islands occupied by Russia in 1945 and claimed by Japan. Peace treaty negotiations between the two countries are deadlocked over Japan's insistence on prior return of the islands which lie close to the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Japan must continue to press its views "strongly and tenaciously" while patiently working out outstanding issues with the Soviet Union one at a time, Fukuda said today.
In a concession to increasing pressure from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Fukuda said he was prepared to attend its August summit in Kuala Lumpur. He balanced that statement a moment later with the comment that Japan wanted to see peace and prosperity in Indochina as well as the Asian region.
Fukuda took the helm of the badly battered Liberal-democratic Party when he became prime minister last December. Today, he promised sweeping reforms of the Lockheed-tainted party, including the disbanding of factions, and victory in upper House elections due this summer.
Like all recent prime ministers, Fukuda has promised to abolish the powerful factions which amount to independent freedoms within the ruling party. He said he was determined to end the groupings "at all costs." His own faction disbanded yesterday, and two major factions are expected to follow suit. However all tree factions are maintaining shadowy cohesion through the establishment of so-called political study groups.