Japan's Ruling Conservative Liberal Democratic Party leader Masayoshi Ohira said yesterday the Japanese yen's high appreciation against the dollar "cannot be avoided" as long as the current monetary floating system remains in force.

"It is beyond our control to maintain the value of the dollar in relation to the yen," said the 68-year-old Ohira, who is frequently mentioned as the man most likely to succeed Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda.

"The yen has not attained its high appreciation in itself," he said. "It has gone up in relation to the dollar. It cannot be avoided as long as the floating system is maintained."

Ohira made the remarks at his first news conference for the foreign press since he assumed the post of secretary general for the governmental party in late 1976.

Noting that the value of the yen rose 7 percent during March, he said he would have liked to see the Japanese currency attain such advance over a period of one year rather than just one month.

The dollar was worth 223.40 yen yesterday compared with about 290 yen early last year.

He said Japan has not increased imports to get rid of some of its huge trade surplus, running into $17.5 billion, because some importers are waiting to see if the yen appreciates further against the dollar, which would enable them to buy foreign goods at lower prices.

Ohira said Japan's domestic market will become attractive and more open to foreigners as the "Japanese people become Westernized at a rapid tempo in food, clothing and living standards."