Vice President Mondale promised the Japanese today that there would be no foreign policy "surprises" from the Carter administration similar to those that disrupted Japanese-U.S. relations during the Nixon years.
In the first of two meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, Mondale pledged that there will be "full consultation on all matters of mutual interest between the two countries in the next four years."
Tokyo is the last stop on Mondale's nine-day tour of America's leading allies. He talks with Fukuda are also a preliminary to a Fukuda-Carter meeting in Washington, which Fukuda announced today will take place March 21-22.
Today's 90-minute session was focused almost entirely on economic issues, according to participants, and by all accounts went smoothly. There was no discussion of Carter's desire to reduce U.S. troop commitments in South Korea and no certainty whether the issue will arise at a second Mondale-Fukuda meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning before Mondale flies back across the Pacific to report to the President on his European and Japanese talks.
The second meeting was added to Mondale's schedule when Fukuda was delayed today by the opening of the Japanese Parliament.
In his speech to the Parliament, the prime minister stressed the same need for cooperation among Japan, West Germany and the United States to stimulate a worldwide economic recovery that has been the keynote of Mondale's talks on the first major diplomatic mission of the new U.S. administration.
Fukuda reaffirmed the "fundamental importance . . .of the U.S.-Japan relationship" and said it" has survived various trials of discordance of the past and become stronger than ever."
That was a delicate reference to the Lockheed scandal that has implicated leading figures of Fukudas' own party, and to the "shocks" administered to Japan in the early 1970s by the U.S. opening to China, the devaluation of the dollar and the embargo on soybean sales.
It was to assure the Japanese that they would be secure against similar unpleasant "surprises" from the Carter administration that Mondale made the arduous 21-hour journey from Paris to Toyko.
He paid a price in the disruption of his biological clock, awakening at 5:30 a.m. today and watching the Japanese version of Romper Room before the first meeting with Fukuda.
The discussion of economic issues apparently went smoothly. U.S. officials said "there are no issues of great tension" between the two countries, although the Japanese are concerned about the impact on their fisheries of the new U.S. 200-mile limit, and American industry is complaining about the volume of Japanese steel and color television exports to the United States.
Despite the $5 billion trade imbalance between the United States and Japan, the two countries are basically pursuing similar policies of economic stimulus. American officials applaud Fukuda's budget, which calls for 6.7 per cent economic growth. His stimulus package relies almost exclusively on expanded public works, rather than the tax cuts Carter hopes will spur the American economy.
There also seems to be no great "tension" in Japan over Carter's announced desire to reduce U.S. troop strength in South Korea. Japanese officials said Fukuda understands that withdrawals will not start immediately and will be gradual when they begin, and he has no objection to it, on that basis.
In his speech today, Fukuda warned against dismantling the framework that has thus far sustained the "equilibrium" between North and South Korea, but Foreign Minister Iichiro Hatoyama last week said that the rate at which the 42,000 U.S. troops are brought home is essentially a matter for Washington and Seoul to negotiate.