TOKYO, SEPT. 7 -- Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady closed out his "jet-lag tour" of U.S. allies here today with apparent assurances from the Japanese that they will provide increased aid to the multinational force aligned against Iraq in the Persian Gulf confrontation.
Brady has circled the globe in the past five days, seeking more pounds, francs, won and yen to help offset the billions of dollars that maintaining U.S. forces in the gulf region is expected to cost.
At a news conference this morning in Seoul, Brady said he had received "positive" responses to his requests from South Korea as well as from officials in London and Paris. Here in Tokyo, according to Japanese officials, Brady was assured that Japan, too, would respond positively.
Brady even managed to appear upbeat about contributions from West Germany, which has balked at providing financial aid to U.S. forces in the gulf. "I can't imagine that West Germany wouldn't be supportive of this plan," he said. "It is beyond any concept . . . that they wouldn't be part of this."
President Bush dispatched Brady and Secretary of State James A. Baker III to allied capitals this week to press for foreign support for military forces in the gulf region and for aid to Iraq's neighbors -- Jordan, Egypt and Turkey. The mission came amid complaints from American politicians and other commentators that U.S. allies are not meeting their share of expenses for the multinational force.
Neither Brady nor his hosts here offered details of what the treasury secretary has been asking or proposing. But the Bush administration's "burden-sharing" plan calls for at least $23 billion from U.S. allies over the next year, including $2 billion from Japan.
Japan, an economic powerhouse that is far more dependent on Mideast oil than is the U.S., has so far promised to provide about $1 billion in supplies and transit aid to the gulf force, plus further aid to countries near Iraq. The Japanese have not committed themselves to upping their pledge, but they seem persuadable.
Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told Japanese reporters this week that Japan would have to put up more than its $1 billion offer -- and would probably end up paying twice as much. A senior Foreign Ministry official, Yukio Okamoto, hinted strongly today that Japanese support would eventually go beyond the $1 billion promised so far.
Briefing reporters after Brady's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, Foreign Ministry officials said Brady has asked Japan for more than its promised $1 billion but less than the $5 billion payment suggested by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).
Japan announced today that it would provide $13 million in immediate aid to help support refugees fleeing Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait.
For all the official promises, though, this consensus-minded nation still does not seem to have achieved unanimity on providing aid to the allied gulf effort. Opinion polls show misgivings about Japanese involvement, and Japanese businesses and unions have resisted government moves to speed relief to the gulf.
Earlier this week, the Japanese seamen's union told its members to refuse to sail to Saudi Arabia with a cargo ship carrying 800 four-wheel-drive vehicles for U.S. troops in the region. But after some government arm-twisting, the union relented. The ship Sea Venus is now on its way to the gulf with the vehicles.
South Korea does not have the economic might to provide much financial aid, analysts said, and Seoul's military forces are all committed to vigilance against North Korea. But South Korean officials told Brady they can provide services, such as air transport, and other donations.
Donald Gregg, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, confirmed today that Seoul has provided two wide-body jets for round-trip flights from U.S. military bases to Saudi Arabia.
Brady, accompanied by Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Undersecretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, brought along a shopping list of supplies and services the U.S. wants its allies to provide for U.S. forces, according to Japanese government spokesmen. These items include water, cooling equipment and vehicles.
Special correspondent Peter Maass in Seoul contributed to this report.