Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama said yesterday his government is "in a position to consider" providing additional financial aid to Operation Desert Shield, a statement that appeared to respond to demands in Congress that Tokyo shoulder a larger share of the cost.

Nakayama, here for meetings with U.S. officials including President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said: "If a military conflict takes place, Japan will wholeheartedly support the U.S. position, and will consider" further financial contributions in any case, according to a Japanese official.

But Nakayama did not offer a concrete financial pledge, as some U.S. legislators have demanded, officials said. Other U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf military operation have recently made similar vague offers of additional help.

The extent of foreign contributions, particularly from Japan and Germany, was a major issue in last week's congressional debate over a resolution authorizing U.S. forces to go to war against Iraq after today, if necessary. Many opponents of the resolution said Washington is bearing a disproportionate share of the costs and noted the dependence of the two nations on continued access to Kuwaiti and Saudi oil.

Legislators also charged that several Middle East nations profiting from higher oil prices have not contributed enough to the U.S. military operation, and said that more European nations should have committed armed forces to the conflict.

However, Bush administration officials said during the debate that foreign pledges for contributions of cash and other support through the end of 1990 totaled roughly $8 billion out of roughly $10 billion in incremental U.S. costs for Operation Desert Shield. The administration has not criticized this level of contribution. During 1991 "we will look to our allies to shoulder their fair share of our military expenses," a White House statement said last Friday without elaboration.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, asked yesterday if the Japanese and the Germans have carried a fair share of the economic burden, said, "The short answer is yes." Despite the lack of specific new pledges from any countries, he said, "the discussions we have had lead us to the conclusion that we won't have any problem."

During a trip to Europe and the Middle East last week, Baker requested such pledges from Germany, the United Arab Emirates and the Kuwaiti government-in-exile, other officials said.

Saudi officials have said their government will continue to fulfill an open-ended offer of fuel, food, water, facilities, transportation and other services for the more than 250,000 U.S. troops now believed to be in Saudi Arabia.

While some members of Congress have criticized Riyadh for not contributing more to Desert Shield from new oil profits, most recent criticism has been directed at Japan and Germany. Those countries have pledged $4.02 billion and $3.43 billion, respectively, to the overall cost of the crisis; of this, the United States would receive $2.9 billion in cash and military assistance.

Although Germany has sent 18 fighter aircraft to Turkey as part of a NATO force, neither Bonn nor Tokyo has agreed to send troops to the region because of post-World War II constitutional prohibitions on direct military participation.

Last week, Sen. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.) said "the entire Japanese contribution to support Desert Shield is less than what one Japanese company has spent to acquire the MCA Corporation." He called it "a disgraceful demonstration . . . of commitments by our allies."

The level of foreign contributions also was criticized by several legislators who supported the resolution authorizing war, including House Armed Services Committee chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "Germany at least has the excuse of being diverted by lots of money they need to reunify their country," Aspin said last week. "The one that's hard to justify is the Japanese."

McCain yesterday dismissed the new Japanese statement. "I would suggest that kind of statement enrages my constituency . . . {by indicating} that Japan does not appreciate we feel that our countrymen's lives are at risk," he said.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said yesterday before the Japanese delegation's visit that "while we are satisfied with their commitment overall, we would like to press them for an immediate release of more of the money."

A German Embassy official here said yesterday Bonn "agreed in principle" to provide additional funds after Baker requested it during his visit. "In assessing the German contribution, one has to take into account Germany's commitment {of over $30 billion dollars for} . . . Central and Eastern Europe," an embassy statement said last week.

Nakayama and Baker also signed an agreement increasing Japanese funding for U.S. forces in Japan by $1.7 billion over five years. Under the agreement, Japan, which pays about 40 percent of the $7.5 billion it costs to maintain U.S. troops there, would by 1995 pay 50 percent of the cost. They said they would also pay the start-up costs of $38 million for handling what, if there is a war, would be more than one million refugees.

Staff writers John Burgess and Maralee Schwartz and researcher Ralph Gaillard Jr. contributed to this report.