If one is to credit the participants, the conversations that took place early in May between Prime Minister Fukuda of Japan and senior officials of the Carter Administration went swimmingly indeed. Japanese officials proclaimed the Prime Minister's visit to Washington "a great success." And after a luncheon meeting with Fukuda, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance declared: "The relations between our two countries are excellent. The strength of that relationship is the cornerstone - or pillar - on which our Asian policy is founded and it will remain so."
In so saying, Mr. Vance was merely reiterating a sentiment expressed by every U.S. President and Secretary of State for the last 20 years. With all respect to Secretary Vance, however, his pronouncement rested on shakier ground than those of most of his predecessors. For today, more than at any time since the Eisenhower years, there are potentially disturbing strains upon the Japanese-American relationship. And if, as one must assume, the Carter Administration does genuinely intend to retain the Japanese alliance as the cornerstone of America's Asian policy, prompt attention should be given to finding ways of easing those strains - or at least of avoiding their exacerbation. Otherwise, there is a distinct possibility that that cornerstone will before too long begin to show the effects of erosion.
This, to be sure, is not a perception widely shared within the Administration or among the U.S. public. On the contrary, most Americans regard our problems with Japan as matters of simple economics - so much so, in fact, that the The New York Times relegated virtually all of its coverage of the Fukuda visit to its business pages.
Journalistically, that was in some respects a thoroughly understandable decision. For in response to the assaults of their U.S. counterparts, Japanese diplomats and officials themselves have of late largely focused on the economic issues between the two countries. But the fact is that by no means all the strains between Japan and the United
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