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Japanese Group Slams U.S. Human Rights Stance in Asia

June 8, 1993

TOKYO (AP) _ An influential group of Japanese scholars and business executives said Tuesday that the United States should stop pressing human rights issues in developing Asian countries.

In a report presented to Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, the Japan International Forum denounced what it called Washington’s ″excessive human rights diplomacy.″

The report, while not official Japanese policy, reflects a growing backlash in Asia against what is seen here as U.S. high-handedness on trade and human rights issues.

The Clinton administration has placed a high priority on human rights in its diplomatic dealings, particularly with China. President Clinton recently said renewal of China’s favorable trade status would depend on improvement in human rights.

Japan has expressed support for human rights principles, but has refrained from firm measures against Asian human rights violators such as Burma and China. Tokyo feels uncomfortable taking up the human rights banner in a region in which it has huge economic interests.

Some Japanese and other Asians believe Washington is pushing for too much change, too fast and fear the policy may backfire.

″We think Americans are too hasty,″ said Kenichi Ito, president of Japan International Forum. He said opposition to American diplomatic tactics ″is growing not only among Japanese but among many East Asians.″

Ito said Japan wants human rights reforms in Asia but economic development should come first to avoid the chaos experienced in the former socialist countries in Eastern Europe.

″We both want to see the same results, we just have different approaches,″ he said.

The group includes prominent intellectuals and former high trade officials with strong ties to the government and business community.

A Foreign Ministry official declined to comment directly on the suggestions in the report but repeated previous government statements of concern about pushing for human rights.

The group urged Japan to support economic reforms in socialist countries, particularly China and Vietnam.

In China, ″the conditions for democratic change and respect for human rights will come along with development of a market economy,″ the report said.

Similarly, in North Korea such support would aid government factions that favor opening the reclusive nation to the world, the group said.

The report was signed by 67 people. The co-chairmen were Hisao Kanamori, chairman of the Japan Center for Economic Research, and Seizaburo Sato, a professor at Keio University.

Others included Kazuo Aichi, a legislator; Teruyuki Akema, president of Tohoku Electric Power; Naohiro Amaya, executive director of Dentsu Institute for Human Studies; Makoto Kuroda, managing director of Mitsubishi Corp.; Hideo Sakamaki, president of Nomura Securties; Hiroshi Watanabe, chairman of Tokyo Gas Co.; Hideaki Yasukawa, president of Seiko Epson Corp.; and Koichi Maeda, president of Jiji Press.

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