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Trade Relations High on Agenda of Arens’ Six-day Visit to Japan

Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens arrives in Tokyo on Monday for an official six-day visit that is to include talks with Japanese political and business leaders, including Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu.

Arens’ visit follows a trip to Israel in June 1988 by Sosuke Uno, then Japanese foreign minister. His trip is expected to focus on Middle Eastern political issues and trade between Israel and Japan, according to government sources here.

Kaifu and Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama are expected, during talks with Arens on Thursday, to reassert Japan’s support for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories taken by Israel in 1967. They will also urge direct Israeli negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Japan recognizes “the PLO as an indispensable party for peace,” the spokesman said.

Japan’s friendly relations with the PLO were underscored five weeks ago, when its chairman, Yasir Arafat, visited Tokyo. At that time, Japan also approved a name change for the PLO’s Tokyo office, which is now called the Permanent General Mission of Palestine.

Because of the disparity of views on Middle Eastern issues held by the Japanese and Israeli governments, substantive results of the Arens visit are likely to be limited to the economic sphere, political observers say.

“I do not think Arens expects too much politically–just an exchange of views,” said Naoki Maruyama, professor of Middle East politics and international relations at the International University of Japan. “But if he encourages more Japanese companies to trade with Israel, I think it will be a great success.”

NO PLAN TO BREAK BOYCOTT

Israel has long sought to increase technological cooperation and trade with Japan, which have been suppressed by the refusal of many Japanese firms to deal with Israel because of compliance with the Arab boycott.

Japan currently imports about 70 percent of its oil from Arab nations and last year sold them goods worth about $9 billion.

Although Japan-Israel trade jumped to about $1.14 billion in 1988 from $385 million three years earlier, much of the rise was due to growing Japanese diamond imports, rather than widespread economic cooperation.

Arens will attempt during his trip here to promote bilateral economic ties through high profile visits to corporations and a number of government high-technology institutes.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that although there is a growing awareness within the Japanese government that its Middle East relations should reflect more than economic self-interest, “a drastic change in bilateral relations in not realistic.”

Japan has “no intention to declare an ant-boycott statement” during Arens’ stay here and respects the rights of Japanese companies to decide for themselves who to trade with, he said.

Arens will wrap up his official schedule here on Friday by meeting with leaders of Japan’s ruling and leading opposition parties, excluding the Japan Socialist Party, which reportedly did not respond to an official meeting request.

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