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Senators Press Japan to End Cooperation with Arab Boycott

Japan’s compliance with the Arab economic boycott of Israel is being targeted by those in the United States who believe that the successful outcome of the Persian Gulf War provides an opportunity to end the boycott.

Nine U.S. senators, describing themselves as “supporters of a strong U.S.-Japanese relationship,” have sent a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu urging that Japanese businesses end their compliance with the boycott.

“The end of the boycott is an important first step” to realize the opportunities presented by the Gulf crisis in bringing about a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” the senators said in the letter.

Secretary of State James Baker is believed to have discussed the boycott with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama when the two met at the State Department last Thursday.

But a State Department spokesman would only say that Japan was urged to play a more active and “more evenhanded” role in the Middle East. He also reported that Nakayama said he would like to make an official visit to Israel “in the near future.”

Baker has urged Arab countries to drop the boycott as one of the confidence-building measures he would like to see both the Arabs and Israel make in order to foster an atmosphere conducive to a settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict.

In Congress, the boycott is becoming a major issue with senators and representatives urging the Arab countries to abandon the boycott or, at the least as a first step, to stop enforcing it against American companies that do business with Israel. They are also urging countries like Japan to end their compliance with the boycott.

‘GONE BEYOND THE DEMANDS’ OF ARABS

The letter to the Japanese prime minister was drafted by Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who made a pledge March 18 at the 32nd annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to personally work to get Japan to end its compliance with the boycott.

Also signing the letter were Sens. Claiborn Pell (D-R.I), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Timothy Wirth (D-Colo.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) and Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.)

“Many Japanese firms have gone beyond the demands of their Arab trading partners, voluntarily refraining from establishing ties with Israeli businesses,” the letter said.

“Some of the largest and most prestigious Japanese firms have refused to deal with Israel. Discriminatory credit and financing practices have hindered the little Israeli-Japanese trade which does exist.”

The senators said that the compliance by Japanese businesses is of “of particular concern because of the tacit support” of the Japanese government.

Japanese officials have been insisting that trade with Israel has steadily been increasing in recent years.

But a recent report by the World Jewish Congress calls Japan “the country whose indiscriminate, government-encouraged compliance with the Arab boycott surpasses that of any other industrialized state.”

The report charges that Japan complies with the boycott in order “to do nothing that would antagonize the Arab states” because of Japan’s almost total reliance on Middle East oil.

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