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News Briefs, part 1

Japan to Seek Projects with U.S.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa will propose extensive U.S.-Japan cooperation in building a high-tech U.S. transportation network for the 21st century in Friday's talks with President Clinton, Japanese officials said Thursday night.

Japan is hoping that the proposed cooperation, which would extend to 18 projects in six separate areas, will blunt a U.S. drive to wring new trade concessions from Tokyo, the officials indicated.

Among the projects that Miyazawa will propose for joint exploration are a high-speed rail network, low-pollution automobiles and satellites to steer motorists away from traffic jams.

The Clinton administration, meanwhile, said in unusually blunt language that Japan must take "meaningful and sustained steps" to reverse the recent growth in its trade imbalance with both the United States and the world at large.

A statement made available Thursday night by State Department officials listed "areas of significant concern" to Clinton, including supercomputers, automobile parts and semiconductors.

U.S. officials did not say specifically whether Clinton will raise these topics with Miyazawa. Japanese officials made it clear they do not believe such disputes are appropriate topics for the two leaders in their first face-to-face encounter.

With the Cold War over, the administration statement said economic problems between the two nations "must now be at the top of our agenda." With Clinton asking Americans to take steps to restore U.S. competitiveness, the statement said, it is "only fair that Japan also take steps that will permit us to compete fairly in its market."

Aid Package May Save Yeltsin's Free-Market Economy Plans

Los Angeles Times

TOKYO

The $43.4 billion aid plan for Russia announced Thursday by the seven biggest industrial powers is largely old money in a new package, but it could still turn out to be key to President Boris N. Yeltsin's hopes of creating a workable free-market economy out of the wreckage of communism, senior U.S. officials say.

"The number is not the important thing," Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Finance Boris G. Fyodorov said Thursday. "What is important is ... the conditions" under which the aid can be released.

For the first time, the world's major economic powers have agreed to direct the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to release a significant amount of aid to Russia -- $2 billion in loans -- almost immediately, and about $2 billion more soon after that.

The initial chunk of aid will move as soon as the Russian government writes a letter affirming its intention to bring its budget deficit and its Central Bank's loose credit policy under control; the second chunk as soon as Russia implements the policy.

"They don't even have to hit the target; all they have to do is try," a senior U.S. official said.

Then, if Yeltsin and Fyodorov can succeed in wresting control of the Central Bank, even larger amounts of aid would follow, giving them the cash to move from simply "stabilizing" their economy to "restructuring" it, U.S. officials said.