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Both Sides Rate the ‘Ron and Noboru’ Visit a Success

January 16, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Japan’s new prime minister, Noboru Takeshita, was able to leave Washington satisfied that he succeeded in a major goal of establishing a comfortable working relationship with the United States, officials of both countries say.

President Reagan himself confirmed Friday that Takeshita had achieved one of his stated aims when he declared in a formal statement, ″We ... established an excellent personal rapport.″

Despite continuing friction and unsolved problems in U.S.-Japanese trade relations, Reagan praised Takeshita’s economic perspective and his pledges that his new government would ease the trade imbalance between the two countries.

Reagan and Takeshita ″managed to establish a good working relationship,″ said a U.S. government specialist on Japan ″but the proof of the pudding″ will be whether they can solve the two nations’ economic conflicts. The official and others willing to evaluate the visit spoke on condition that they not be identified by name.

The large Japanese delegation, including journalists accompanying the prime minister, regarded as a token of Takeshita’s success the Reagans’ last-minute invitation to Takeshita and his wife to a private tea at the White House.

This reminded the Japanese of the private breakfast the Reagans gave in 1987 to former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and his wife. Nakasone was regarded as Japan’s ground-breaker in close ties to U.S. leaders, symbolized by the ″Ron and Yasu″ first-name relationship they established.

Takeshita achieved this at his first White House meeting Wednesday, said a spokesman, Koichi Haraguchi.

″They addressed each other by their first names, Ron and Noboru, and the atmosphere was very cordial and friendly,″ he said.

U.S. experts suggested that comparing Takeshita with the dapper, English- speaking Nakasone might have created the first impression of a new leader overly reserved and difficult to deal with - but it would have been a false impression.

Takeshita ″didn’t just come out of nowhere and become prime minister of Japan,″ said one, noting that Takeshita was a longtime parliamentarian and former finance minister highly regarded by U.S. officialdom.

The 63-year-old prime minister seemed to hit it off well with an overflow crowd at the National Press Club, his only public appearance in Washington.

The humor and skill of a veteran politician came through in Takeshita’s performance on the speaking platform.

He started by saying he would use English, but the audience still would need an interpreter to understand his pronunciation. He delivered his speech in Japanese.

With a smile, Takeshita recalled one of his earliest contacts with Americans - a U.S. officer in the post-World War II occupation of Japan who called his support of land reform ″very progressive for a landowner.″ He went on to praise Americans for fairness, energy and openness.

Takeshita, who hails from a small, remote town in Western Japan, said he welcomes the current flurry of local-level exchanges between Americans and Japanese. This ″appeals to my political convictions,″ he said, noting that 34 of the 50 U.S. states have offices in Japan and 25 U.S. governors visited Japan in the past year.

Asked to predict the winner of the U.S. presidential election next November, Takeshita recalled that he had won 11 Japanese elections and once lectured at Columbia University on elections. Then he turned the question around, asking that anyone who knows who the next U.S. president will be should kindly report to his office in Tokyo.

Takeshita met for an hour Friday with Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci before leaving with his delegation from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for Toronto, Canada, aboard his chartered Japan Air Lines jet.

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