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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton, Hashimoto Set Surprise Summit

TOKYO -- U.S. President Bill Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will hold a surprise summit in California on Feb. 24 to iron out a growing number of unresolved trade and security issues.


The Japanese government's announcement Friday of the suddenly arranged meeting in Santa Monica described it as a get-to-know-you discussion before the two meet again seven weeks later at a more formal summit in Tokyo from April 16 to 18.


"This is purely a meeting to build trust between the two leaders," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and top government spokesman Seiroku Kajiyama, told a news conference.


"We thought establishing mutual trust as quickly as possible would lead to the success of Clinton's visit to Japan in April," he added.


The two men, who have met before but not since Hashimoto became prime minister, have much to discuss. The issues range from the future in Japan of some of the most strategic U.S. military bases in Asia to copyrights on pop songs.


But Kajiyama stressed no agenda had been set and no other officials would be involved.


"If we set up a specific agenda, it would defeat the purpose of holding such a meeting," he said.


Hashimoto, 58, Japan's trade minister before he became prime minister only six weeks ago, has been involved in most thorny trade issues that at present bedevil relations between the world's two largest economies.


They include negotiations for a bilateral insurance pact, liberalization of air cargo routes, extension of a U.S.-Japan pact on microchip trade, alleged unfair trade practices in Japan's consumer photo film market, and alleged Japanese infringement of music copyrights.


The anti-base movement was set off last September by the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl, allegedly by three U.S. servicemen, on the southern island of Okinawa.


?Japan has increased by roughly 30 percent the number of whales it will allow its hunters to kill this winter in restricted seas around Antarctica, and U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to issue what aides describe as a strong complaint Friday.


But, in a move that angers environmentalists, he has decided not to impose trade sanctions on Japan, or to threaten such a step, administration officials said.