Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Tuesday August 29, 5:54 PM
Japan still top Asian partner for U.S., as China narrows gap
(Kyodo) _ Japan remained top of the list of the United States' most important partners in Asia, but China, which ranked second, is gradually closing the gap, polls conducted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in February and March showed Tuesday.

In a survey conducted among the general public in the United States, 45 percent said they think Japan the most important partner for the United States in Asia, down from 48 percent in the previous survey in 2005, while 47 percent of opinion leaders named Japan as such a partner, down from 48 percent.

But the ratio of Americans who view China as the most important partner for the United States in Asia increased to 33 percent from 26 percent among the general public and to 43 percent from 38 percent among the opinion leaders.

Although Japan has maintained the top spot for nearly a decade, a downward trend has been observed. In recent years China has been narrowing the gap with Japan, a ministry official said, alluding to the change in U.S. perceptions of China given its economic, military and political rise.

The Gallup poll commissioned by the ministry was done on 1,500 respondents aged 18 and above for the general public, while a separate survey was conducted on 254 leading figures in the U.S. academic, business, government, religious, media and labor sectors. Both polls were conducted by phone.

Results also showed that the ratio of Americans who see Japan as a "dependable ally or friend" rose to 91 percent from 90 percent for opinion leaders. Although it fell from 72 percent to 69 percent among the general public, it was still the second highest level.

The number of Americans who evaluated U.S.-Japan cooperation as "excellent" or "good" rose to a record high from 83 to 85 percent for opinion leaders and 61 to 63 percent for the general public.

Likewise, the ratio who said mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese is "good" marked a record 38 percent for the general public, up from 36 percent, and 25 percent for opinion leaders, up from 23 percent.

Those who expressed optimism over the future of Japan-U.S. ties totaled 42 percent in both groups while the ratio of respondents who believe the Japan-U.S. security treaty should be maintained remained high at 85 and 90 percent, respectively.

As for the current bilateral trade imbalance, the poll said 33 percent attributed it to U.S. industries' weak competitiveness and 30 percent to macro-economic discrepancies in both countries.

The total of respondents who blamed the closed nature of the Japanese market fell to 29 percent in the latest survey, a record low.

When asked if Japan plays an important international role commensurate with its economic strength, a record high 74 percent of the opinion leaders said "yes," citing fields such as science and technology and world economicskyodo

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