Japan braced for Clinton's trade agenda

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THE UNITED States attackedJapan for an "inexcusable" failure of leadership at the Asia-Pacific economic summit yester-day as President Clinton prepared for what promises to be an uneasy official visit to Tokyo.

As summit meetings between Asian, American and Pacific leaders ended in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, Charlene Barshefsky, the US trade representative, reacted bitterly to Japan's rejection of a proposal to reduce trade tariffs throughout the region, which had been the main purpose of the meeting.

"Japan refused to exercise any leadership and that is inexcusable," she said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. "It is an unconscionable outcome. Japan was isolated and Japan will be called to account."

Mr Clinton is due to arrive in Tokyo this afternoon in what is turning out to be a difficult week for American-Asian relations. On Monday, the US Vice-President, Al Gore, provoked fury in Kuala Lumpur when he made a speech expressing support for Malaysia's reform activists who are campaigning for the resignation of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

Ministers described Mr Gore's remarks as "abhorrent" and "disgusting". Other delegations, including those from New Zealand and Australia, criticised what a Japanese spokesman called America's "megaphone diplomacy". The diplomatic row overshadowed the final communique.

t A woman in Tokyo suffered a fatal fall from a bridge while trying to watch the the Leonid meteors yesterday.

She was one of five people who died around the world while trying to watch the meteors. In Japan, where the timing of the shower was expected to offer ideal viewing, thousands of people turned out to view the shooting stars.