THE PRIME Minister of Japan, Keizo Obuchi, has seized the moment. In the first TV advertisement to feature a Japanese premier, he has decided to bolster his authority by reassuring the people their country is in a state of full millennial readiness.

But his attempt to show that everything is under control may have misfired rather badly. The commercial shows a mock press conference with camera flashes popping and Mr Obuchi looking calm and confident. "We don't think any big disruptions will take place," said Mr Obuchi in the 30-second spot, which was broadcast for the first time last night. But the commercial ends with his warning that "it is important to be prepared for the worst", and people are urged to stockpile two to three days' worth of water and food and check the latest information when travelling abroad.

Japan has been criticised for lagging behind in its millennium preparations, but its claim that it has now caught up with the rest of the world is not entirely convincing.

A beaming Mr Obuchi reappears at the end of the advert: "For a safe year- end and New Year..." The voiceover takes over: "We urge you to prepare for the New Year a little differently than usual."