US alarm over crisis in Tokyo

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The Independent Online
THE Clinton administration is watching with deepening anxiety the turn of political events in Japan following the surprise resignation on Friday of Morihiro Hosokawa, the country's reform-minded Prime Minister. Mr Hosokawa, elected last year on pledges to clean up corruption and the political process in Japan, stepped down after conceding that he was tainted by exactly the kind of scam he had been denouncing.

President Clinton had great hopes that Mr Hosokawa could finally make progress in opening up the Japanese market to foreign exports.

The American ambassador to Tokyo, former vice-president Walter Mondale, publicly mourned Mr Hosokawa's demise. 'Here is a guy who offered a new Japan,' he said. 'There was such hope.'

Washington is now worried that progress towards reform will be halted by a long period of political stalemate in Japan as the ruling coalition searches for a new leader. Foreign Minister Tsutomu Hata emerged yesterday as the front-runner. But although he is also committed to political change, he may not be acceptable to the socialists in the coalition.