Japan After the Sake, the Prickles

The winning Prime Minister's first test: relations with the U.S.

Victories are best savored slowly, but Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu barely found time for the customary postelection rituals last week. No sooner had he hammered open a keg of sake to celebrate his Liberal Democratic Party's renewed majority in the lower house of the Diet than he confronted a formidable problem: Japan's strained relations with the U.S.

Not only the perennial bane of the U.S.-Japan trade imbalance but also a widening array of other economic conflicts threaten to poison the relationship over the coming months. During the election campaign that ended with balloting on Feb. 18, Washington muted its complaints about...

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