Japan's new ambassador to the United States described the relationship between the two countries Monday as teetering at "a rather crucial period of mutual adjustment," as the United States slowly gets used to the idea of sharing power with an economically resurgent Japan.
Takakazu Kuriyama's comments underscore the growing view here that relations are nearing a crisis because of trade tensions and the United States' difficulty in accepting its diminished influence.
President Bush's attempts last month to persuade the Japanese to buy more American automobiles and parts led to complaints in the United States about Japan's trade practices. That was followed by remarks by Japanese political leaders questioning work habits and competence of American workers.
These exchanges have brought to the surface an unusual level of bitterness and disillusionment.
Kuriyama, who assumes his post next month, suggested the burden for improving relations rests largely on the United States. He said Japan is working to open its economy, while the United States has not come to grips with its economic troubles or the implications of its dependence on Japan.
He said America must address two key economic problems: overconsumption and under-savings.
Kuriyama offered no short-term solutions. He said he wants to pursue three aims: better management of the periodic crises in the world and in the bilateral relationship, help for each side to understand the other better, and enhancing the "global partnership," which often means greater consultation with Japan before it is asked to finance U.S. initiatives.
"If we fail to work together . . . the whole world will suffer," Kuriyama said.