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WASHINGTON _ When Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi meets President Clinton Monday at the White House, he will say almost everything Clinton wants to hear.
All of it will be true _ but it won't amount to much, because it will pale in significance beside the dominant fact shadowing this Clinton-Obuchi summit.
That painful reality is that Japan's economy remains stuck in its worst crisis since World War II with no end in sight. Despite Obuchi's massive efforts to resolve the crisis _ which Clinton will applaud _ Japan's troubles still threaten to sink all of Asia, and possibly the world, back into the economic turmoil that rocked the globe last autumn.
Obuchi will stress how good U.S.-Japanese relations are now, the smoothest in many years. He is expected to announce new agreements to open Japan's markets to foreigners in telecommunications, finance and other sectors. He will hail a new law intended to strengthen U.S.-Japanese security ties.
Most important, Obuchi will stress that he is doing all he can to rescue Japan's struggling economy, precisely along the lines that Washington has been urging for years, and that progress is being made. All true.
But any suggestion that the worst is over ``is …