TOKYO — Japanese newspapers today quoted Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone as saying that the U.S. intelligence level is lower than Japan's because of the large number of blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in the United States.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yoshio Hatano issued a statement saying that the newspapers "are quoting the prime minister completely out of context.
"The prime minister said in effect that the United States was a multiracial society and had been making great progress as a democracy overcoming educational, social and other issues associated with such a background. In no sense has he even implied that the level of intelligence is low in the United States," Hatano said.
Several Japanese newspapers, including Tokyo Shimbun and the nationally circulated Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that Nakasone told a study session of his Liberal Democratic Party on Monday that the Japanese people want policies that bravely face the country's problems because Japan is "an information-oriented and highly educated society."
The newspapers said Nakasone referred to the high intelligence level of the Japanese before he said that, in contrast, "The level in the United States is lower because of a considerable number of blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans."
An official from Nakasone's Liberal Democratic Party, Fukazu Okada, said the prime minister was referring to the U.S. literacy level, not the level of intelligence.
Okada quoted Nakasone as saying that there are many blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in the United States who are not able to write English.
On the usefulness of television, Yomiuri Shimbun quoted Nakasone as saying, "I am speaking with caution, but Japanese women remember the color of my neckties rather than what I said."
Okada said Nakasone meant that with television, people remember the visual image, not the substance of the talk.
About 1,000 young members of the Liberal Democrats are attending the three-day study session, which opened Monday in Kannami, southwest of Tokyo.
In Washington, Deputy White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes, when asked about Nakasone's remarks, said: "I haven't seen any confirmation of that, so I won't comment on it until I confirm it."
There was little immediate reaction in Japan to Nakasone's comments, despite the fact that the government recently had to contend with a diplomatic flurry over other controversial remarks by a Cabinet minister.
The Japanese Communist Party's newspaper, Red Flag, said Nakasone's comments showed his "true feelings" and resulted from his "increased arrogance" due to his party's landslide victory in parliamentary elections in July.