President Carter's decision to attend the funeral of Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira has been received with surprised satisfaction here. The decision is taken as a sign of Mr. Carter's personal esteem for Mr. Ohira and the importance he attaches to US-Japanese relations.
It may also lead to an upgrading of representation from other countries, notably China. Peking has not yet communicated its decision to Tokyo, but there is a good possibility that either Chairman Hua Guofeng or Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping will attend. It would be Mr. Hua's first opportunity to meet Mr. Carter.
Mr. Ohira's sudden passing June 12 was one of the factors accounting for the landslide victory of the Liberal Democratic Party in the June 22 genral election.
His funeral July 9 is not a state funeral and does not therefore require the attendance of a chief of state. Mr. Carter's decision to attend is greeted with all the more satisfaction here as a special mark of personal appreciation for Mr. Ohira.
The visit will come at a time when friction between Washington and Tokyo over Japanese car exports to the United States is mounting. It will be a brief visit , with little time for deep or extended discussions, and it will take place before the Liberal Democrats have selected Mr. Ohira's successor.
But symbols are important in international relations. Just as President Carter's failure to attend President Tito's funeral was noticed and commented on , so his decision to come to Japan for the Ohira funeral could help to create a less acrimonious atmosphere in US-Japanese trade relations.
Mr. Carter is expected to arrive the morning of July 9 and depart the same evening after the funeral and a reception for visiting dignitaries.