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U.S., Japan share Y2K info

Clinton's Year 2000 point man will travel to Japan to work with the Asian country's new Y2K task force to assess the severity of the problem there.

The Clinton administration's point man on the Year 2000 technology problem will travel to Japan this weekend to work with the Asian country's new Y2K task force to assess the severity of the problem there, White House sources said.

John Koskinen, the chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, will leave Saturday for Tokyo to start a unique high-level bilateral meeting to examine each government's respective Y2K action programs and assess what impact the computer problem will have on the two nations' tightly integrated financial systems.

"It is essential that we learn from each other's experiences and that all sectors of society be engaged in conversion efforts," the White House said in a statement. "As the deadline approaches, we will seek more cooperation between specific industries, on interactive operational testing, and on contingency planning."

This summer, Moody's Investors Services warned that Japanese banks are comparatively unprepared for the possibility of computer problems in the year 2000. "Japanese bank executives do not appear to be taking the potential problems as seriously as the management of other institutions," stated the report.

Jack Gribben, spokesman for the President's Y2K council, told News.com that Koskinen will meet with Japanese government officials, members of a newly formed Y2K task force, and executives from the private sector. "We have to check the status of their efforts, as well as share information about our program with them," Gribben said.

The bug has its roots in antiquated hardware and software formats that denote years in two-digit formats, such as "98" for 1998 and "99" for 1999. The glitch will occur in 2000, when computers are fooled into thinking the year is 1900. The glitch could throw out of whack everything from bank balances and elevator maintenance to building security procedures.

In the White House statement, titled "The U.S.-Japan Y2K Cooperation Statement," the two governments praise the multinational efforts by the G-8, the United Nations, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the World Bank, to address the Y2K problem on a multinational scale.

The two governments plan to deliver their respective development assistance programs globally, according to the statement, and plan to consult and work together "vigorously" to promote awareness in developing countries about this problem and ensure that development assistance programs in other countries "operate as smoothly as possible."

Specific cooperative plans were not released today, but Gribben said Koskinen and his Japanese counterparts will discuss those plans this weekend.

Meanwhile, Y2K cooperation is currently being addressed at meetings today and tomorrow among development assistance agencies in Hawaii, according to the White House.