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Japan fears Toyota mess will strain ties with U.S.

As pressure intensifies for Toyota's chief to testify before Congress about the automaker's safety lapses, Japanese political leaders and experts worry that the problem - if handled poorly - could damage ties between the two nations.

Relations between Washington and Tokyo are already strained by a dispute between the two governments over the relocation of a key U.S. Marine base on the southern island of Okinawa.

Political tension rose a notch Thursday when a Republican in the House of Representatives said he would support issuing a subpoena to compel Toyota President Akio Toyoda to appear before congressional committees later this month to examine the company's string of safety problems.

Toyota said Toyoda is expected to visit the U.S. in early March, but the company declined to confirm Japanese media reports that he would attend the Washington hearings. Toyota's North American head, Yoshimi Inaba, will appear before the committees, the company said.

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