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Japan wary of 'alliance' with US

The cartoon in a leading Tokyo newspaper summed up the crux of the current debate over Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki's visit to Washington last week. It showed the jaunty fisherman's son leaving Tokyo as a dove of peace, but returning in a sailor suit and riding a warplane labeled "Alliance."

Under the heading "a dangerous alliance," the Asahi Shimbun commented: "Before the summit we cautioned Prime Minister suzuki against involving Japan in the cold-war strategy espoused by the Reagan administration.

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"The results have been even worse than we feared.

Despite what Suzuki has said, the joint communique and the expressions used in the various meetings indicate that the US-Japan relationship has taken a great step toward becoming one of military cooperation."

Soviet commentators have been quick to pick up these comments, claiming they demonstrate that, by accepting an American plan to make Japan the "naval guard of the Pacific" and part of a "Pacific NATO," Mr. Suzuki has betrayed the hopes of his nation.

The furor in the Tokyo press and in the Diet (parliament) is over the single word: "alliance." No previous US-Japan summit communique ever used this term, it is being claimed, indicating that this country is being drawn ever more tightly into the American military net.

For the past few days, both Mr. Suzuki and Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ito have faced a barrage of opposition questions in the Diet on the issue.

The prime minister is sticking by the explanation he made in Washington that the term has no military significance, but merely expresses the fact that the two countries have "common political values" freedom, democracy, and the principle of free trade.

The Asahi Shimbun commented: "This is selfserving and shows the prime minister is unaware of the proper meaning of the word.

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"In the world today, and particularly for the United Staes, which is determined to deal with the Soviet Union from a position of strength, there can be no such thing as a nonmilitary alliance."

In Mr. Suzuki's trip to Washington, the newspaper opined, the "hawks" had obviously won hands down.

Mr. Suzuki is also busy denying suggestions that the use of the term alliance -- along with proposals for cooperation with the US in air and sea operations off the Japanese coast -- has meant acceptance of the idea of "collective self-defense," now prohibited by the Constitution.

US-Japanese military cooperation, typified by their longstanding security treaty, remains in its most important aspect one-sided -- the US coming to the rescue of Japan in time of trouble, not vice versa.

Any military operations involving the two countries are designed purely to protect Japan from attack and no more, the prime minister told his accusers in the Diet this week.

Any wider Japanese contribution to regional peace and security will be purely political and economic in nature, he added.

But the prime minister is also claiming the final communique did not fully reflect his intentions -- for which he is blaming the Foreign Ministry officials who helped draft it.

Mr. Suzuki told top officials of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party that the communique had been drafted before his second round of talks with President Reagan (not unusual in diplomatic dealings), thus ignoring the great lengths to which he subsequently went to explain the budgetary and domestic public opinion restraints on greater Japanese defense spending.

The military cooperation aspect, he complained, had been overstressed in the communique.

But Tokyo newspapers later published a retaliatory statement from a Foreign Ministry official declaring, "An alliance that does not involve military and security cooperation makes no sense."

Another concern is that the Suzuki-Reagan meeting has narrowed Japanese options for dealing with the Soviet Union.

Although Tokyo may, indeed, share Washington's concern over developments in Afghanistan and Poland, why, it is being asked, couldn't the Suzuki government be like some West European nations in maintaining some independence in dealing with the Soviets --

Slavish adherence to the US policy line didn't help Japan when President Reagan suddenly decided to lift the US grain embargo against the Soviets, it is being pointed out.

Ryosaku Sasaki, chairman of the Democratic Socialist Party (a moderate opposition group that often supports the government), returned this week from a visit to the Soviet Union and Western Europe to complain that Japan is being dragged into a US strategy of all-out confrontation with the Russians.

He said the Reagan administration is showing inconsistency on its "showdown" policy against Moscow, and that perplexed European governments are working out their own independent approaches to the Soviets -- with Japan in danger of being left out in the cold.

Some of the prime minister's critics are suggesting he was outmaneuvered in Washington by a shrewder man, allowing himself to be swept away by flattery and fast talk.

One editorial warned that despite all the smiles in Washington, "This friendly allied relationship is in danger of degenerating into mere servility, into Japan's meek acquiescence in the wishes of the US."

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