Japan is warned on failure to help U.S. in gulf effort

November 18, 1990|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Tokyo Bureau of The Sun

OISO, Japan -- House Speaker Thomas S. Foley warned Japanese leaders yesterday that a failure by Japan to participate in resolving the Persian Gulf crisis could give Americans "a great sense of an enormous new dimension of inadequate burden-sharing."

Former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young warned that Japan may have forfeited any hope for a U.N. Security Council seat when it refused to give South African black leader Nelson Mandela $25 million he sought in resettlement aid for former political prisoners.

When was the last time a meeting of top Japanese and American opinion leaders was so dominated by strategic and political issues, rather than the trade friction that has been the dominant issue for more than two decades?

"Never before," Akio Morita, the president of Sony Corp., replied yesterday during a break in the Shimoda conference, a gathering of high-powered Japanese and U.S. politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats and intellectuals held once every three years.

"It's because of the Kuwait crisis, of course," Mr. Morita added, "but it's also because the world has changed so much with the events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe."

Mr. Morita is the Japanese co-chairman of this year's Shimoda conference and has been a participant since the first one, in 1969. This year's conference began in Tokyo Thursday and ended with an all-day string of meetings at this seaside resort yesterday. Mr. Foley addressed a luncheon session yesterday as the year's keynote speaker.

As always at Shimoda conferences, many of the men and women of power, intellect and finance who gathered here exuded a sense of feeling that they are custodians of what former U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield never tired of calling "the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none."

But this year's session has been a three-day showcase of dramatic changes that have taken place in relations between the world's two top economic powers in the 3 1/2 months since Iraq invaded Kuwait.

"The Vietnam War was big at the 1972 conference, but this is different," U.S. Ambassador Michael H. Armacost, a veteran of four conferences, said yesterday. "Now there's a sense of working out new definitions and new roles."

Those new definitions, most speakers agreed, include not only the end of the Soviet threat that provided Tokyo and Washington with a common enemy, but also the prospect of steady reduction in the U.S. public's willingness to bear the overwhelming share of the cash and blood burdens of maintaining global security.

The conference has been marked by talk of expected reductions of the U.S. force in Korea, of major changes in the huge U.S. bases in the Philippines, of congressional and public hunger for a fiscal "peace dividend" from the end of the Cold War and of rising U.S. public and political expectations that Japan, the world's second-greatest economic power, will take on much more of the security burden than it has yet contemplated.

Most of the high-ranking conferees agreed that security issues have not so thoroughly dominated a Japan-U.S. meeting since tens of thousands of Japanese took to the streets to protest the ratification of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, nine years before the first Shimoda conference.

Earlier this month, when tens of thousands of Japanese demonstrators again took to the streets over security issues, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu had to accept a humiliating defeat. He withdrew a plan to send a token 2,000 lightly armed troops to the gulf and asked opposition parties to help the governing Liberal Democrats work out some way for Japan to participate in future U.N. peacekeeping efforts.

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