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A top Soviet economist encouraged the U.S. to help improve Soviet-Japanese relations in a speech yesterday.
Vladimir Ivanov, deputy director of a think-tank that advises Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, told a Coolidge Hall audience of about 30 that a new world order could not be established until diplomatic tensions in the North Pacific are resolved. America, he said, can play an influential role in such a process.
Ivanov, deputy director of the Center on Asia and the Pacific at Moscow's Institute of World Economics and International Relations, said that "very important confidence-building measures between Moscow and Washington" led to last year's meeting between Gorbachev and South Korean President Roh Tae Woo in San Francisco.
A similar diplomatic effort is the only hope for an improvement in relations between the USSR and Japan, Ivanov said. "Historically, these two have been the least compatible countries," he said, noting that the two have waged war against each other five times in the 20th century.
Ivanov said Japan has displayed an adversarial attitude at three recent summit meetings. He said that at the Venice meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Toshiku Kaifu proposed a deployment of U.S. missiles in Alaska to pressure the Soviets to withdraw missiles from the North Pacific. And in Houston, Ivanov said, Japan initiated discussion about control of four islands just north of Japan that the Soviets have occupied since World War II.
Ivanov said there may be a sentiment of "arrogance" in Japan because of a feeling that it was the "winner of the Cold War." As the Soviet Union is forced to face crisis after crisis and the U.S. loses its influence as a major financial power, "Japan can take a risk of not improving relations with the USSR," he said.
The U.S. can improve relations by continuing to negotiate arms reductions, Ivanov said. This would diminish traditional Japanese fears of the Soviet Union as an enemy in the North Pacific, he said.
In addition, the U.S. could broaden the channels of communication between Japan and the USSR and act as a broker of economic assistance between Tokyo and Moscow. Such an arrangement, he argued, "can change the whole structure of international relationships." And, Ivanov added, this could have "very direct and substantial effects on China's political reforms."
But more immediately, Ivanov said, the USSR could utilize new-found knowledge about successful Japanese economic strategies to help revamp the ailing Soviet economy. And if Soviet defense-oriented industries are converted to civilian-oriented industries, there would be less military tension between Japan and the USSR, he said.
Finally, Ivanov said, a U.S. role as go-between for the two nations would benefit the U.S., as reduced tensions in the North Pacific would allow it "to cut its defense spending and have more money to compete [economically] with Japan."
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