Japanese Weigh US Military Ties MUTUAL SECURITY TREATY: AT THIRTY

Article excerpt

TOMORROW Japan and the US mark the 30th anniversary of their mutual security treaty that until recently was aimed primarily at a Soviet military threat.

But now that the cold war is fading and Japan has become an economic superpower, the Japanese government is stressing that the treaty is not only for defense.

"The security treaty is basically a military alliance," says Jiro Hagi, director of the Defense Planning Division of the Japan Defense Agency. "But it is also a comprehensive system, including political and economic aspects." He refers to the treaty's second article, that says both nations "will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between them."

Although the treaty is still widely supported in Japan, the government and some intellectuals say that radical moves in the Soviet Union and changing US-Japan relations could challenge the treaty's support.

The government insists that the Soviet military in Asia has not made the drastic changes needed to ease regional tension and that the bilateral security treaty should be maintained.

"Relaxation of tension in Asia has not occurred at the same magnitude as in Europe," says Kazuyoshi Umemoto, deputy director of the Northeast Asia Division of the Foreign Ministry. He explains that the issue in Asia is more complicated than in Europe because of the resiliance of hard-line communist regimes in China, North Korea and Vietnam. "We should not change anything until the tension is truly relaxed."

But Nihon University law professor Motofumi Asai advocates abolishing the treaty, while maintaining good ties with the US. "The basis for the Japan-US relations is not their bilateral security system but the interdependence of the two economies," he says. As the combined gross national product of Japan and the US make up about 40 percent of the world economy, "A threat in this modern era is anything that undermines the world economy." (Japan financial ties, Page 8).

The Japan-US partnership, which started as "a child-parent one," has become equal, says Hikaru Oka, executive secretary of the Japan Forum on International Relations, a conservative think tank that advocates continuing the alliance. …