Japan Shapes Its Summit Stance Today's Group of Seven Meeting of Top Industrial Nations Is Expected to Address Two Issues That Will Be Uncomfortable for Japan - Increased Aid to the Soviet Union and Balanced Trade

By Clayton Jones, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 1991 | Go to article overview

Japan Shapes Its Summit Stance Today's Group of Seven Meeting of Top Industrial Nations Is Expected to Address Two Issues That Will Be Uncomfortable for Japan - Increased Aid to the Soviet Union and Balanced Trade


Clayton Jones, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


AT the Group of Seven summit which starts today, Japan hopes that its rank as the world's most bountiful aid-giver will allow it to shape the limits of aid to the Soviet Union.

"Japan, with the greatest ability to provide financial assistance to the rest of the world, can influence the others," stated Japan's pro-government newspaper, Yomiuri, in a July 14 editorial.

But at the same time, Japan wants to avoid being isolated at the summit due to its reluctance to provide large financial help to Moscow. With Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev joining the G-7 in London for a special session, Japan fears being tagged as unwilling to help prevent the global effects of a Soviet collapse.

In the days before the summit, Japanese officials moved to both bolster and soften their stance on the aid question. Just a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu was broadly critical of any aid to the Soviet Union. "Pouring water into a bottomless barrel is useless," he stated in late June.

Such a hard-line stance, say Foreign Ministry officials, has reflected Japan's demand that Moscow sign a peace treaty and return four islands held by Soviet troops since 1945. Japanese officials describe ties with Moscow as an "expanding equilibrium," meaning official Japanese economic help depends on return of the islands.

The summit talks will reveal just how far Japan is ready to provide minor financial aid without settling the islands dispute. At the same time, Japan wants its Western partners to include a strong reference to the dispute in a final summit declaration.

Last year's G-7 communique provided little support for Japan in talks with Soviet leaders this spring. Italian Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis told a Japanese newspaper last week that the summit would back the Japanese territorial claim if Japan decides to grant financial aid to the Soviet Union.

Just before the summit, Mr. Kaifu held two days of talks with President Bush in Maine to seek his support on the aid debate to counter expected pressure from some European leaders. He also met with British Prime Minister John Major, the summit host, over the weekend.

Kaifu and Mr. Bush agreed to keep the current 6 percent cap on lending to Moscow from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. …

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