The American subsidiary of Nippon Electric Corp. of Japan has relocated the headquarters of its radio and transmission division to Merrifield, Va., a move the company's officials said should improve relations between Japan and the United States.

"We at NEC American would like to contribute to furthering better communication and closer international cooperation," said NEC American Chairman Kozo Hirayama at the plant's dedication recently. "I sincerely hope this Virginia plant will play a significant role in this endeavor."

The move came as disputes over imports of Japanese televisions, steel products and automobiles are creating tensions between the two countries. An American color television group has sought an injunction against the Commerce Department's settlement of nine years of dumping duties against importers of Japanese color television sets.

On May 8, the United Auto Workers renewed its warnings to the Japanese to build automobile assembly plants here that would supply jobs for more than 200,000 auto workers who have been laid off or face action curbing the imports.

Ford Motor Co. Chairman Philip Caldwell said that if the Japanese want to continue to sell their cars here, they should be willing to build them here and employ American workers and pay U.S. taxes.

"A good business practice is to contribute to the local economy" as in the form of jobs, said Japanese Ambassador H.E. Yoshio Okawara at the headquarters' dedication a day after Caldwell's remarks. "I hope the plant is symbolic of cooperation between the two countries." He added that he also hopes the plant will "substantially contibute to the economy and people of the United States."

In an interview before the dedication, Hirayama said the Japanese automobile makers aren't resisting suggestions that they locate plants here. "They're just thinking in terms of business," he added.

Hirayama said that it wouldn't be easy for the Japanese automakers, Nissan and Toyota, to build plants here because it could disrupt some of their business practices. "I think they'd like to come if it's possible," he said.

The new NEC headquarters is housed in a 26,000-square-foot plant to be used to assemble small satellite communications earth station equipment and provide technical services for microwave and transmission equipment that the company supplies to its customers. A variety of radio, transmission and optical communica- [TEXT OMITTED FROM THE SOURCE]

The company started in Virginia in 1970 in Crystal Mall in Alexandria and moved two years later to larger offices in Falls Church, where it added a small maintenance and service center, sales and administrative offices.

"Then circumstances gradualy changed, and it became apparent that just maintenance and service activities were not enough, and some kind of local assembly or manufacturing had to be provided to do a better job," Hirayama said. Then the company chose the Merrifield site.

The company also moved to the Washington area to be near headquarters for Communications Satellite Corp., one of its major customers, company officials said.

NEC America has offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston and a manufacturing plant near the Dallas/ Fort Worth airport, company officials said.