The Soviet Union brought its latest peace offensive to Tokyo today with a hint that is would welcome discussions on improving relations in the Far East.
The suggestion came in a two-hour talk between Soviet Ambassador Dmitri Polyanski and Japanese Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ito. It fit into a recent Soviet campaign to get on better speaking terms with this country.
But no substantive arrangements emerged from the meeting, which ended with the usual icy disagreement over the most pressing issue -- the presence of Soviet troops and weapons on disputed islands north of Japan.
Japanese officials described Polyanski's reference to talks on the Far East as vague and lossely worded and said they did not choose to regard it as an actual proposal for serious negotiations. One diplomat said the ambassador's message appeared to be similar to those sent recently to West European countries in the wake of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's speech to his Communist Party congress and his proposal for a summit meeting with President Reagan.
He said the message contained nothing that went beyond Brezhnev's speech and said Polyanski apparently was merely "following up the work that the Soviet Union has been doing in Europe."
Polyanski told Ito the Soviet union considers it important to "build a comprehensive peace" and to promote "confidence" in the Far East, according to officials who briefed the press. In that connection, he was quoted as saying, the possibility of "practical discussions on the necessity of exchanging opinions" could not be excluded. The purpose would be to put the "discussion of many problems on a realistic basis," he said.
A Japanese spokesman subsequently said that the Foreign Ministry did not construe those words to be a concrete proposal for a summit meeting or bilateral discussions.
Japan-Soviet relations have been particularly frosty since the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, which prompted Japan to join with the United States and some European countries to impose economic sanctions against the Soviet Union.
In addition, the Soviets have waged an unusually sharp propaganda campaign against Japan in recent months, charging this country with reviving its old "militarism" and leaning toward an anti-Soviet alliance that would link it with China and the United States.
Since the Brezhnev speech, however, the Soviets, through Polyanski, have hinted at a desire to resume a friendlier relationship, although nothing like a concrete proposal has been made.
As described by Foreign Ministry officials tonight, Ito's response to the Soviet ambassador was cool. He reportedly said it is up to the Soviet Union to take concrete acts to reduce tensions in Asia and called, again, for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
Ito denied Japan is undergoing a revival of militarism and said it is not moving toward any military alliance with China. Then Ito raised the issue of the presence of Soviet troops on one of the four islands that the Soviets have held since the end of World WAR and that the Japanese claim are their territory. He asked rhetorically how construction of a Soviet base on the islands can be squared with a desire to promote confidence in the area.
Polyanski responded with the usual Soviet assertion that the island's ownership is not a subject for discussion.
It was the first meeting between the Soviet ambassador to Tokyo and a Japanese foreign minister since December 1977. After sanctions were imposed in the wake of the Afghan action, official discussions between the two countries became rare, although economic consultations have been revived.
It appeared that the Japanese were obliquely refusing a request by Polyanski to present his message directly to Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki. That request had not been formally made public, but Japanese officials alluded to one.