Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos expressed misgivings yesterday about the growing U.S. defense relationship with Japan and the evolving U.S. defense posture in Asia.
Invoking bitter memories of Japan's actions in the Pacific during World War II, the Philippine leader told reporters and editors of The Washington Post that Tokyo still harbors hopes of dominating Asia, first through its economic prowess and then either politically or militarily.
"Frankly, it is a matter of political contingencies first," Marcos said of U.S. policy. "What do you intend to do? Are you intending to pull some of your units out of Asia to somewhere else, and therefore require Japan to protect itself for a while? If so, how do you handle this so it doesn't get out of hand? They have not told me.
"If Japan is sold any of your arms, see that those arms are not for predatory purposes. I am distrustful of the Japanese," Marcos said. "I am sorry; it is my bias."
The Philippine leader has been in Washington for four days on his first state visit to the United States in 16 years. Yesterday morning he met with Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger for discussions believed centered primarily on the future of U.S. bases in the Philippines and U.S. defense planning for the Pacific.
U.S. officials have been pressing Tokyo to sharply increase its defense capabilities, particularly sea and air, to a point that it could assume responsibility for patrolling sea lanes up to 1,000 miles from Japan. That would put the outer limit of Japanese responsibility close to the Philippines.
Marcos did not elaborate on his reference to the possibility that the United States might move forces out of the Pacific in case of hostilities, but U.S. forces based in Asia have played a role in recent deployments in the Indian Ocean and sensitive regions of the Persian Gulf.
On other subjects, Marcos said:
* The possible use of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base -- huge U.S. facilities in the Philippines -- for resupply of combatants in the Middle East, particularly Israel, will be a subject of negotiation in forthcoming talks on the status of the bases. Marcos and President Reagan agreed at White House talks on Thursday to open these talks in April next year, eight months earlier than required under the existing agreement.
* Support for Cambodia's anti-Vietnamese coalition under Prince Norodom Sihanouk will stop short of arms.
"There are several of us in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations who are worried about arms," Marcos said. "There is no agreement. Indonesia, particularly, has always taken a very prudent and cautious attitude toward Vietnam. It is a very sensitive matter."
He said Sihanouk, during a recent visit to Manila, envisioned an armed force to harass the Vietnamese forces in Cambodia until Hanoi and the government it supports in Phnom Penh are pushed to the conference table.
"I don't know how effective their harassment can be," the Philippine leader said, adding that Sihanouk had not asked for arms during his stay in Manila.
* Former senator and presidential aspirant Benigno Aquino, in exile in the United States, is free to return to the Philippines at any time, although not without conditions.
"If he comes back to the Philippines, rest assured he will be treated humanely. He thinks I will shoot him! My goodness, no! But I am not going to allow him to start a rebellion," Marcos said. He declined to say just what restrictions might be placed on Aquino, however.
Marcos was relaxed and in good humor throughout yesterday's two-hour question-and-answer session, although he and accompanying cabinet members showed some sensitivity to questions on human rights, vigorously challenging their critics' knowledge of the Philippines.
Earlier at the Pentagon, Weinberger presented Marcos with a plaque containing the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart, all awards the Philippine leader received from the U.S. government during World War II.
"The American commitment to the security of Southeast Asia remains firm and unshakable," Weinberger said during an honor guard ceremony.
Security interests have been the dominant theme of the Marcos visit to Washington.
Marcos leaves for New York today after a meeting with the local Filipino community and a lunch with Vice President Bush.