Japanese leaders urged Secretary of State George P. Shultz today to reject any proposed U.S.-Soviet arms control agreement that would have the effect of shifting Soviet military forces from Europe to Asia.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe backed the Reagan administration's "zero option" in the current talks in Geneva on intermediate-range missiles, but Abe went beyond generalities to outline specific negotiating requirements intended to advance Japan's interest.
Such open and explicit Japanese positions about a U.S. arms negotiating posture is rare if not unprecedented. The Japanese entreaties appeared to arise from an increased consciousness of Soviet military power in the Pacific and a growing concern that U.S. compromises in Europe could shift more Soviet missiles toward Japan.
Under the "zero option" as proposed by President Reagan in November 1981, the Soviet Union would be required to dismantle all of its 340 SS20 nuclear-tipped missiles in both Europe and Asia in return for U.S. cancellation of plans to deploy new Pershing II missiles and cruise missiles in Western Europe.
However, an approach tentatively worked out in June between U.S. and Soviet negotiators at Geneva would have allowed the Soviets to keep some of their SS20 missiles in Europe and to freeze the number of SS20s in Asia at the present level of about 90. The approach by U.S. Ambassador Paul H. Nitze and Soviet Ambassador Yuli Kvitsinsky was subsequently rejected by the political leaderships both in Moscow and Washington, but the general idea is very much alive.
According to a briefing for Japanese reporters, Abe told Shultz that Japan cannot agree to any arms control arrangement that allows Soviet missiles to move from west to east, or that requires the destruction of Soviet missiles in Europe while leaving Soviet missiles in Asia at the same level.
An arrangement such as that worked out by Nitze and Kvitsinsky would not meet Japan's requirements as outlined by the Japanese foreign minister.
Shultz responded to the concerns in generally reassuring but vague language, according to U.S. and Japanese officials.
State Department spokesman John Hughes said Shultz told Nakasone that the United States "would never agree to do something good for Europe but bad for the rest of the world." Hughes quoted Shultz as saying, "We have world responsibilities, and we intend to observe them."
Hughes declined to interpret Shultz' language as a U.S. pledge to take or forego any particular position in the missile negotiations, saying that Shultz had engaged only in "general discussion."
According to the U.S. spokesman, there was no discussion by Shultz of Nakasone's controversial plans, revealed on his recent trip to Washington, to defend Japanese airspace against intrusion by Soviet Backfire bombers and to blockade strategic straits around Japan to bottle up Soviet submarines and surface vessels.
The Soviet Union responded to Nakasone's remarks by issuing a Tass dispatch warning Japan of dire consequences, including hinted nuclear retaliation, if it went ahead with such military roles.
Apparently referring to this, Shultz was quoted as telling Nakasone that the Soviet Union should know "strong countries like the United States and Japan cannot be intimidated."
In the economic arena, Shultz called on the Japanese leader to fulfill faithfully pledges that he had made in the Washington talks earlier this month. Shultz apparently was not specific, and Hughes said Shultz did not mention renewal of Japan's "voluntary" restraints on auto exports to the United States.
A senior official at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said Monday that Japan will end the voluntary curbs when they expire after three years in March 1984, United Press International reported. He said the United States had "informally" asked for an extension of the program.
The secretary of state began his day here by watching a live satellite transmission of part of the Super Bowl at a Tokyo television station.
Shultz had to break before the game was over to pay a call on Emperor Hirohito. Visiting foreign ministers are rarely granted imperial audiences, and thus the invitation to Shultz was interpreted here as a sign of special respect.