Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev used a message commemorating the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki today to urge Tokyo to reject U.S. efforts to forge a larger Japanese military role in the Pacific and not to allow U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory.
Replying to a letter from a group of victims of what Gorbachev called "the barbarous American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," the Soviet leader said some countries had failed to draw the appropriate lessons from the use of atomic weapons.
"We cannot disregard the growing attempts at turning Japan into a U.S. nuclear base, at increasing its military role both in the system of the alliance with the U.S.A. and in the present-day world in general," Gorbachev said in his reply, published today by the Soviet news agency Tass.
Gorbachev said these attempts only heightened tensions in the Far East. "Apparently, not all people have yet drawn the proper conclusions from the lessons of World War II, from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he said.
For many years, the United States has pressed Japan, which traditionally spends less than 1 percent of its gross national product on defense, to increase its defense spending and to contribute to Pacific security by patrolling the sea lanes out to 1,000 miles from the Japanese mainland.
Gorbachev also blamed the United States for a stalemate in the Geneva arms talks and again called for a positive response to the Soviet moratorium on nuclear testing that went into effect today.
The Soviet moratorium, announced last week and scheduled to stay in effect until Jan. 1, capped a summer-long campaign focused on the U.S. decision to drop the bombs on Japan in August 1945, the only hostile use of nuclear weapons.
The Soviet focus on Hiroshima began as commemorations of World War II shifted from Europe to the Pacific after the May 9 celebration of the 40th anniversary of V-E Day.
Gorbachev's message today, delivered to Sakae Ito, cochairman of the Japanese Council of Organizations of Victims of Atomic Bombings, was also seen as a gesture toward Japan. Soviet-Japanese relations are basically at a standstill over a dispute about the sovereignty of the Kurile Islands, claimed by both countries, but the Hiroshima anniversary has offered the Soviets a way of winning favor with the Japanese public.