SOVIETS PLAYING THE TOKYO CARD

Since Japan's surrender in the summer of 1945, Japanese foreign policies have been closely tied in with those of the United States.

In this regard, the U.S.-Soviet summit in Reykjavik was a classic example of just how tight these bonds remain even today.As expected, Japanese authorities strongly supported the Reagan administration's goals as summit preparations went forward and then later rushed to agree with the official U.S. position, after Reykjavik, that there remain significant reasons for optimism in assessing future relations with the Soviet Union.

But before the Reykjavik discussions between President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev were even a week old, it was evident in Tokyo that the Japanese were disappointed - and even somewhat embarrassed - by the outcome. This development came as a considerable personal surprise to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.

He had anticipated that the superpower talks would prove an unqualified success. Mr. Nakasone had wanted to believe that a specific date for a full- scale summit in Washington would be announced at Reykjavik, possibly for as early as December. It was obvious that he was more than a little discouraged when this was not the case.

Like most people in Japan, the only country to suffer wartime atomic attacks, Mr. Nakasone had hoped for realistic steps at Reykjavik toward nuclear disarmament. Yet beyond this feeling lay another, and perhaps more basic, reason for his failure to appreciate the lack of clear results.

Mr. Nakasone is well aware, along with his colleagues within the top leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, that chances for Mr. Gorbachev's visit to Tokyo in January or thereabouts could have been riding on the Reykjavik talks. The Japanese leader, who recently received an exceptional one-year extension of his term in office by his party, has been counting on achieving a historic improvement in Japan-Soviet relations through his own summit. Most certainly it would be a nice finishing touch to his highly successful administration.

Nevertheless, that probably was a seductively simplistic reading of the scenario at Reykjavik, especially since earlier this week the Soviet vice foreign minister informed the Nakasone administration that the Kremlin is now preparing for Mr. Gorbachev's visit to Tokyo.

In point of fact, the exact date of the Japan-Soviet summit is likely to be announced around the middle of next month. No doubt this has raised the confidence of the Japanese premier.

For the moment, therefore, his appraisal of the Reykjavik discussions has improved tremendously. But the failure of the superpower leaders to agree on a date for the Washington summit has given birth to some nervous speculation in the ranks of Mr. Nakasone's advisers.

An uncomfortable feeling exists in Tokyo, at least for the moment, that if the Soviet strategists conclude there should not be another summit in Washington for some months, they might have decided to fill the gap in Mr. Gorbachev's schedule by setting a relatively early date for the Tokyo talks.

In the view of these advisers, this probably indicates that the Kremlin intends to attempt to use the Japan-Soviet summit to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Washington, thus disrupting Western unity. However, perhaps hoping to put such fears to rest, one official of the Foreign Ministry was quick to argue that Japan-Soviet relations are entirely separate from the Kremlin's problems with Washington.

This is not entirely true, of course. In welcoming Mr. Gorbachev, he insisted, the Japanese need feel no compunctions toward the United States in talking to the Russian leader. And he added that Japan need not worry about the Soviet tactic of trying to drive any wedge into the Western camp - even if a Japan-Soviet summit is held before another Reagan-Gorbachev summit.

Still, it is the Japanese contention that for Japan, a summit with the Soviet Union would be more comfortable if it was scheduled after a U.S.-Soviet summit in Washington, in view of the unsatisfactory developments at Reykjavik. There is a certain mystery here that excites the interest of diplomatic analysts in Tokyo. They stress that Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze told Japanese Foreign Minister Tadashi Kuranari in New York only recently that it would be impossible to reach a final decision on Mr. Gorbachev's visit to Japan as long as the Kremlin's relationship with the White House remains unsteady.

So why is the Soviet Union speaking of setting a date for a summit in Tokyo without evident movement toward such a development with the U.S. administration? The suspicion in Tokyo circles is that the Soviet Union's strategists have concluded that, given the lack of success at Reykjavik, Mr. Gorbachev would be able to assume a tougher stance at a summit in Japan.

The result probably would be a failure of Mr. Nakasone to bring off a dramatic solution to the question of ending Russian occupation of four Japanese islands in the Kurile chain - a failure that would weaken the Japanese premier's political stature.

This is no great surprise. Some diplomatic analysts point out that ever since Mr. Gorbachev assumed power, the Soviet Union has been timing individually tailored peace offensives at U.S. allies. In effect, there exist growing signs that the Kremlin has switched from its traditionally U.S.-oriented foreign policies - even to the extent of paying significantly more attention to Asian countries.

In this sense, the Soviet leader is likely to try to use the Tokyo summit to play on the public sentiments for disarmament in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Pushing closer relations with the Japanese most clearly is part of this strategy.

In this discouraging atmosphere (at least for Washington), Gaston J. Sigur Jr., assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo early next month to discuss the Reagan administration's policies toward the Soviet Union and other issues of importance in the wake of the Reykjavik summit.

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