DISINFORMATION. Truth is the best defense. Case study: Japan. Prominent reporters did KGB bidding

WHEN KGB agent Stanislav Levchenko defected to the US in 1979, he brought some juicy tidbits with him. His identification of 10 out of 12 foreign correspondents of the Soviet weekly New Times (as well as many other Soviet journalists) as KGB officers was no surprise. But his description of his successes as acting chief of the ``active measures'' section of the KGB office in Tokyo titillated his CIA debriefers.

The KGB had suborned four prominent Japanese journalists, he said, who ``conducted various influence operations against'' various friends in government and also provided the Soviets with secret information. The KGB also launched newspaper stories, Lev-chenko said, through an agent who was ``a close confidant of the owner of a major Japanese newspaper with a daily circulation of 3 million copies.''

Levchenko said he was 1 of 5 KGB case officers in Tokyo directing 25 ``agents of influence'' out of some 200 ``recruited agents'' in Japan. These included a former member of the conservative government's Cabinet of Ministers, several leading Socialists, several members of parliament, and a prominent China scholar. In addition to floating KGB stories, ``recruited agents'' engaged in ``political intelligence, external counterintelligence, and . . . scientific and technological intelligence,'' Levchenko told his interviewer in the 1984 book ``Dez-informatsia'' by Richard H. Shultz and Roy Godson.

Despite the KGB's impressive recruiting success in Japan, however, one thing was working against the Soviets: Soviet foreign policy. Ever since the end of World War II the Soviets have kept four southern Kurile Islands, which had not previously belonged to them but which they acquired in their one-month war with Japan. Recently the Soviet Union has been adding insult to injury by piling weapons into the four disputed islands.

Furthermore, with a bias born of old-fashioned awe of military power, the Soviet Union has consistently sought to browbeat rather than entice Japan, an economic giant but military dwarf. All in all, it's a policy that some Soviet diplomats privately call a disaster.

As a result the Japanese abandoned their policy of ``equidistance'' between Moscow and Peking of a decade ago and are helping to develop China rather than Siberia. In addition, despite the Japanese aversion to armed forces after World War II, Tokyo is on the verge of increasing its defense budget over the taboo figure of 1 percent of gross national product -- all in response to the Soviet military buildup in the southern Kuriles.

Conclusion: In this case Moscow's own foreign policy overwhelmed Soviet disinformation. -- 30 --

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