The Japanese government, stung by the sale of defense technology to the Soviet Union by Toshiba Machine, has agreed to restructure its export control system. In a two-hour meeting yesterday, Japanese Trade Minister Hajime Tamura and United States Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige agreed that Japan would increase its financial support of COCOM, the coordinating committee that regulates the sale of goods to East-bloc countries, and exchange teams of experts to improve Japanese monitoring of its own companies.
In addition, Japan agreed to seek the criminal prosecution of Toshiba executives.
The Japanese efforts follow the disclosure on May 15 that Toshiba Machine, a subsidiary of the Toshiba Corporation, sold equipment to the Soviets that permitted them to make quieter submarine propellers.
This week Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said Toshiba had ``betrayed'' Japan. With the US Congress pressing ahead with legislation to punish Toshiba in this country, Mr. Tamura came to the US to meet with government leaders.
The Japanese agreement comes at a time when legislation is working its way through Congress to punish Toshiba and other violators of export controls. Some observers cautioned that it was important to make sure the Japanese delivered on their promises. If they follow through, one government official said that ``it would be very positive.''
According to government sources, the Japanese showed a willingness to go back to Japan to deliver on their agreement. Tamura said the Nakasone government would seek export control legislation in the Diet, Japan's legislative body, to cover goods, technologies, and services. It would also seek to increase criminal penalities and extend the statute of limitations on violations. Japan agreed to reach the same level of documentation used by other COCOM countries.
This will mean some Japanese export shipments will be delayed. According to Baldrige, US processing of export licensing averages 10 days to two weeks. This is a 40 percent improvement over last year.
There are at least four bills that would punish Toshiba, or force reform of Japan's export control system. Sen. Jake Garn (R) of Utah, for example, is the prime sponsor of a two- to five-year ban on products produced by all export control violators except for goods necessary for national security. The bill specifically mentions Toshiba and Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik, a Norwegian company that also helped the Soviet submarine program. The Garn bill passed the Senate on July 1 and is an amendment to the trade bill.
On the House side, Rep. Don Bonker (D) of Washington is pressing ahead with a similar bill.
In a breakfast meeting with reporters, Secretary Baldrige described Japan as ``one of the weak links'' in COCOM, which is composed of the NATO allies, less Iceland, but including Japan.
Since the Toshiba incident, Japan has claimed it made improvements in its laws. But Baldrige denigrated the Japanese effort, claiming that the country had only two export control inspectors. In comparison, the United States has from 500 to 600 export control personnel.