WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND ON FOREIGN POLICY. In a complex and changing world, only the president can represent the interests of the United States abroad. First in a series on the candidates and the issues. BUSH [ cf. DUKAKIS ]

REALISM. Engagement. Strong leadership. This is what is required of the United States in a world that is growing more complex and perhaps more dangerous, according to George Bush.

The United Nations and other world forums can serve useful purposes, the Republican presidential candidate says, but the US needs to take the lead in protecting its national interest and helping to resolve global problems.

In line with this thinking, Vice-President Bush defends, for instance, the unilateral US reflagging of the Kuwaiti tankers in the Gulf to protect freedom of navigation, an action that led to allied nations joining in a cooperative operation.

Mr. Bush's ``realism'' extends to caution about the Russians.

While supporting Ronald Reagan's policy of accommodation with the Soviet Union and US-Soviet arms control initiatives, the GOP candidate takes a more skeptical line than the President about Soviet intentions and ambitions. Bush says he sees no evidence of a shift in Moscow's military posture or military aid to third-world nations.

``Let's not, because we've made some progress, adopt a euphoric, naively optimistic view about what comes next,'' the vice-president has stated. ``The jury is still out in terms of fundamental change inside the Soviet Union and in terms of how the Soviet Union conducts its external affairs.''

Nevertheless, Bush supports continued negotiations for a strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty (START) and an expansion of US-Soviet trade, though he would limit US exports to items not related to security. Bush stresses that the US must always operate from a position of strength and therefore must modernize its nuclear forces. He also favors stepped-up East-West negotiations to cut conventional arms and a pact outlawing chemical and biological weapons.

On other policy fronts:

Latin and Central America. Bush favors resuming aid to the contra rebels in Nicaragua. The US role in Central America is to promote peace, he says, ``but not peace at any price.''

``Our main objective is not a peace that merely stops the shooting and entrenches a Soviet beachhead,'' Bush states. ``Our main objective is the maintenance and establishment of governments committed to freedom and democracy, governments that respect human rights and the sovereignty of their neighbors.''

In promoting democracies throughout the hemisphere, Mexico would be given a high priority, because of its proximity to the US. Bush says he would work to establish a free-trade zone embracing Mexico, Canada, and the US. The US objective in Mexico should be to strengthen democracy and free enterprise.

South Africa. The US must work to change the system of apartheid, says Bush, but must bear in mind its strategic interest in a stable, pro-Western South Africa. Economic sanctions have had ``marginal to negative'' effects, he says. American companies should stay in South Africa. The US should work closely with the South African business community to encourage adherence to the Sullivan principles of fair employment practices and help empower blacks economically.

Middle East. Bush regards Israel as a strategic ally. The US should be involved in fostering Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, he says, but the parties themselves must agree on a settlement. The Republican nominee opposes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and would not deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization unless it recognized Israel's right to exist, accepted relevant UN resolutions, and renounced terrorism.

Burden sharing. Because of sensitivity in Asia to Japanese rearmament, Bush says, Japan should not be pushed to do more by way of expanding its national defense. But, he says, he would ask the Japanese and the Koreans to provide more foreign economic aid - to the Philippines, for instance.

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