JAPAN'S Prime Minister Kiichi Miya-zawa comes to Washington July 1 with his international standing strengthened by two actions: ap-proval of Japanese participation in Unit-ed Nations peacekeeping operations, and a $7 billion pledge to help developing nations clean up their environment.
The Diet (Parliament) took the first action, after nearly two years of bitter constitutional debate, and the government the second, at the world environment summit in Rio de Janeiro. Mr. Miyazawa was supposed to announce the pledge in person, but was unable to travel to Rio because of last-ditch resistance to the peacekeeping bill by Socialist and Communist Party opponents.
Neither of these subjects compares to Washington's most pressing international concern: coordinating aid to Russia and its former republics when the US public is preoccupied with election-year issues. Aid to Russia is Topic A at the Munich summit next month.
Nor will the Miyazawa visit have the drama or impact of President Boris Yeltsin's recent visit. The contrast between the burly, passionate Russian and the diminutive, cerebral Japanese is as great as the geographical contrast between Russia's bicontinental sprawl and the miniature garden that is Japan.
In spite of these differences, and in spite of the recent sound and fury in US-Japanese trade relations, partnership between Tokyo and Washington is essential to the new world order George Bush is trying to construct. Action on peacekeeping and the environment give Miyazawa new credentials. Peacekeeping represents Japan's first substantive commitment to global stability, while the environmental role, though still to be spelled out in detail, requires leadership in a field that the world community is just
beginning to define.
Public opinion in Japan is almost evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the peacekeeping law. Opponents say it violates the constitution, which renounces war and the use of armed forces. Supporters maintain that the UN umbrella and the restrictions on Japanese participation built into the law are sufficient safeguards preventing the emergence of an expeditionary force.
Japanese participants, mostly units of the Self-Defense Force (SDF), can be used only for logistical support and noncombat operations. Up to 2,000 SDF soldiers can be UN peacekeepers. The first mission is likely to be Cambodia, where UN special representative Yasushi Akashi asked Japan to supply 400 to 700 SDF engineers and a couple of hundred police and civilian election observers, perhaps as soon as November.
As for the environment, Miyazawa had been looking to Rio as the opportunity to show Japan taking the lead in meeting concerns expressed by Bush: how to clean up the global environment while promoting economic growth, especially among the developing nations. The parliamentary battle over the peacekeeping bill forced Miyazawa to stay in Tokyo. But the Japanese did pledge $1.45 billion for each of the next five years in environmental aid to developing nations. In contrast to the American stand, Tokyo holds that new technologies to clean up the environment can themselves be the source of new jobs and of economic growth.
After the helter-skelter economic growth of the 1960s and 1970s, Japan has been cleaning up its environment at home and has some of the world's stiffest emission-control standards. It continues to be the target of international criticism, however, for exporting pollution-causing industries to developing countries and causing environmental damage there due to its appetite for lumber. Tokyo's foreign-aid bill in 1991 came to $11.1 billion, outstripping the US, but less than half the 0.7 percent of GNP that
is the UN goal. Meanwhile, the environment is a politically popular cause. Politicians like former premier Noboru Takeshita are bringing it into the political mainstream. Miyazawa would like a US-Japan partnership on this issue.
This will be Miyazawa's first visit to Washington since becoming prime minister last fall, and his second summit with Mr. Bush - the first was the ill-fated Tokyo meeting in January.
But the personal chemistry between the two men is good, and they are said to call each other by telephone from time to time. Unlike Germany's Chancellor Kohl or France's President Mitterrand, Miyazawa can converse with Bush in English - to the discomfiture of his subordinates, to whom he does not always relay the gist of these talks. With the US economy slowly improving and Japanese cars seeming less of a threat than in January, the trans-Pacific climate, while far from cloud-free, is improved.
Which is not to say much work needn't be done before "global partnership" becomes a reality. But a good working relationship between the two leaders on both sides helps. Miyazawa's visit should strengthen that bond.