Superpower Needs Assistance

Hardly a day goes by without some bulletin about action by "the world's only superpower."

Uncle Sam is nudging Japan to remake its economy. He's pushing Europe to act on the Balkans, go slow in Cuba, and eat his Honduran bananas. He's squeezing Israel and the Palestinians to get on with land for peace, and threatening Iraq over its Frankenstein weapons labs.

He's also trying to beat more Rus-sian nukes into plowshares, and keep India and Pakistan from putting their nukes aboard missiles.

Then there's rounding up money for Brazil, flood aid for Central America, mediation for Greece and Turkey, help for Irish peace, and pipelines for world oil supplies.

But alas, rich, muscular Uncle S. can't focus on all these jobs all the time. He's distracted. And matters like Iraq, Kosovo, and India/Pakistani A-bomb tests catch him off guard.

That's why the growing power of Europe and China, and the revival of economic superpower Japan - properly directed - are important for creating a more orderly world.

Europe is inexorably edging toward the long promised goal of having a more unified economy, a more coordinated foreign policy, and more member states. The euro will soon become another reliable world currency.

China is in the midst of a veritable diplomacy blitz. President Jiang Zemin has just returned from the first ever state visit of a Chinese leader to Japan. Despite much foofaraw about a failed summit because Japan didn't put its apology for World War II atrocities in writing (as it did for Korea), this visit was important.

China, Japan, and the US are moving to regularize meetings among themselves to limit military, trade, and economic surprises and threats.

China has also set up regular summits with the European Union. It has recently hosted no less than seven European leaders in Beijing.

Mr. Jiang has played a welcome economic role by refusing to devalue China's currency (thus heading off another round of Asian decline). And he has helped Uncle Sam chivvy India and Pakistan into offering to curtail their nuclear arms race. Beijing also joins the US and Japan in recognizing its big stake in keeping the Mideast calm - and oil flowing. China, like Japan, will depend heavily on that oil.

Competition and divergent interests will sometimes set Uncle S. and his growing nephews, Europe and China, at cross purposes. But their increasing habit of consulting, by hotline and summit, gives them a way to steer out of trouble. Their leaders must use that contact - regularly.

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