China and Japan signed on August 12 an historic treaty of peace and friendship which brought to a successful climax years of torturous efforts aimed at ending diplomatic enmities born in war.

In the treaty's most controversial clause, the two countries pledged their joint opposition to efforts by any state to establish hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region or elsewhere.

China's insistence on the clause opposing hegemony preponderant influence or authority by a single state upset the Soviets who felt it was aimed at them. But the treaty, signed by the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers in Peking's Great Hall of the People, also said the accord would not affect the relations of either state with other countries. Japan, seeking to preserve its tenuous relationship with Moscow as much as possible, had wanted to make clear that the anti-hegemony provision was not directed at any particular nation.

Nevertheless, in Moscow, the Soviet Union angrily denounced the treaty, saying it conflicted with detente and posed a threat to Asian stability. The Soviets have long pushed for their own Moscow-dominated, anti-Peking Asian security arrangement. This now appears dead.

The signing ceremony was watched by Chinese leader Hua Kuo-Feng and Senior Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-Ping and, on live television, by millions in Japan, including Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda who afterwards predicted extensive development of relations and friendship between the two countries.

The Prime Minister smiled broadly for nationwide television and predicted further extensive development of relations between Asia's biggest economic power and the world's most populous nation.

Commenting on the treaty the two nations in 1972 promised would come when they established official diplomatic relations, Fukuda said Japan and China had been linked by a "rope bridge" but now would be linked by a "steel bridge." He said, "With the bridge being steel, it will be able to support more traffic crossing in both directions."

Japan's position as China's leading trading partner will certainly be enhanced by the treaty. The two countries already are doing record business, with two-way trade of 2.14 billion dollars in the first six months of this year compared with 1.5 billion in the same period of 1977.

Total bilateral trade this year was expected to reach 5.6 billion dollars and greatly favors Japan which is supplying large portions of the plant, equipment and expertise China needs for its modernization program.

There is no doubt that the Japanese decision to go ahead with the treaty delayed for six years primarily over the wording of the hegemony clause was also influenced by Tokyo's declining trust of Washington over trade problems, especially the plummetting value of the U.S. dollar. The threat of protectionism in the U.S. against Japanese goods provides added incentive to try to pry open wider the Chinese market.

Closer ties with China even of a military nature could be in the works for the future, as growing friction between Tokyo and Washington means that Japan must look elsewhere for military co-operation against the mounting Soviet challenge. The Christian Science Monitor of August 14, 1978 reports:

The treaty of peace and friendship that has just been concluded between China and Japan could be a historic watershed, not only in Asia but also for the pattern of international politics throughout the world... The reason is that it draws Japan one step closer into a network of both Communist and noncommunist nations concerned about the growing military and political power of the Soviet Union.

The treaty opens the way for growing Japanese economic and political cooperation with China at a time when Peking is persistently seeking to build an anti-Soviet 'containment' network surrounding the Soviet Union and extending from the United States through Western Europe to Japan. China is also attempting to build support in the Soviet Union's 'backyard' with this week's visit by Chairman Hua Kuo-feng to Yugoslavia and Romania...

The treaty is expected to strengthen the hand in Japanese internal politics of those who favor export to China of goods with military implications... Long-term, if limited, defense cooperation between the two countries also is expected by some analysts. Although a formal alliance is not expected, exchange of opinions or intelligence information between defense forces is one option.

Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportAugust 14, 1978Vol 2 No. 31