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In June, the Honolulu LWV was invited to send a representative to the University of Hawaii for an afternoon address by Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki of Japan, and I was the lucky recipient. Living among press reports and books as I do, I was not a jaded attendee of such functions. This was my first high-level invitational political affair.
Distillation of the best of the Prime Minister's talk was actually well done by Tom Kaser in the Honolulu Advertiser on June 17. I'll repeat a few of Tom's selections as reflected in my own notes and add a touch or two.
But first, I want to do a human interest bit, or perhaps I should say, a lack of human interest bit. This function was held at Kennedy Theatre on Manoa campus, and was introduced by some very beautiful traditional Japanese songs accompanied by the fragile tones of ancient instruments. The musicians faced the audience kneeling on silk mats. Had this been a chamber music group, there would have been audience agreement on total silence. "One does not talk during chamber music, my deah." However, the audience buzzed through this music like a visiting soccer team at the local bar. Embarrassingly, the music could not be heard. This is a remarkably insensitive cultural gap. This IS international relations.
The protocol was formal and ritualistic with very particular seating. There was stand-up applause before and after the Prime Minister's address. Emerging from triumphal and quasi-poetic rhetoric were punch lines which brought our thoughts back to the human condition and the man-on-the-street.
The Prime Minister said, on the positive side, that the Pacific Age will open the 21st century; that Japan has poured 50% of its development assistance into the Pacific region; and, on the negative side, that there are protectionist trade tendencies in this region, reflecting a trend in areas of severe economic slump.
He expressed concern about Soviet military build-up in the waters around Japan, and called upon the Soviets to demonstrate their alleged desires for peace in the region. He stressed the importance of solidarity among the islands and countries of the Pacific region.
The Prime Minister had just come from the Versailles Summit and the UN Session on Disarmament(ssD II) where he had encouraged effective disarmament beginning with nuclear disarmament and had also announced his awareness of the harsh realities with which we are confronted.
MEETS WITH LWV-JAPAN PRESIDENT
Also supporting nuclear disarmament were members of the League of Women Voters of Japan who were visiting Honolulu the same week. My attention was captured by the Japan League's President, Teiko Kihira, who met with me personally when I asked her to confirm that 104,000,000 signatures for nuclear disarmament were presented to the UN Secretary General, of which 80,000,000 were from six major groups in Japan. The remaining 24,000,000 signatures came from three American groups and Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Italy, East Germany, the Soviet Union and New Zealand. (The figures are approximate.)
These contacts captured the spirit and emphasized the need for developing good international relations.
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