Stung by Western criticism for being a no-show in the gulf war, some Japanese legislators are trying to turn pacifism into a workable foreign policy alternative to American muscle-flexing. They propose that Tokyo cut off aid to countries whose military spending exceeds 1% of gross national product. Of some 100 aid recipients, 10 to 20 may be considered "suspicious" in military spending levels, a Japan Foreign Ministry official says.

Antiwar factions prevented the government from winning approval in the Diet to send even civilians to the gulf. Now, worried about anti-Japanese feeling in the U. S., a number of political pressure groups fear that an era of U. S. military dominance is at hand. They are particularly critical of U. S. plans to continue funneling arms to Mideast clients.

By contrast, development aid is "Japan's main source of leverage," a Foreign Ministry official notes. Its clout is substantial: In 1989, the latest year available, Japan gave aid worth $8.9 billion. Now aid will be discussed case by case with recipients, taking into account factors from environmental controls to feasibility of projects. There won't be a fixed 1% ceiling for arms spending, but if it's too large, would-be aid clients may be in for a surprise.

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