December 19, 1988 – A day of diplomacy, olive branches and back-slapping. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat met with Austrian leaders in his first trip to a Western country since UN decision to open a dialogue with PLO officials. Arriving in Vienna, Arafat told reporters Israel should drop its refusal to meet with PLO and join UN sponsored peace talks. While Israeli officials were still adamant about their refusal to deal with the PLO, saying it was still intent on destroying the Jewish state, some are not as critical as Prime Minister Shamir of the change in American policy as evidence by a letter to Secretary of State Schulz, Foreign Minister Peres described the U.S. as “at best, premature”.
News on the Earthquake in Soviet Armenia was continuing. Planes were busily evacuating another 4500 women and children to the Crimean resort of Anapa. According to Pravda, by mid-week only men involved in the reconstruction would remain in the earthquake zone. During the previous 24 hours, no one was found alive in the debris left by the Armenian earthquake. Cold weather continues to plague survivors so evacuation efforts had gone into high gear. As of this day, some 8,000 people were taken out of the affected area. Foreign rescue crews were being thanked and sent home. The authorities were trying to clear the devastated parts of Armenia of everyone except those involved in the cleanup and reconstruction activities. In the first days after the earthquake, rescuers dug out some 10,000 survivors. But now hopes were beginning to fade, but still hanging on to possibilities of finding survivors.
While on the subject of the Soviet Union, one of Mikhail Gorbachev‘s Foreign policy goals had been to improve relations with Japan. Soviet Foreign Minister Schevednadze visited Japan for the first time in three years. Saying he wanted to open a new chapter in relations between the two countries which had never signed a treaty ending their World War 2 hostilities with each other. Concerns were voiced over a military buildup in East Asia and Japan called for a reduction in Armed forces to promote regional security. It was a start.
And that’s a small slice of what went on, this December 19, 1988 as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.