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Japanese Schoolgirl Gets Message, Gifts from Kremlin Leader

January 10, 1986

TOKYO (AP) _ A 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl received New Year’s greetings and an armful of gifts today from Mikhail S. Gorbachev after she wrote a letter to the Soviet leader asking him to work for world peace.

Aiko Fukuda, a sixth-grader in Nagoya, central Japan, sent a letter to Gorbachev in November to say she was happy he had met with President Reagan at the Geneva summit the same month.

In a ceremony broadcast on Japanese television from Chukyo University in Nagoya, about 170 miles west of Tokyo, Aiko today received Gorbachev’s reply.

″Thank you very much indeed for your letter,″ said the message from the Communist Party general secretary, read by the Soviet Embassy’s first secretary, Sergei Khalin. ″I wish a happy and peaceful year to the entire Fukuda family.″

Aiko, who has attended weekly Russian language classes since April, was also presented with a large lacquered samovar, a collection of photographs of the Soviet Union, a book written in Russian and a recording of Russian folk songs.

″I’m very happy,″ Aiko told reporters. She said she wrote Gorbachev ″because I had always wanted to send a letter to the Soviet Union.″

Her original letter was translated into Russian by Professor Hiroshi Yasumura of Chukyo University.

″Hello, I am a 12-year-old Japanese girl,″ Aiko wrote. ″I am glad to learn that the general secretary met with the U.S. president. I hope peace will be achieved more and more. Christmas will come soon and I am awaiting a present from you. I will study Russian more. I hope you are all right.″

Aiko’s mother, Akemi, told The Associated Press earlier that her daughter was inspired by American schoolgirl Samantha Smith who, at the age of 11, wrote then Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov in 1983 asking him to work for world peace.

That letter prompted a response from Andropov, and Samantha, of Manchester, Maine, visited the Soviet Union at Andropov’s invitation.

Samantha died in a plane crash in Maine on Aug. 25, 1985. The Soviet Union has named a large diamond found in Siberia after her, and last month issued a stamp in her memory.

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