NEW YORK (AP) _ A Pearl Harbor special made by ABC and Japan's NHK network isn't an attempt to change American attitudes about the Japan of today, but it may have an effect on Japan, executives said Tuesday.

The special simply is a journalistic study of Japan's Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that drew the United States into World War II, said Richard C. Wald, ABC News senior vice president.

He was asked at a news conference if the special - ABC's first co- production with the Japanese network - was a bid by the Japanese to somehow soften resentment in the United States against modern Japan's business success in the United States.

''I don't know if there's an answer to that,'' he said, appearing somewhat nonplussed at the question. ''I don't think it will change the attitudes,'' nor was it intended to do that, he said.

''I would look at it the other way around,'' he said. ''Its effect in Japan is going to be much more profound.''

The show isn't in any way a Japanese form of spin control, the program's U.S. anchorman, David Brinkley, said later. ''They couldn't do it,'' he said. ''I don't believe they're trying.''

ABC will show the documentary, ''Pearl Harbor: Two Hours That Changed the World,'' in prime time on Dec. 5. NHK will air its version a day earlier, said Yoshihisa Hayashi, executive producer of the Japanese-language edition.

Asked if the show may lead to wider studies in Japan of its wartime history, Hayashi replied: ''I really hope so.''

Critics say Japan has consistently played down that history.

ABC's two-hour program is one of at least 14 specials to be shown next month in the United States and Japan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

CBS has one planned for Dec. 7 that uses some material provided by the Tokyo Broadcasting System. But CBS says its program isn't a co-production with TBS, with which it has has a news-sharing agreement.

Wald said that in 1994 or 1995 ABC and NHK are going to work together on a series about the 20th century. ABC announced that project last year.