TOKYO -- Former President Ronald Reagan Wednesday effusively praised Japan in a reported $1 million speech -- more than half the money he made in eight years in the White House -- and declared the 21st century will see the greatest peace 'in the entire history of man.'
Reagan, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, reportedly will earn $2 million during his eight-day visit to Japan, hosted by a giant media conglomerate.
Reagan, 78, whose visit is being compared to those of foreign royalty, previously was accorded Japan's highest civilian award, the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, in a palace ceremony before Emperor Akihito.
Reagan is hailed in Japan for fostering strong security ties and bucking congressional calls for economic retaliation against Tokyo over its growing trade surplus with the United States.
Some 600 well-heeled Japanese and foreign guests turned out Wednesday night to dine on caviar-laden filet of sole and pricey Kobe beef at a gala dinner in which Reagan called on Japan to use its economic might to help Poland 'make the transition from communism to free enterprise.'
'This is your golden age,' Reagan said of Japan. 'Join us in a golden partnership for democracy in Poland and around the world. You understand how to build an economy from ruin to the envy of the free world.'
News reports have said Reagan was earning $1 million for the speech, as well as another $1 million for a speech in Osaka Saturday. Organizers have refused to confirm or deny the figure.
Two huge TV monitors were set up in the banquet hall and before the dinner began, they displayed a 'This is Your Life' video account of Reagan's presidency.
At 11 p.m., Reagan appeared on national television in an hourlong interview covering topics ranging from Panama and China to controversial Japanese investments in the United States and a worldwide tide toward democracy.
Asked to forecast what the world be like at the start of the 21st century, Reagan cited Eastern European nations that are turning against communism.
'It isn't some outsider that's coming into Poland or Hungary or something,' he said. 'They're saying, 'We've had enough of it.' So I think we're going to see more peace among the nations than we've known, well, I guess in the entire history of man,' Reagan said.
Reagan defended President Bush's decision not to take military action against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, saying, 'I think we'd lose most of our friends in Latin America had we done it that way. But I have confidence that he will take action when that is the appropriate thing to do.'
While condemning China's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square last June, Reagan suggested the protests may have done more harm than good.
'There is a limit to how fast and far they can go and my worry is, did the students, in moving as quickly and forcefully as they did, did they strengthen the communists?'
Reagan pointed out some '250 million Chinese living along the Pacific Ocean coastline live in an area that has largely become 'trade-free' and that Chinese senior leader Deng Xiaoping was aware of moves by outside countries and private investors to increase opportunites for free enterprise.
'And I'm worried -- I love those young people and I agree with what their feelings are -- but did they handicap people who were quietly trying to do what they want?' Reagan said.
The former Hollywood actor also defended Japan against criticism over Sony Corp.'s $4.8 billion acquisition of Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. last month.
'I don't think there's anything wrong with that,' he said. 'And I just have a feeling that maybe Hollywood needs some outsiders to bring back decency and good taste to some of the picture that are being made.'
The Fujisankei Communications Group is spending $7 million on Reagan's Japanese tour, which ends Saturday in Osaka, Japan's second largest city.