183. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, June 19, 1957, 11:30 a.m.1



  • Kishi Call on President


  • Prime Minister Kishi
  • Ambassador of Japan Asakai
  • Member of the Diet, Mr. Takizo Matsumoto
  • The President
  • The Secretary of State
  • Assistant Secretary Robertson
  • Ambassador MacArthur
  • J. Owen Zurhellen, Jr.

The Prime Minister called on the President at the White House at 11:30 a.m., June 19, 1957. After greetings by the President, Mr. Kishi said that he was very happy to be able to meet with the President, and felt that their meeting marked a new turning point in Japanese-American relations and an opportunity to strengthen ties between the two countries.

To begin with, the Prime Minister continued, “our conservative party” (the Liberal-Democratic Party) is based on anti-communism, freedom, and the recognition that Japan is a member of the community of free nations. We follow a liberal, democratic policy. We are not neutralists, and Japan will not go neutralist. With the help of the United States, Japan has become a member of the United Nations, and as one of the free nations has a heavy responsibility which it must live up to. Japan has both domestic and international responsibilities; on the domestic side, Japan’s policy is one of anti-communism; on the international side, it is one of close cooperation with the United States.

Mr. Kishi said that the two major political parties in Japan are his own, the Liberal-Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party, he stated, is led by leftists, particularly by SOHYO, which is communist in thought. If the Socialist Party should take over the government in Japan, the policies of domestic anti-communism and intentional alignment with the United States would come to an end, and it is therefore essential that the Liberal-Democratic Party continue in power. During the last five years the conservative party has divided, but now it has been unified and strengthened, and it is essential that it remain in power in Japan to carry out its policies and achieve internal stability.

The Liberal-Democratic Party, said the Prime Minister, has slightly less than a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and in the House of Councillors, It is not likely that the Socialist Party would be able to upset this majority within the next one or two elections and take over the cabinet. On the other hand, the Liberal-Democratic Party requires a full two-thirds majority to carry out the revision of the constitution, and to attain that majority the party must gain the support of the younger generation; it is necessary that steps be taken now to make sure that the Socialists will not be in power ten years hence. Mr. Kishi does not believe that the young people of Japan are Marxists, but on the other hand the conservative parties of the last few years have not appealed to youth. There is a rising tide of nationalism (but the Prime Minister emphasized that he did not mean ultra-nationalism) in Japan, which insists upon Japan’s independence. His party must, therefore, be able to act from a position of independence.

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The Prime Minister went on to say that the Japanese masses are not pro-communist, this would be contrary to their racial characteristics. The majority, on the contrary, are friendly to the United States. Even though they are friendly to the United States, however, this does not mean that they would necessarily be satisfied with an indefinite continuation of the present situation. There are certain things which they feel ought to be rectified.

The Soviet Union, Communist China and the Japan Communist Party, said Mr. Kishi, tried at first to communize Japan. They have failed in that, and now they are trying to alienate Japan from the United States. If even a small crack is opened between Japan and the United States, the communists will drive a wedge into it. We must endeavor to prevent any such crack from being opened.

The Prime Minister said that he had already explained his basic thoughts to Ambassador MacArthur in Tokyo in an extremely frank manner, and that he did not expect that his visit to the United States would in itself bring about solutions to all of the problems which exist in Japanese-American relations. He did, however, want to build a basis for future good relations, and wanted to enumerate several of the outstanding problems in order to assist in their understanding.

The first problem, said Mr. Kishi, was that of defense and the Security Treaty. Japan has put aside its previous defense plans, which were not considered adequate, and the National Defense Council has now adopted a Three Year Defense Plan. This plan is not completely sufficient, but it is at least a first step in line with the capacity and strength of the nation. Regarding the Security Treaty and the Administrative Agreement, there are some who want revision, and even some who call for abolition of these agreements. But I, stated the Prime Minister, think that Japan could not get along alone and that we need help even if we are to complete our Three Year Plan. But the situation is different now from that at the time the Security Treaty was signed. Then we had no troops; now we have our Self-Defense Forces. Then the United States bore the entire responsibility for defense; now we have a share. Moreover, we are now a member of the United Nations. The fact that these differences exist warrant our governments’ looking over the treaty at this time.

The year before last, the Prime Minister continued, as Mr. Dulles will remember, Mr. Shigemitsu asked that the Security Treaty be revised into an “equal” agreement, because he believed that Japan was in a “subjugated” position under the Treaty. I do not have that feeling. There are, nevertheless, some matters which we would like to see reconsidered. For instance, under the Treaty the employment of your forces in Japan is subject to the unilateral determination of the United [Page 372] States; we would like to have this subject to consultation with the Japanese side. Moreover, there is no time limit on the Treaty; we would like to have some limit set.

Next, said Mr. Kishi, I would like to mention territorial problems. In the north Kunashiri and Etorofu are occupied by the Soviet Union. In the south Okinawa and the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands are occupied by the United States. These four places constitute our territorial problem. Regarding the northern islands, last year during our negotiations with the Soviet Union the United States made clear its interpretation of the San Francisco Treaty concerning these islands. We intend to press on this point until we get a final treaty with the Soviet Union.

The Japanese people, he continued, know that Okinawa is a powerful base for the United States, and they are not opposed to its being a base because they knew that it is for the security of the Far East. The Japanese do not understand, however, why there is a need for the United States to hold political and administrative power in Okinawa just because it is a military base. They understand that Okinawa will ultimately be returned to Japan, but the United States has administrative power on an indefinite basis and it is not clear when the return will be. There are two points, the Prime Minister said, which he wanted to emphasize about Okinawa:

The 800,000 people of Okinawa are Japanese, and they are not different from the rest of the Japanese people. The problems of Okinawa are not simply those of 800,000 Okinawans, but of 90,000,000 Japanese. It may be thought that the Japanese Government interferes too much in the affairs of Okinawa, but they are our people.
The land problem is serious. The territory is small, and arable land is scarce. If land is taken for military use, even though payment is made, no other land can be obtained, because there is no other land. The people in Okinawa are therefore even more attached to their land than are the people in other parts of Japan.

This being the situation, it is in the interest of the United States-Japan partnership to consider these issues.

The second territorial problem, continued Mr. Kishi, is the Bonin Islands. The people who used to live there want to go back to the graves of their ancestors. Some solution to this problem would be helpful.

Also, he went on, a small matter and one having no direct connection with the above is the problem of war criminals, who number 66. It is now twelve years since the end of the war, and they remain in prison. If you can do so (the Prime Minister emphasized the word “if”) I would appreciate your expediting their release.

Next, said Mr. Kishi, are the economic problems. Japan consists of four small islands, and has 90,000,000 people. This population constitutes a very great problem. Lately, and with the help of the United [Page 373] States, Japan has achieved economic recovery and even a certain prosperity, but Japan must depend on foreign trade. Our biggest market is the United States, and we appreciate the action of the Federal Government regarding textile matters. We would be grateful if you do everything possible to facilitate the orderly export of Japanese goods to the United States.

Just prior to coming to the United States, the Prime Minister continued, I visited Burma, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Thailand and Formosa. Economically, politically and socially there is unrest in Southeast Asia, and this provides grounds for communist infiltration. We must build a basis for economic prosperity in Southeast Asia. Japan wants to export to Southeast Asia, but we must first increase their purchasing power. Japan wants to help in that.

The President broke in to ask which countries Mr. Kishi had visited, and Ambassador MacArthur repeated the countries enumerated above.

Mr. Kishi continued that there are two basic problems in this area, capital and technical know-how. He said that he would discuss these matters later in detail. Next, he said, comes the question of trade with Communist China. Japan has geographical and historical relationships with China, and the population problem makes the people desirous of increasing foreign trade. In the CHINCOM discussions Great Britain has done away with the China differential. Japan also favored this step, but felt, as a member of the free world, that agreement should be arrived at by all of the parties. The majority of the CHINCOM nations are following the British lead and abolishing the differential, however.

The internal development of the Japanese economy, said Mr. Kishi, will require American help in the form of capital and technical know-how in the future as it did in the past. Lately, Japanese foreign trade has become unbalanced, and Japan’s foreign exchange pattern has worsened. This has been mainly due to increases in imports. The price level has remained stable, however, and infiltration has been checked. Plant investment has been emphasized, production facilities are being improved, and it is believed that the situation will improve. The Prime Minister said, however, that any assistance which the United States might be able to offer in this regard would be appreciated.

Mr. Kishi thereupon concluded his presentation, and asked for the President’s opinions.

The President said that all of these subjects would be discussed in detail at his meetings at the Department of State, and said that he would make only general comments.

First, said the President, he was delighted with the general presentation made by the Prime Minister of his party’s aims and thoughts. The United States recognizes the importance of Japan in the [Page 374] Western Pacific. The basic policy of the United States is to maintain and develop our friendship with Japan. We recognize also that Japan can be a true partner only if it is strong spiritually, in the sense of combating the dangers of communism, strong economically, and possesses defense forces capable of making it a real ally in case of attack in that part of the world. Because of these convictions, the President said, Japan’s problems would be viewed most sympathetically and we would go in to the means by which the problems could be solved and Mr. Kishi could be enabled to continue leadership of his party.

It must not be forgotten, the President continued, that the great burden of defense in the Pacific lies upon the United States, and that for that reason our forces stationed in Japan have been larger than would otherwise have been the case. We are aware of the problems created for Japan, and also for the United States, by the presence of our troops in Japan. We do not like to be anywhere where we are not wanted. We are therefore ready to consider beginning to withdraw our troops. We realize that in a crowded country the presence of foreign troops causes unusually acute problems and we are ready to talk about that as one of the ways in which we can help.

Concerning the territorial problem, the President said, our only thought is to be able to react swiftly in the even of attack without interference. But we will talk over this problem and try to be helpful.

The President said that on the question of war criminals he had wished for some time that that responsibility lay with Japan rather than with the United States. The Secretary of State would have a formula to offer concerning this matter. He wanted to point out, however, that some of the war criminals had committed very inhumane acts, and he would like to feel that the Japanese sense of justice would enter into the disposition of the cases.

He realized, the President continued, Japan’s need for markets. When it comes to the United States absorbing more goods, however, we have problems. Pressure groups concerned with textiles, toys, cameras, etc. come to the President and insist that imports be stopped. So far we have found Japan’s voluntary means satisfactory, and in the meantime we are using our influence in the matter of boycotts. We have, the President pointed out, a peculiar federal system in the United States. The two states which have laws against the sale of Japanese textiles have not actually enforced those laws, however. In both these matters, said the President, regarding imports and discrimination, we will do our best. The administration firmly believes that the free world should work for the increase of trade among its members.

The President said that he would not comment now regarding economic aid for Southeast Asia or trade with Communist China, as these were technical subjects. Our thinking on Southeast Asia, however, was similar to that of Mr. Kishi. We understand completely [Page 375] Japan’s need for trade with Red China, but the President had two comments to make. Our money is not unlimited; any plan for economic aid to Southeast Asia must be supportable, realistic and practical. We feel that Red China has only limited foreign exchange and capacity to pay for imports. The removal of the China differential, therefore, will result merely in a change of kind and not of amount in trade with Communist China. They will now use their limited funds to purchase more warlike goods, but there will be no overall gain in amount. We understand, however, that even though this is so Japan must keep its competitive position vis-à-vis England. We appreciate Japan’s sticking with us in the CHINCOM talks, and we recognize her needs now.

The President said that these matters would be discussed later in detail, and the meeting ended at 12:30 p.m.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International Series. Secret. Drafted by Zurhellen. Another copy of this memorandum is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 889.