334. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Visit of Nuclear Powered Submarines to Japan

PARTICIPANTS

  • Japan
    • Foreign Minister Zentaro Kosaka
    • Shigenobu Shima, Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Toshiro Shimanouchi, Counselor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Koichiro Asakai, Japanese Ambassador to the United States
    • Nobuhiko Ushiba, Director, Economic Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Akira Nishiyama, Minister, Embassy of Japan
    • Tadao Kato, Counselor, Embassy of Japan
  • United States
    • Dean Rusk, Secretary of State
    • Chester Bowles, Under Secretary of State
    • Edwin O. Reischauer, U.S. Ambassador to Japan
    • Paul Nitze, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs
    • FEWalter P. McConaughy, Assistant Secretary
    • NALeonard L. Bacon, Acting Director, Office of Northeast Asian Affairs
    • Captain John J. Reidy, USN, Assistant to Director, FE Region, International Security Agency, Department of Defense
    • NARichard L. Sneider, Officer in Charge, Japanese Affairs
    • James J. Wickel, Interpreter

The Secretary said that he wished to raise the possibility of visits to Japan by Nautilus-type nuclear-powered submarines. The submarines are engaged in long cruises and it would be helpful if they could visit Japan occasionally for crew rest and provisioning. The United States recognizes the sensitivity of this issue to Japan but these vessels have nuclear power plants as differentiated from the Polaris-type submarines. He asked whether the visit of nuclear-powered submarines would create much of a problem for Japan.

The Foreign Minister said that while the Japanese people support peaceful uses of atomic energy, they are behind the times both technically [Page 691]and in understanding of the problem. The public still tends to relate anything atomic to nuclear weapons and thereby to the possibility of involvement in a nuclear war. The Japanese Government would therefore like to give further study to this problem before agreeing to the visits of nuclear-powered submarines.

The Secretary said that we would return to this question at some future time. He felt that the key to the problem is gaining greater public familiarity with the normal uses of nuclear energy, as distinct from nuclear weapons, by demonstrating the potential of nuclear power plants in ships. We hope eventually nuclear-powered vessels, including submarines, would be accepted in Japan.

The Foreign Minister said that the Japanese Government could well understand the desirability of inviting nuclear-powered submarines to Japan. However, in all frankness, he felt that considerable groundwork must be laid first among the public. At present, public opinion is not sufficiently aware of the potential uses of atomic energy; and there is also a lack of understanding in the Japan Science Council which has close ties to the left. At present, there is certain to be a great deal of opposition to almost any step relating to atomic energy, including a visit by nuclear-powered submarines. He said that it was a matter of timing and method in Japan so that a situation could be created publicly whereby United States proposals on such subjects would be acceptable. The Secretary said that we would be in touch with the Japanese Government again on the problem.1

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Secret. Drafted by Sneider and approved in S and U on July 17. The time of the meeting, which was held at the Department of State, is from Rusk’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library) This is one of nine memoranda of this conversation: regarding the discussion of Chinese representation at the United Nations, see footnote 1, Document 330; the discussion of trade liberalization is cited in footnote 2, Document 332; regarding the discussion of Japan Air Lines routes, see Document 328; the discussion of cultural relations is summarized in footnote 1 below; and memoranda of the discussion of Korea, shipping, offshore procurement, and pending claims under the Administrative Agreement are not printed. (All in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330)
  2. At the close of their morning meeting, Rusk and Kosaka agreed to set up three binational committees, each with both private and official members, to consider means of expanding cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges between the two countries. (Memorandum of conversation by Sneider; Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330)