124. Memorandum From Alfred Jenkins of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Ambassador Johnson’s Call on the President

Ambassador Johnson called on the President at 12:30 on June 13.2 The call lasted a half hour.

Ambassador Johnson said that he appreciated an opportunity to meet with the President in order to express his concern at the recent turn in U.S.-Japanese relations, and particularly with respect to the possible long-term implications of these difficulties. He started to outline the import of his telegram of June 5,3 but the President (presumably familiar with the telegram) soon interjected with the theme that if our relationship was to survive in the long run, the Japanese would have to overcome their one-sided view of that relationship.4 The President said that we had had an arm around the Japanese and held an umbrella over them for a long time. The American people would not understand the difficulties which the Japanese are presenting to us through their reactions to recent events while we were losing 400 to 500 American lives each week in Vietnam in the interest of Asian security.

Ambassador Johnson said that the Japanese often seemed to believe that we should expect gratitude from them whenever they did things which were actually in their own interest to begin with. He was working to try to correct this Japanese habit.

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The President said there were a number of things the Japanese could do to contribute to Asian security. One of these might be to take increased interest in peace keeping activities, particularly post-Vietnam. Ambassador Johnson expressed the belief that there would be no particular problem in getting the Japanese to do this. They would also participate in reconstruction efforts.

The Ambassador said that the governmental leadership and many informed Japanese, of course, had a good understanding of our contribution to Japanese security and of the need for Japan in turn to bear its obligations in the relationship. He said that the same considerations which gave us concern at the present time in our relations with Japan, were also giving Prime Minister Sato domestic trouble. The Ambassador observed that despite present worries, our relationship was still on a fundamentally sound basis. There are practical realities contributing to keep it that way, including the fact that Japan has become our best overseas trading partner, second only to our continental partner of Canada. The President observed that Japan was doing very well in exports to the United States also.

Ambassador Johnson mentioned the importance of our present careful review of the problem of Okinawa reversion. In this context the President reiterated his conviction that Japan cannot go on accepting security gratis from the United States without better recognizing its own obligations implied by our presently close relationship.

After the interview Ambassador Johnson expressed to me his appreciation for the President’s remarks, saying “I can use that to good advantage in Tokyo.”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Vol. VII. Secret. A copy was sent to Jorden.
  2. According to President Johnson’s calendar, the meeting, which lasted from 12:45 p.m. to 12:56 p.m., was held because U. Alexis Johnson was scheduled to meet with Sato and Miki when he returned to Tokyo, and he thought “it would be helpful in those visits if he could say he had seen [the President].” (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) U. Alexis Johnson was in Washington to attend the U.S.-Japan Security Subcommittee meeting held June 6–7 and the U.S.-Japan Policy Planning Talks held June 14–15. He returned to Tokyo on June 17. (Memorandum for the President, June 12; ibid., National Security File, Country File, Japan, Vol. VII)
  3. Document 123. The telegram was retyped before being given to the President along with a briefing memorandum, June 12, prepared by Walt Rostow in advance of his meeting with U. Alexis Johnson. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Japan, Vol. VII)
  4. In his memorandum Rostow suggested that the President stress that “the Japanese simply cannot go on taking their security as a free gift from the U.S.” and that U. Alexis Johnson leave no doubt in his dealings with Tokyo “that there must be a fundamental change in Japanese attitudes if our relation is to survive in the long run.” (Ibid.)