40. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Your meeting with Sato2

I attach a good quick summary (Tab A) of the Sato meeting, prepared by my colleague, James Thomson (whom you may not have met but will see in my place at the dinner tomorrow night—in line with your policy of rotating White House invitations). Thomson’s memo gives some of the details around the main problem, but I repeat my own conviction that it is item 3 on Communist China and Taiwan, which is the heart of the matter. If Sato can take away a sense of your own realistic awareness that this problem will get bigger and bigger and that we want to go at it in close cooperation with the Japanese, that will be all he needs for the present. As I said on the phone, my own belief is that the key to UN strategy is that we should be prepared to press Chiang & Company not to be the first to quit when some ambiguous formula is put forward. Sato shares my opinion on this, so that if you do too, you and he can make music together.

I also attach (Tab B)3 another copy of the Secretary of State’s briefing memo in case yours is not right at hand.

McG. B.
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Tab A

Memorandum From James C. Thomson, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson

Your Meeting with Prime Minister Sato

Prime Minister Sato (pronounced “Sah-toh”) is a tough-minded, pragmatic anti-Communist. He entered politics in 1947, has held government jobs in communications, space, science, and technology. He became Prime Minister last November (succeeding Ikeda).

Sato believes that the time has come for Japan to play a larger role in world affairs. He wants to do this in cooperation with the United States.

He has come to Washington in order (a) to get to know you personally, and (b) to start up a frank dialogue with our top officials on the problems of the Far East—particularly the problem of Communist China.

We want to be forthcoming in terms of frankness on the subject of China. We also want to press Sato hard on the single issue where the Japanese can help our cause and theirs right away: a Korea–Japan settlement this spring.

If he comes away from Washington with a firm sense that we accept the Japanese as full partners (on an equal footing with our European allies) and that we will take them into our confidence on long-term planning, Sato will consider his visit a success. If some progress can also be made on the several issues (mostly economic) that cause friction between the U.S. and Japan, this will be an added plus for us both.

The attached briefing paper from the Secretary focuses on the points that have emerged from our advance exchange of memoranda with the Japanese.

Here are the most important points:


Good news for Sato : There are three specific items on which you can show our friendly intentions. (a) On the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa), you can tell him that we are willing to broaden the scope of the U.S.-Japan Consultative Committee to include consideration of all aspects of the Ryukyuan people’s welfare—as long as our administrative powers are unaffected. (b) On the Bonin Islands, we accept in principle a Bonin graves visit (for the former inhabitants who now live in Japan). (c) On the Saylor Amendment, you can tell him that repeal of this amendment is one of the Administration’s high priority items for the present Congressional session.

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(A fourth item on which Sato will hope for some words of encouragement from you is civil aviation; you have been briefed on this separately.)4


Japan-Korea Settlement: State calculates that a Japan-ROK settlement will save us $1 billion over the next ten years ($600 million in Japanese grants and loans, the rest in anticipated private investment). We are once again at a point where a settlement is within reach. If we miss this time, it will be very hard to get negotiations started again.

Sato’s heart is in the right place; but he needs a real push by you, perhaps along the following lines: We fought the Korean War in the interest of Japan’s security as well as our own. A viable Korea is an essential buffer to us, doubly essential to Japan. Nothing the Japanese could do right now, in 1965, would advance the Free World’s interests more successfully than a settlement.


Communist China, Taiwan, and the defense of the Pacific: Sato will want to talk very frankly about our short and long-term views of how to live with Communist China, how to keep Taiwan free, and what to do about the defense of the Pacific. He will explain his own views that politics and economics must be separated in dealing with the Chicoms (i.e., that Japan’s trade is logical and necessary and in the long run can have some influence on the Chicoms). He is against recognition or UN membership but wants to keep in close touch with us on the whole China problem in the months ahead—so that Japan won’t be left in the lurch by some unexpected U.S. move.

We should hear him out and agree that regular close consultation on the China problem is essential to both nations.

South Vietnam and Southeast Asia: Sato will want an equally frank exchange of views on the prospects for Free World policies in South Vietnam and neighboring regions. He supports our efforts to keep Vietnam free but is deeply worried about the outcome. (Japan has made a $1.5-million contribution in non-military assistance to South Vietnam; it has also given $500,000 to the Foreign Exchange Operating Fund in Laos.)

J C Thomson Jr.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Sato’s Visit, Briefing Book, January 11–14, 1965. Secret.
  2. President Johnson and Prime Minister Sato met at the White House on January 12 at 11:30 a.m.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Civil aviation may have been discussed at the briefing on the current situation in Japan on January 9 in the Cabinet Room from 2 to 2:45 attended by the President, Rusk, Reischauer, William Bundy, McNamara, and McGeorge Bundy. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)