42. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Current U.S.-Japanese and World Problems


  • Eisaku Sato, Prime Minister of Japan
  • Etsusaburo Shiina, Foreign Minister of Japan
  • Ryuji Takeuchi, Japanese Ambassador
  • Takeo Miki, Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party
  • Nobuhiko Ushiba, Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Takeshi Yasukawa, Director of American Bureau, Foreign Ministry
  • Toshiro Shimanouchi, Consul General of Japan at Los Angeles (interpreter)
  • The President
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Edwin O. Reischauer, Ambassador to Japan
  • William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Marshall Green, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • James C. Thomson, Jr., NSC
  • Ambassador Duke, Chief of Protocol
  • Robert A. Fearey, Director for East Asian Affairs
  • James Wickel, Department of Language Services

The President, Prime Minister Sato, Mr. Shimanouchi (interpreter) and Mr. Wickel (interpreter) joined Secretary Rusk, Foreign Minister Shiina and other members of the group after approximately 45 minutes’ private conversation. The President said that the Prime Minister and he had discussed several matters, which might perhaps be pursued further in the larger group.

[Omitted here is the President’s summary of his private meeting with Prime Minister Sato; see Document 41.]

The President said that the United States and Japanese Governments should be careful to consult on everything of concern to the other. He said that he had great confidence in Prime Minister Sato and was very proud of the record he had made. The President said to Ambassador Reischauer that he had told the Prime Minister he was also [Page 76] proud of the Ambassador’s record and that he had asked him to stay on in his post. The President said that he sometimes felt that Ambassador Reischauer worked part time for the United States but most of the time for the Prime Minister—maybe the Prime Minister was nicer to work for than the President.

Prime Minister Sato said he wished to mention briefly Okinawa and the Bonins. He said that Japan fully agreed with the United States on the importance and necessity of the U.S. military installations on Okinawa to peace in the Far East. Due to U.S. commitments under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the Chinese Communist nuclear explosion2 had not had great impact in Japan. Japan has residual sovereignty in the Ryukyus, but administrative authority is exercised by the United States. The nearly one million Ryukyuans and 95 million Japanese ardently aspire to the return of administrative authority over the islands to Japan. It had been twenty years since the U.S. assumed control there. He was sure that the President understood what the feelings of the people of Okinawa and Japan on this matter are. He would like to see more respect by the United States for the problem of expanding the autonomy of the Ryukyuan people and of increasing their political and social freedom. Improved cooperation of the Ryukyuan people in the islands’ administration would enable the United States to carry out its security mission more effectively.

The President said that the United States is prepared to broaden the scope of the Consultative Committee3 so that it can go in much more depth into matters of the welfare of the people of the Ryukyu Islands. As he believed he had already told the Prime Minister in their private meeting, the United States is also willing to accept in principle a Bonin Islands graves visit.

Prime Minister Sato said that the Ryukyus and the Bonins were well covered in the Communiqué.4 He just wanted to express the aspirations of the Ryukyuan and Japanese peoples for broadening of freedom in the Ryukyus.

Secretary Rusk asked to what extent the Chinese Communist nuclear explosion had changed reservations among the Japanese people concerning the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and concerning the U.S. military [Page 77] presence in Okinawa. Prime Minister Sato said that the majority of Japanese feel that Japan’s security rests on the Treaty with the United States. As regards Japanese public attitudes on nuclear weapons, the public’s feeling is that Japan should never possess them, nor should any situation be created where their use would be necessary. The Prime Minister said that although he could see why it might be argued that if China has nuclear weapons, Japan should also, this was not Japan’s policy.

The Prime Minister said that there was a strong desire on the part of the people of Okinawa for him to visit the Islands. He believed, however, that a visit at this time would create problems and should be deferred until it could be assured that it would be useful.

Secretary Rusk said he was sure the Prime Minister understood that the President had sent one of our most experienced and thoughtful officers to Okinawa as High Commissioner. He had served in Berlin and understood the political as well as the administrative and military aspects. General Watson’s appointment had in itself improved the situation, and we would wish in the Consultative Committee to find out if further improvement could be achieved. The President said that the Prime Minister could be assured that we were prepared to broaden the consultative process in every way we could to help improve the welfare of the Ryukyuan people.

The Prime Minister said that when he met General Watson in Tokyo he had found him to be a fine individual. He would discuss the timing of his (the Prime Minister’s) possible visit to Okinawa with Ambassador Reischauer, to ensure that it had a constructive effect.

The Prime Minister said that in his private discussion with the President, the President had mentioned that he was having a great deal of trouble with the U.S. woolen industry. He had told the President that before leaving Japan he had been told by the Japanese woolen industry that he should keep his mouth shut on the subject. He had told the President that he appreciated that this is a “family matter.” Better understanding should be sought on both sides, in an effort to ameliorate the situation.

The President said he would like the Prime Minister to tell him frankly what he thought the U.S. could do in Viet-Nam that we are not doing and what Japan could do there that it is not doing. The Prime Minister said that he did not wish to comment too much on the situation in Viet-Nam, in view of the United States’ thorough familiarity with that situation. He felt, however, that utmost patience and forebearance were required. Neither an advance north nor American withdrawal was desirable. The latter would provoke a “falling domino” situation. The United States should hold on. Since the Vietnamese are within their own country and the United States is an outsider, the United States must exercise patience and perseverance. The crux of the [Page 78] problem was to achieve stable South Vietnamese leadership. The Prime Minister said he knew the United States was endeavoring to capture public sentiment and stabilize the people’s livelihood. He expressed sympathy and a desire to assist. Japan had sent a medical team and other non-military aid to Viet-Nam at a cost of $1½ million. Japan would continue to cooperate through such means to the best of its ability.

The Prime Minister said that unfortunately Japan could not utilize functional bodies of the United Nations as a channel for its assistance to Viet-Nam. If certain things could be done under the auspices of the United Nations, the Japanese Government would have greater freedom to help.5 The Secretary said that the United Nations relationship to Viet-Nam was under study. The Prime Minister said that in the absence of a United Nations channel the Japanese Government was trying to figure out ways and means to assist the United States more effectively in Viet-Nam. A group of conservative Diet members had gone to Viet-Nam to examine the situation at first hand. On its return to Japan it would try to create a more favorable public opinion for Japanese assistance to the United States effort there. After 20 years the people of Viet-Nam are tired of war.

Secretary Rusk said that during the President’s and Prime Minister’s absence Foreign Minister Shiina, Mr. Miki and he had discussed Indonesia and Cambodia in some detail. He hoped that Japan might be able to exert useful diplomatic influence in these countries.

The Secretary noted that the Prime Minister was due shortly at a luncheon in his honor at the Press Club. President Johnson said that as one with long experience in dealing with the press, he wished to offer the Prime Minister his sympathy.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–US. Secret. Drafted by Fearey and approved in S on January 14 and in the White House on February 2. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House. A copy of this document and a draft memorandum of conversation prepared by James C. Thomson, Jr., are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Sato’s Visit, Memos and Cables, January 11–14, 1965. Thomson’s draft memorandum includes the discussion between Rusk and his staff and Shiina and members of his party conducted prior to the arrival of Johnson and Sato.
  2. The Communist Chinese detonated their first nuclear weapon on October 16, 1964.
  3. The United States and Japan signed an agreement on April 2, 1965, to broaden the functions of the Consultative Committee on the Ryukyu Islands. Henceforth the scope of the Committee’s role was no longer limited to considering “economic assistance to the Ryukyu Islands” but included “other matters on which Japan and the United States can cooperate in continuing to promote the well-being of the inhabitants of the islands.” The text of the agreement is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, p. 771.
  4. The text of the JohnsonSato communiqué of January 13 is ibid., pp. 769–771.
  5. In a conversation with Rusk on December 30, 1964, Takeuchi anticipated Sato’s position and characterized it as “nonsense.” Takeuchi pointed out that “if aid could be provided Viet-Nam effectively through the United Nations, this would have been done a long time ago.” Takeuchi admitted “that it was indiscreet on his part to speak this way but he did regret the vagueness of Japan’s position on some of these issues.” (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives and Records Administration, RG59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 JAPAN)