44. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Final Sato Conversation with the President


  • Japan
    • Prime Minister Sato
    • Foreign Minister Shiina
    • Ryuji Takeuchi, Ambassador of Japan
    • Takeo Miki, Secretary General of Liberal Democratic Party
    • Nobuhiko Ushiba, Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Takeshi Yasukawa, Director, Bureau of American Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Toshiro Shimanouchi, Consul General at Los Angeles
  • United States
    • The President
    • Secretary of State Rusk
    • Edwin O. Reischauer, Ambassador to Japan
    • William P. Bundy, Asst Secretary of State, Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs
    • Marshall Green, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, FE
    • Robert W. Barnett, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, FE
    • Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President
    • Dr. Donald F. Hornig, Science Adviser to the President
    • Ambassador A. B. Duke, Chief of Protocol
    • Mr. James C. Thomson, Jr., NSC

Medical Cooperation

The President escorted Prime Minister Sato and his party to the Cabinet room at 11:30 January 13. Prior to the start of the conversation across the table, there was extended discussion among members of the Prime Minister’s party of a memorandum prepared by Dr. Hornig on a United States-Japan program of cooperation in medical science. The Japanese were given a program and asked to consider a summary paragraph for possible inclusion in the Communiqué.

Prime Minister Sato said to the President that he could agree to inclusion of reference to an expanded program of cooperation in medical science in the Communiqué,2 and found acceptable the language being proposed. As to the program itself, however, he wished to [Page 81] be offered the opportunity of submitting it for careful study by his Government.

President Johnson stated that it could then be agreed that reference to the program would be in the Communiqué. He went on to say that the program itself would require a good deal of study on the United States side. He mentioned that the Secretary of State believed that other countries might participate in the program, those likely to be the principal beneficiaries as well as those likely to have something to contribute.

The Prime Minister said, in very cordial terms, that he was glad that the President had seen fit to make the proposal of cooperation in the field of medical science and to suggest inclusion of agreement on this matter in the Communiqué.


President Johnson congratulated Prime Minister Sato on what he had heard, he said, had been a very fine speech at the National Press Club.3 The President expressed gratification that the Secretary had had an extended and satisfactory conversation with Prime Minister Sato and his colleagues. He then indicated his very great interest in space exploration and said that he would like to know about Japanese planning in this field.

Prime Minister Sato replied that Japan was anxious to further space developments. It aspired to be number three, after the United States and the USSR, in this field. He set aside the French as being vitally dependent upon United States resources. Japan, on the other hand, wanted its efforts to be based on its own capability. Prime Minister Sato confessed to a special, personal interest in the program, inasmuch as he had previously been Director-General for Science in the Japanese Government. Secretary General Miki interjected that Japan regarded its space efforts to have export possibilities. In fact, Mr. Miki said, Japan had already exported equipment to Yugoslavia. The Prime Minister went on to observe that if necessity arose rocket and missile development could, of course, be converted from peaceful to military uses. Important studies were proceeding, he said, on both liquid and solid fuel propulsion systems.

[Page 82]

Secretary Rusk inquired whether the Japanese imposed safeguards on exports of these items to forestall conversion to military use.

Prime Minister Sato said he was not sure whether such conditions were applied but attempted to reassure the Secretary by stating that those already exported were not suitable for military uses. He added that India had made inquiries about the availability of rocket exports.

President Johnson said that he was pleased with the United States effort in the field of space developments and hoped to keep our programs on schedule; some $5 billion would be appropriated this coming year for NASA plus $2 billion for other agencies. The President said to the Prime Minister that the United States was prepared to cooperate with Japan and to be as helpful as we can in space developments.

Prime Minister Sato said that Japan’s most distinguished space scientist was Dr. Itakawa of the University of Tokyo, who had come to the United States and had worked closely with the Rand Corporation. The Prime Minister said that if it was the President’s wish, a visit with Itakawa could be arranged.

Saylor Amendment

President Johnson, changing the subject, said that Prime Minister Sato and the people of Japan were, he was aware, concerned over a provision of the Mass Transit Bill which called for 100% Buy America procurement of equipment. This was known as the Saylor Amendment.4 President Johnson said that this provision in the law had caused great displeasure to himself and the Administration. He assured the Japanese Prime Minister that we were trying in every way we can to prevent introduction of amendments of this sort by the Congress when they were opposed to United States policy. The President and the Administration would specifically try to get this provision removed from the law.

Prime Minister Sato said that he hoped that the removal would take place. He added that what was particularly displeasing to the Japanese—who themselves practice “buy Japan” from time to time— is to have “buy America” incorporated in legislation. The Japanese have no provisions in their law calling for “buy Japan.” When purchasers are asked to “buy Japan,” it is not, consequently, mandatory.

The President said that the Congress makes a good many things mandatory which he wished it didn’t. He then referred to an exhortation [Page 83] of Congressman Rayburn who used to say, he said, “Let’s talk before we vote: rather talk than fight.” The President said that he was the target of calls from Congressmen who urged him to use his influence to take certain actions which from their standpoint had life or death implications. It was helpful for them to talk with others having different interests and viewpoints. It would be very helpful, the President added, if he could say, here in the United States, that Japan would welcome appointment of committees where things could be talked over.

Prime Minister Sato replied that it seemed to him essential to resort to talks when there was any indication of imminent protective measures.


President Johnson reminded the Prime Minister that the day before he had talked about woolen textiles. He said that he would like to consider asking members of the Congress, industry, and Ministers of Commerce to go and talk to the Japanese. The Japanese, on their side, he added, could say: “Look how much we buy of your cotton.”

Mr. Sato and Mr. Miki said that Japan would like to take that kind of approach. Mr. Miki recalled that he had suggested to Senator Mansfield yesterday that there should be exchanges of legislators. Senator Mansfield was noncommittal, expressing interest in how a precedent of this sort might be viewed by countries like Australia. Mr. Miki said that where enlightenment was needed, frank talk was very desirable.

President Johnson pursued further his thought. He said that he could designate a group of people representing a good cross-section of interests to discuss some particular problem with the Japanese. After talks had been held they would, of course, come back and talk over matters with much deeper understanding of realities.

Prime Minister Sato expressed the view that this was an effective way to deal with specific issues.

President Johnson charged Ambassador Reischauer with working through plans designed to serve this desired purpose of talking things over.

Secretary Rusk observed that when either the President or the Secretary claimed to report the views of foreign countries, the listener construed it as second-hand. The Japanese should have an opportunity of saying what they had on their minds directly.

Prime Minister Sato quipped that the Americans should wear even more woolen textiles—instead of synthetics. He had made this point at his San Francisco press conference. More seriously, he stated that sustained prosperity in the United States, and the market thereby created for Japan, was of vital importance to Japan.

[Page 84]

The President quipped in return that our exchanges of views had already begun with the comments he had made the night before on Texas hats. And, the Prime Minister replied that these represented an increase in United States exports to Japan. Pleasantries about Texas hats—head measurements of his guests—a call by the President for his Secretary, and making arrangements to bring in some Texas1 hats for the neglected members of the Prime Minister’s delegation, occupied the next few minutes.

Japan Visit

Prime Minister Sato said that it was with great seriousness and friendliness that he had extended to the President an invitation to visit Japan. This had now become known and he expected great press interest. He knew the President had indicated an interest to go some time during his Administration but the Japanese would not want to wait eight years. Could the President, he asked, indicate when a visit might be practical?

President Johnson said that his Administration was just beginning. He had problems in organizing it and establishing his relations with the Congress. He had already announced his intention to make a trip or two. He would like very much, he said, to accept the gracious invitation to visit Japan. He doubted that he could go in 1965. He did want to go as early as possible. He asked for counsel from Secretary Rusk and Mr. McGeorge Bundy on what might be told the press. The President then reiterated the way he appreciated the invitation and said that he wanted so much to go. His schedule for the first half of 1965 made it impossible. The probabilities for 1966 were good. The last half of 1965 could be looked at in the light of developments in Washington.

Prime Minister Sato said that he was aware of President Johnson’s very heavy duties and only hoped that the President would keep his invitation alive.

The President said that he had long felt that to know people better meant to understand them better and to like them better. If the President and the Prime Minister understood each other better and better so, he believed, could their peoples. The President expressed a wish to play a part in this process. He referred to the most favorable impression which Prime Minister Sato had produced upon guests at the White House last night. His after dinner speech had made a deep imprint on their minds. The President said that he hoped to win, when in Japan, some of the Prime Minister’s supporters as effectively as the Prime Minister had won some of his.

Secretary Rusk urged all present to avoid encouraging speculation as to specific dates for a Presidential visit to Japan. The Prime Minister gave his assurance that no indication of dates would be given from the Japanese side.

[Page 85]


Prime Minister Sato made the last comment of the meeting, in reiterating the great importance he attached to travel and exchanges back and forth between Japan and the United States even though there were no specific problems to be dealt with. He recalled the fact that in Great Britain there were many who used to charge Japan with dumping. This kind of talk has largely ended as British visitors have been to Japan and in particular after the visit of observation made by Sir Norman Kipping.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–US. Confidential. Drafted by Barnett and approved in S on January 18 and in the White House on February 2. The meeting was held in the White House. A copy of this memorandum is also in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Sato’s Visit, Memos and Cables, January 11–14, 1965.
  2. Paragraph 13 of the joint communiqué issued on January 13 contains the agreement to convene a conference of medical and scientific experts to devise a program addressing human health concerns in Asia and problems caused by air pollution and pesticides. (American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, p. 771)
  3. In advance of this conversation, Rusk had advised President Johnson that in his National Press Club speech Sato had “disclaimed any Japanese interest in participating in nuclear weapon development.” Rusk set forth his own belief that a suggestion from the President indicating “that Japan can demonstrate its scientific superiority in Asia through peaceful nuclear and space projects” would be welcomed by the Japanese. (Memorandum from Rusk to the President, January 13; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 JAPAN)
  4. Rusk had recommended that the President give Sato his “personal reassurance” that the administration would take steps to have the amendment rescinded by Congress. (Ibid.)