76. Memorandum Prepared by Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Owen)1


  • Japanese Attitudes on Non-Proliferation

In recent US-Japanese policy planning talks in Tokyo,2 Japanese Foreign Office officials (at the Deputy Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary level) provided some insight into Japanese attitudes on nonproliferation.

This recollection of their personal and informal remarks has been checked with a member of the US delegation who was present and took notes.


The Japanese said they were not contemplating a national nuclear program, but, if India went nuclear, pressures in Japan for such a program would mount rapidly.

The Japanese thought it would be the height of folly for a country as burdened by economic problems as India to go nuclear. We urged them to share this view with the Indians and they seemed to think well of this.


The Japanese indicated that it would be difficult for them to sign a non-proliferation treaty unless some “compensation” narrowed the gap between the nuclear and the non-nuclear powers. This compensation might be either progress in disarmament, which involved sacrifices by the nuclear powers, or a greater say by non-nuclear powers in the use of nuclear weapons.3

Failing this, the Japanese said that they would object to being formally consigned to “second class status.” They spoke with feeling on [Page 154] this point, and said that we should make more of an effort to understand the viewpoint of key nuclear capable countries on this matter.

Japan’s position in this respect would be eased, they indicated, if one of the existing middle rank nuclear powers, notably the UK, were to get out of the national nuclear business, via a collective force or otherwise.4

They could accept a situation in which only the US and USSR had nuclear weapons, but once other middle rank powers (UK, France) entered the field their position became more difficult.

Their immediate concern in the nuclear field, it was clear, was not so much in meeting the Chinese threat as in narrowing the gap between Japan and other free world countries—countries which they considered no more prestigious than themselves and to whom they were unwilling, therefore, to grant pride of place in matters nuclear.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country Files, Japan, Vol. IV. Secret. Rostow sent this memorandum to the President under cover of a July 16 note that indicates President Johnson read the memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. The U.S.-Japanese Policy Planning Talks were held from June 18–20 in Hakone, Japan. Topics discussed were the world situation, China, Asian regional economic cooperation, and nuclear proliferation and arms control. (Telegram 3843 from Tokyo, May 7; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 JAPAN–US)
  3. The Japanese included among the kinds of disarmament which would meet their need a threshold or comprehensive test ban. Their position was thus milder than that of Trivedi, the Indian delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference, who told the US, UK, and Soviet delegates on July 5 that India would not sign a non-proliferation treaty unless it were accompanied by a cut-off of weapons production. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. Rostow’s July 16 note drew the President’s attention to this point with reference to the upcoming informal visit of British Prime Minister Harold Wilson on July 28 and 29. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country Files, Japan, Vol. IV)