102. Conversation Among President Nixon, Secretary of Defense Laird, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of Japan.]

Nixon: I think the whole Embassy has to be just shaken right down to its roots.2

Laird: Well, I think that the—you’ve got to—it, it’s—you’ve got to go down to the, into the Embassy itself. I think—

[unclear exchange]

Laird: Going there, it isn’t the Ambassador. The Ambassador seemed to have more guts. But jeez, then he’d always—they’d always hound him away. He’d kind of back away there, but he, he always—he had the right idea to start with—

[unclear exchange]

Laird: He had to back away from it, finally. So, I do think that a change there [unclear]. It’s just the opposite, of course, in Korea, where you go in to Korea, and you have a strong Ambassador, and you have a strong military leader there in Michaelis, who’s—Mike Michaelis is good man; he’s a strong man. It’s probably the best country team that we have any place in the world, I think.

Kissinger: Really?

Laird: In Korea.

Nixon: Good.

Laird: They’re strong, and they’re good, and they put the United States’ interests first. And, the, the atmosphere in Korea—

Nixon: You know, one thing that makes the difference, though, is the, is the balls of the Ambassador. Ball—Porter is basically an upbeat, optimistic kind of a guy. You know? And he’s a—he’s a leader-type. Right, Henry?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: And I think he—and that affects the whole group. You know, if your group—if, if your top guy is not really a ballsy leader-type, the whole group [unclear]. Right?

[Page 265]

Laird: Well, that, that, that, that certainly is true, and, and that—

[unclear exchange]

Laird: Really a great team there, and [unclear]—

Nixon: I’m glad to hear that.

Laird: —but they, they’ve done a good job. And now that the modernization program is going forward, there’s really—the Koreans do not have any questions about our intent to carry through on our defense commitment there.

Nixon: Yeah.

[4 minutes 47 seconds not declassified]

Laird: I was really very, very impressed with the way that program is, is moving. I have visited there with the Korean forces; went out and spent time with them; visited all the American units and went out and spent time with them and talked with the enlisted men and their officers there. And there’s no drug problem in Korea. There’s no drug problem in Japan, thank—

Nixon: Hmm.

Laird: —thank goodness.

Nixon: Plenty of sex there?

Laird: There’s plenty of sex, yeah.

[unclear exchange]

Laird: There’s a lot of trial marriages that take place—

Nixon: Yes. That’s right.

Kissinger: Trial marriages?

Laird: Trial marriages.

Kissinger: That’s a pretty good system.

Laird: [laughs]

Nixon: Well, of course, they’ve got—they, they have to have very good protection against abortion and everything, you know, right?

Kissinger: In Japan, or in Korea?

Laird: Well, in both countries.

Nixon: Abortion is—in Japan—is, of course—

Laird: In both countries, they—so there is no—that, that particular morale problem there isn’t as, as serious as, as it is in other places. And the drug problem is handled by the governments; they’re tougher than hell out there, I’ll tell you that. Those two governments are, are very, very tough when it comes to that. They just don’t monkey around with it.

Nixon: Hmm?

Laird: With the drug problem.

Nixon: [unclear]

Laird: I, I was, though, very—I hadn’t been in the—in Korea since 1955, and to go up there, on the DMZ, one becomes quite aware of the [Page 266]conflict that could take place, and the fact that, that the North Vietnamese [Korean] Air Force is just three minutes away from Seoul. It’s a, it’s a—you get a little different feel for it.

[1 minute 41 seconds not declassified]

Nixon: Would you say that the morale’s okay?

Laird: Morale’s fine there.

Nixon: It’s interesting.

Laird: Right.

Nixon: It shows you kids will still go places and do things—

Kissinger: Hmm.

Laird: Right. Well, the morale in Japan is fine, too. I mean that’s—as far as our forces are concerned, there’s—there’s no problem there. I don’t really have a lot more to say [unclear]. And I think it’s good to get out there and talk to our commanders and talk to the people—

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 543–6. No classification marking. According to the Nixon Tape Log, Haldeman was also present. (Ibid.) The transcript is part of a larger conversation, 5:35–6:20 p.m. The editors transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Nixon is referring to the Embassy in Japan.