12. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Takeso Shimoda, Ambassador of Japan
  • Dr. Kissinger
  • Richard L. Sneider, NSC Senior Staff Member

1. Vietnam Speech

Shimoda led off the discussion by saying that the President’s May 14 speech was highly regarded in Japan.2 The Japanese particularly admired its flexible and moderate tone; to the Japanese this was more important than the substance. Shimoda said that the Japanese press, most unusually, unanimously praised the President’s speech. Even the highly critical Asahi praised the speech, a very rare occurrence for an American President’s speech on Vietnam.

2. Okinawa

Shimoda said that it might be easier for Dr. Kissinger to understand the Okinawa problem if one compared German and Japanese security attitudes. The Germans have a national consensus on their security policy. On the other hand, Japan has no national consensus. In contrast to the Germans, the Japanese have no sense of a threat of invasion or [Page 51] any sense of insecurity from external threats. The Japanese consider themselves an island country, which no one would seek to invade or attack. Therefore, Japan could not get itself involved in a war, unless it itself undertook to start such a conflict.

Shimoda said that the Sato Government has tried to explain to the public the need for a sense of responsibility for the rest of Asia. However, the press ignores the Sato statements and only criticizes his policy. Sato, therefore, is in danger of losing his majority in the Diet, having already lost the majority of the votes.

Shimoda said that the Japanese people find frustrating continued foreign rule of Okinawa. They wish to have Okinawa back as soon as possible. Dr. Kissinger asked why the Japanese did not have the same attitude towards the Southern Kuriles, which the Russians hold and the Japanese claim. Shimoda answered that Sato has pushed Japanese claims hard in the Diet but the press ignores him. Furthermore, there is no Japanese population in the Kuriles, such as is the case in Okinawa.

Kissinger then went on to discuss the Security Treaty and emphasized that this treaty needs to be understood in Japan as in our mutual interest, not as a favor to the United States. The United States wants the closest possible relations with Japan and takes seriously the Okinawa issue. We intend to discuss the Okinawan problem in a serious and constructive spirit, leaving to negotiation the precise formulae. Kissinger assured Ambassador Shimoda that the President was looking at the problem openly. He pointed to the particular importance of Okinawa with respect to Korea. The EC–121 incident had pointed up the physical requirements for Okinawa with respect to Korean operations.

Shimoda said there is no question about letting the United States use its bases in Okinawa. The Japanese wanted the Security Treaty arrangements to apply but understood that the United States has wider responsibilities. The Japanese Government wishes to find therefore a modus vivendi to meet our requirements. Kissinger said we would put our needs to the Japanese Government.

Kissinger asked what would happen if the Security Treaty were abrogated. Shimoda answered that in this instance, Japan would turn to China under the leadership of the left. On the other hand, this need not happen. Shimoda urged that the Okinawan issue be settled by the end of this year. He felt that, after this issue was settled, Japan would face up to its Asian responsibilities since the people would see the problem more clearly. Kissinger assured Shimoda that we hope to see the outlines of an agreement by the end of the year and we are going [Page 52] to take a positive attitude during the negotiations. Basically, it is important for relations between the two countries to solve the Okinawan problem, taking into account both Japan’s political problem and the U.S. military requirements.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 533, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. I. Secret. Drafted by Sneider. Lawrence Eagleburger, acting on behalf of Kissinger, approved the distribution of this memorandum of conversation to the Departments of State and Defense.
  2. On May 14, Nixon gave a major speech on the subject of Vietnam. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 369–375.