15. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Aichi Call on the President


  • Kiichi Aichi, Foreign Minister of Japan
  • Takeso Shimoda, Ambassador of Japan
  • Fumihiko Togo, Director General, American Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Genichi Akatani, Deputy Director, Public Information Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • The President
  • Armin Meyer, Ambassador to Japan
  • Emil Mossbacher, Chief of Protocol
  • Richard Sneider, The White House
  • Richard B. Finn, Country Director for Japan, Department of State
  • James J. Wickel, American Embassy, Tokyo (Interpreter)

The President said that the problems we were discussing this year, such as Okinawa and trade and investment liberalization were difficult, [Page 57] but he believed that we must try to find mutually acceptable solutions, and could do so, because such solutions were in the interest of both countries. Frankly, each side should bargain hard for such a solution. However, no other President in history had visited Japan as often, and he recognized the great importance of United States-Japan friendship to the entire Pacific region, not just the two countries. Because of his personal relations with Prime Minister Sato, Aichi and others, he was determined that we find an answer to these problems, recognizing that we each would bargain hard. He asked that his view that we could find a mutually satisfactory solution be conveyed to the Prime Minister, whose interest, he knew, was deep.

Aichi thanked the President for agreeing to meet him before departing Washington tomorrow. He noted that the present cabinet in Japan, based its policies on the relations of mutual trust between Japan and the United States, in diplomatic relations of course, but also in domestic politics and economics, which it wished to stabilize further. Although some elements opposed the Security Treaty the majority of the Japanese people were confident that the Security Treaty was in Japan’s own interest and recognized that Japan had enjoyed almost 25 years of peaceful development because of this security arrangement. Japan strongly wished to resolve the Okinawa problem by 1972 within the context of the Security Treaty. He looked forward to his talks with Secretary Rogers, and said that Japan indeed would bargain hard, but the GOJ would give its all to arrive at a satisfactory solution. Because he was convinced that mutual trust between both countries was most important Aichi said that he has always talked very frankly since becoming Foreign Minister (he always talked frankly with former Ambassador Johnson) and intended to continue to do so particularly because there were difficult problems to solve. With respect to import and investment liberalization, noted earlier by the President, he asked the President to understand and bear in mind that Japan lagged behind the United States, but was doing its best to go faster.

The President wished Aichi to know that he had every confidence in Ambassador Meyer, an old friend whom he had seen in Tehran. He wanted to have in Japan a professional, skilled in diplomacy, who shared his views on the importance of the Pacific area and Japan’s role there.2

The President recalled his own article in Foreign Affairs,3 in which he wrote that in the last third of the XXth Century the “action” would [Page 58] be in the Pacific, not just because of Viet-Nam, which was peripheral, but in the broader aspects, which could be approached only in terms of United States-Japan cooperation, under which we recognized that problems such as Okinawa must be considered in terms of security. It was not what we wanted; we desired no bases, per se, and recognized the political problem this posed for Japan. However, Okinawa was important only as it related to overall security and the role the United States and Japan must play together if the Pacific Ocean were to be a peaceful sea. He recalled saying in Japan in 1957 just when Japan had started to come back that without a strong Japan in a leadership position there could be no permanent peace and stability in the Pacific. This was infinitely more true now. Starting with this belief, and the belief that we could solve this problem in the larger context, we must consider these broader aspects.

Aichi agreed absolutely that Japan should cooperate with the United States, in the context of the relationship of mutual trust, to contribute to peace and stability in Asia. On June 8, the Foreign Ministers of the ASPAC nations would meet at Kawana, Japan, to further promote the objective of regional cooperation. However, as the President knew, Japan’s Constitution was unique with respect to defense; it severely restricted any overseas military cooperation by Japan. He also hoped the President would consider Japan’s unique views on nuclear weapons, which derived from the fact that Japan was the only country to have suffered from their use.

Aichi said that the GOJ wished to put to rest any question on defense matters by the flexible application of the Security Treaty, at such time as Okinawa reversion took place, on the basis of a solution in the context of the Security Treaty, which would strengthen the political and psychological aspects of Japanese American relations. He would carry on his discussions with Secretary Rogers on that basis.

The President said that Aichi seemed to understand all the political and geopolitical problems thoroughly. Therefore, Okinawa would not be approached just as a military-defense problem, but as a joint political-military problem. As we all knew, the United States at present had responsibilities in Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and, for the general area throughout SEATO. It would not be in Japan’s interest for the United States to withdraw from those responsibilities. For example, Japan had a great role in Southeast Asia and would be affected more than the United States by what happened in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia, let alone Viet-Nam. The decisions we took were not solely selfish, but involved the entire area. In viewing the future in practical terms, he hoped, and said he would work for, a greater role for Japan economically (where we welcomed Japan’s expanding role), politically through ASPAC, and, in the conventional [Page 59] sense at this time, militarily. It was not healthy for the United States or the Free World to have only the United States in the Pacific area as the sole guarantor of freedom of choice and independence, which was what the Pacific nations wanted. We needed, and welcomed the development of a new policy, whereby Japan, the only major industrial power in the area could play a larger role, not just economically, but a diplomatic role based on conventional military strength. He said this now, not that it was a matter for immediate discussion, but because he wanted Aichi to know his thinking. He recalled his speech before the Japan-American Society in 1953, in which he said, in retrospect, that Japan’s adoption of strict constitutional provisions on war (probably at our insistence) was an error. It made headlines then.4 Now that many years have passed and in viewing the kind of world the American and Japanese people were trying to shape it was not healthy to have only one super power in the Pacific as sole guarantor against the USSR and Communist China. Therefore, we welcomed an expanded role for Japan, consistent with Japanese public opinion and how well the GOJ brought the people along. Therefore, he hoped a better climate would emerge as a result of a solution to Okinawa, even though he knew this would be difficult.

Aichi said that the effective presence of the United States was essential in the broadest terms to the security of the area as a whole, and Japan felt that it was essential to create an environment which would make possible effective cooperation to that purpose.

The President said he looked forward to seeing Aichi again in November when he would come to Washington with Prime Minister Sato.

Aichi hoped that the President and the Prime Minister would resolve the Okinawa problem at that time.

The President said that we should both understand that we were discussing Okinawa and trade and investment problems in a preliminary way. He asked Aichi to inform Sato that it would be in our interest to try to resolve these when he came to Washington, but summit meetings were meaningless without preliminary hard work. Therefore, Aichi would be having discussions with Secretary Rogers, and Ambassador Meyer and in Washington we would discuss these matters with Ambassador Shimoda, to clear away the underbrush. Then when he met the Prime Minister we would have a program ready to go.

The President noted that the Americans and Japanese were similar in that they bargained hard. Only through hard bargaining could a meaningful contract be reached. If one side didn’t bargain hard, any [Page 60] contract reached would contain the seeds for breaching it. Therefore we welcomed hard bargaining to reach a solution we could sell the American people and the GOJ could sell the Japanese people.

The President suggested that the press be told that he discussed with the Foreign Minister a number of major bilateral issues which affected the United States and Japan, such as Okinawa, investment and trade liberalization, and beyond, to the general problems of the Pacific area. In this very constructive discussion both the President and the Foreign Minister presented points of issue. The President felt that these discussions and the forthcoming discussions by the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State would prepare the way for the constructive outcome of, and were an essential preliminary for discussions with the Prime Minister, scheduled for November.

Aichi and Shimoda agreed on this sort of general statement.

The President said that it was important to make it known that this meeting was more than an exchange of social pleasantries, and included important substantive problems as well, to help set the stage for progress for a final solution to this problem in November.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 JAPAN. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Wickel on June 11 and approved by Davis. The meeting took place at the White House. On June 2, the Department of State sent talking points to the President, under a covering memorandum from Rogers, in preparation for his conversation with Aichi. (Ibid.)
  2. Armin Meyer was nominated Ambassador to Japan on May 27 and presented his credentials on July 3.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. I, foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 3.
  4. Nixon provides an excerpt from this speech in his memoirs. See RN, pp. 129–130.