45. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mr. Takeo Miki, Former Japanese Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Osano
  • Mr. Kazushige Hirasauea
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Mr. John H. Holdridge


  • Mr. Miki’s Remarks on East Asia Developments

Mr. Miki said that he was making a one-month trip around the world, and during this trip had started thinking that it was time for Japan to identify a new world role for itself. In East Asia and Southeast Asia he had two things in mind: Japanese relations with Communist China, and Japan’s role in the stability and welfare of Southeast Asia. Regarding China, Japan was not in the position to offer its good offices in improving Sino-U.S. relations, but it could influence the Chinese with respect to the outside world and bring it into the international community. The way for Japan to do this was to engage in expanded trade and exchanges with China. Turning to Southeast Asia, Mr. Miki felt that Japan should expand its trade, but also should be aware of human elements. Mr. Miki favored Japan’s establishing a full-scale peace fund, which would provide technical training and assistance in public health.

Mr. Miki asked Dr. Kissinger to what extent Dr. Kissinger thought the U.S. would advance its relations with Communist China? What the Japanese did depended on this. What kind of a relationship with China did Dr. Kissinger see by the end of the 70s? Concerning Southeast Asia, did Dr. Kissinger think that other nations might be invited to participate in Japan’s peace fund? Mr. Miki indicated that he had done a great deal of thinking about bringing in nations of the Pacific Basin together in this, particularly the U.S., Canada, and Japan.

[Page 131]

Dr. Kissinger wanted to say, first, that he was delighted to see Mr. Miki. Dr. Kissinger’s good friend, Hubert Humphrey, had recommended Mr. Miki highly and had recommended a meeting. On relations with China, we had not undertaken initiatives to normalize these relations, and had only made a small beginning. Recent events had caused a temporary interruption in our contacts, but Dr. Kissinger believed that these would resume. There would be no spectacular events, and he didn’t know if any government had strong enough nerves to negotiate with China and North Vietnam simultaneously. Nevertheless, by the end of the 70s our relations certainly would have improved.

As far as Japan was concerned, Dr. Kissinger declared that we would have no objection to the Japanese seeking to improve their trade relations with China and to help China get out of its isolation so long as this was within a general framework of friendly relations with the U.S. In Southeast Asia, Japanese aid in economic reconstruction was very important.

Dr. Kissinger noted that an immediate problem was Cambodia, where we would like the Japanese to do more. Japanese security there was more threatened than that of the United States. It was the general philosophy of this Administration that mutual aid among Asian nations was desirable, and Japanese help for Cambodia would be consistent with the Nixon Doctrine.

Mr. Miki stated that in the field of the economic cooperation, one of the most important factors was the technological capability of the local people, who are often not trained to operate factories. Did Dr. Kissinger believe it would be possible to expand cooperative measures among the Pacific nations through such measures as providing training and programs for students? Dr. Kissinger replied that he was familiar with Mr. Miki’s idea about the Pacific Basin, and we would be willing to cooperate in such as those Mr. Miki had described. The President was extremely interested in student exchanges, and would look on these favorably in principle.

Mr. Miki asked Dr. Kissinger if he wouldn’t elaborate more on the prospects of the Sino-U.S. relationships in the 70s. In response, Dr. Kissinger remarked that a great deal depended on the Chinese, with whom no one had managed to establish good relations except Albania. In principle, we were willing to go into the concurrent issues of how to improve relations, which was better than dwelling on ideological issues. A reasonable Chinese leadership should recognize that we had relatively few issues with the Chinese. There was, of course, Taiwan, but this could be healed in time. Except for Taiwan, we didn’t have clashing interests. Others more close than we, especially the USSR, had more clashes. Whenever a more rational leadership evolved, which [Page 132] would be after Mao, it would be possible to go faster. Mr. Miki wondered how we might deal with Taiwan. What solutions could we foresee? Dr. Kissinger noted in this respect what Palmerston had said about the Schleswig-Holstein question; only three people understood it, one of whom was mad, one was dead, and he was the third but he had forgotten the answer. However, a formula could be found to deal with the issue. Dr. Kissinger emphasized, though, while we would support any settlement which the Chinese parties made with one another, we would not betray an ally.

Mr. Miki said he had been in Saigon, and had exchanged views with Saigon leaders and with other Asian leaders, all of whom had expressed a certain degree of concern over the future if the U.S. continued to withdraw from Vietnam as scheduled. There might be an effect on the Vietnamese presidential elections if the U.S. troops in Vietnam were much less than now. Thieu’s own concerns represented a common feeling—what kind of a formula for a settlement could be found if the U.S. withdrew? Dr. Kissinger wondered how it was that the Japanese had gained a reputation for indirection; Mr. Miki had gotten right to the heart. On this issue, we thought that after some period of time the South Vietnamese should be strong enough to defend themselves, and this would give the North Vietnamese two choices: either to settle now or wait until the high point of South Vietnamese strength had been reached. If this were to happen, the North Vietnamese might not be able to win even if they fought for seven years more. On the other hand, if they were willing to reach a political settlement, we had said we were prepared to have one which reflected the existing balance of forces. If the North Vietnamese were ready to be realistic, we could reach a conclusion. However, they wanted us to withdraw and overthrow the GVN on the way out—this was too much to ask.

Mr. Miki said that the war had been going on for over 20 years, and that Japan was seeking to find things to do to get a settlement, even though its means were limited. As to the war, Japan was anxious to shift energies from the war to peace and reconstruction. Since Japan had only limited influence while the war was going on, it felt that something had to be done. Dr. Kissinger asked, what was Japan thinking of doing? Mr. Miki replied that they had in mind something towards a peaceful settlement. The Japanese public was pressing the government, but the government was not too sure what it could do.

Dr. Kissinger agreed that Japan couldn’t do much towards a peaceful settlement in Vietnam. However, in situations like Cambodia, which was a neutral, independent country, help would be greatly welcomed. This would be in the interests of everybody in Southeast Asia. We ourselves have no bases there and were not interested in staying. Mr. Miki noted that Japan had made some contributions to Cambodia previously, such as in constructing dams.

[Page 133]

Mr. Miki asked Dr. Kissinger for his views on the future of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, especially in the light of the Nixon Doctrine. Dr. Kissinger described Japan as being the greatest country in Asia and potentially the most powerful. Therefore, Japan could and should carry a greater burden of its own defense. It was not a healthy situation for the U.S. to carry the whole burden, especially when other countries could contribute. Because Japan was so important, we could not be indifferent to Japan’s role, and we took the Treaty very seriously. This Treaty, though, had to be at least as important to Japan as it was to us, since we could defend ourselves alone and Japan couldn’t. We were delighted to have the Treaty and certainly would not abrogate it; on the contrary we would strengthen it. It was up to Japan to decide what Japan did, and we felt that Japan would come to realize that the Treaty would allow it to keep a lower defense budget.

Mr. Miki remarked that the U.S. had strongly urged Japan to join the NPT, and Japan was determined not to develop nuclear power, therefore, it was important to have U.S. nuclear weapons behind it. Dr. Kissinger agreed, saying that Japan was so important that we couldn’t permit it to be destroyed in a nuclear war. This was not an act of charity; we did it for ourselves. If half a billion Chinese were added to the Soviets, there would be a tremendous shift in the balance of power in Asia. We did not believe in a sentimental foreign policy, but were acting in what we considered to be Japan’s and our own interests.

Mr. Miki asked if Japanese land forces would have any deterrent effect in Asia. Dr. Kissinger said that as a historian he believed that history indicated that Japan land forces would grow. Was he wrong on this? Mr. Miki agreed that there would be a growth in the Japan defense forces, but he was not thinking of Japan as a major military power. Dr. Kissinger observed that we would nevertheless like to see Japan play a more important role in Asia. This need not be primarily in the military field—the level of Japan’s defense was something that the Japanese should decide for themselves. Mr. Miki remarked that there were certain parties in Japan which wanted Japan to become militarily strong, but the opinion of the majority was that the country should not move to become a major military force. When asked by Dr. Kissinger why this was, Mr. Miki explained that Japan had become what it is today by not obliging itself to become a big military power. Japan had the experience of militarism in the last war, and public opinion had not forgotten this. Otherwise it would be extremely difficult for Japan to secure national unity. Needless to say, though, the Japanese people were aware of the need to help in the defense of allies.

Dr. Kissinger declared that with respect to the level of military forces, certain tasks had to be performed in the Pacific. If the Japanese were to put more emphasis on economic aspects, and see more on the [Page 134] military side, this would be satisfactory division of labor. We might want to discuss changes in emphasis from time to time, but for now this was an acceptable picture.

Dr. Kissinger remarked that he had been in Japan only twice; in 1951 just to pass through and in 1960 to spend two days.2 This had been going to and from Vietnam. Therefore, he had had no real opportunity to see Japan. However, he had many Japanese students, such as Nakasone, Yoshino, and Fujita, and had many friends. He had played with the idea of going to see EXPO 70 this September, but probably couldn’t make it.

Mr. Miki wanted to raise one last question: after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, and our relationships were entering into a new stage, what should we do to solidify and strengthen these relationships. Dr. Kissinger replied that our relationships were very good now and had a solid basis. We should maintain our present relations, and not try to duplicate each other’s policies but to reinforce them. He was impressed with Mr. Miki’s ideas about the Pacific Basin, which he recognized would bring peace in the Pacific. He reiterated that we didn’t need to do the same things but should have the same goals. He personally believed that Japan should play a greater role in Southeast Asia. Again, it was not right for some nations to do all the work. Others should stand by their side. Japan could play a real part in the post-war economic reconstruction and development of Southeast Asia.

The meeting ended with Mr. Miki recalling that he had seen the President twice as Foreign Minister and hoped that Dr. Kissinger would convey his very best wishes to the President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 535, Country File, Far East, Japan, Vol. III, 7/70–12/70. Secret. The meeting took place at Kissinger’s office. The time of the meeting is not indicated. On July 20, Holdridge sent Kissinger this memorandum of conversation. Kissinger initialed and made some changes, which are noted in footnote 2 below. On August 13 Holdridge sent the revised memorandum to Kissinger and recommended that it be passed to the Department of State since “the views expressed by you and Mr. Miki on Asian questions . . . are likely to arise again in Miki’s conversation with other American officials in the future.” Kissinger denied this request on August 14. (Ibid.)
  2. Kissinger corrected this sentence. He crossed out “just to pass through.” In place of “to spend two days,” he wrote, “for three weeks each time. He had also passed through Japan in ʽ65 & ʽ66 on the way from Vietnam.”