46. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 41–70



Prime Minister Sato has said that in the 1970s Japan must face the “problem of national power”—a concept which he has defined as the “aggregate of a country’s political stability, economic strength, military might, its sway over international opinion, its cultural heritage, and so forth.” In this Estimate we look at how these several aspects of Japanese national life are likely to evolve and interact during the decade, and at some of the implications for the US.


A. Japan enters the 1970s with the world’s most dynamic economy, a population proud of its accomplishments, and a moderate government firmly in the political saddle. Its problems during the coming decade will be how to use its riches and growing self-confidence to improve standards of living at home and to find a suitable role for Japan abroad.

B. The chief arena of political competition will continue to be within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and it is here that the most significant new pressures will make themselves felt. In the long run, the LDP can probably maintain its commanding position only if it meets mounting pressure for attention to Japan’s social infrastructure needs, especially in the booming cities. In the process, support for the party itself is likely to change markedly from conservative rural constituencies to the urban middle classes.

C. Japan is in a strong position to continue rapid economic growth, although sooner or later a decline from the past average real growth rate of 10 percent a year is likely. But while Japan’s strength and [Page 136] influence within the international economic complex will continue to increase, so will the dependence of Japan’s prosperity on continued access to foreign markets. A prolonged international recession or the imposition of severe foreign trade barriers by Japan’s main trading partners would have grave economic repercussions in Japan, all the more so because its economic system is geared to rapid growth.

D. Japan’s search for a “world role” will focus initially on gaining international status and recognition through, for instance, an enhanced role in the UN, and on continued efforts to promote Japanese economic interests abroad. By the end of the decade, Japan will be more nearly an equal in its economic relations with the US; is likely to be the dominant external factor in the economic life of non-Communist Asia and the largest external economic influence in China, Australia, and New Zealand; and in all likelihood will be the greatest single economic rival of the US even in such traditional American preserves as Latin America.

E. Politically, economically, and emotionally, Japan is attracted to the developed nations, particularly those of the Pacific Basin—the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Its economic role in East Asia gives it a major stake in the stability of that region. Its foreign aid to East Asia will increase substantially, accompanied by growing economic and eventually political influence. In Southeast Asia, however, Japan will try to keep its political activity in a multilateral context. Even in Northeast Asia, where Japan will engage in increasing bilateral exchanges on intelligence and internal security with South Korea and Taiwan, it will want to avoid political or security involvement which might provoke North Korea and especially China.

F. All Japan’s Asian policies will be fundamentally affected not only by its relations with the US but also by its reading of the balance among the US, USSR, and China. The Japanese think they have an independent “bridge-building” role to play between the Communist and non-Communist powers in Asia. And to some extent they count on mutual antagonism among the three great powers to help Japanese influence with each one. They will be persistent in friendly overtures to China, and reluctant to engage in any activity which could be construed as “anti-Communist.”

G. The Japanese defense related industries will grow substantially over the decade, though the Self-Defense Forces probably will increase only gradually with primary emphasis on air and naval forces. The navy and air force will extend their area of operations, and eventually will come to accept a greater share of responsibility for defense of [Page 137] Japan’s vital lines of communications. But Japan will not want to station troops abroad or to accept foreign military commitments, certainly not bilateral ones.

H. We are less certain about Japan’s nuclear future. The issue will be the subject of growing national debate, and the decision will be affected not only by Japanese sentiment per se but also by US and Chinese policies. On balance, we think that unless the Japanese come to feel some imminent threat to themselves for which US protection is deemed unreliable, they probably will not decide to produce nuclear weapons at least for some years to come.

I. Japan will want the US military presence on its lands reduced and want a greater Japanese voice in the use of the forces which remain. But so long as it is ultimately dependent on American military protection, it will on balance probably want some US military presence on its territory to give force to the American commitment. Economic issues are likely to be a greater source of friction than US military bases. Most important of all, as the decade goes on, Japanese governments will be increasingly eager to demonstrate—to other Asians and to their own electorate—that their policies are independent of Washington’s.

[Omitted here is the Discussion section, which examines Japanese politics, economic and social issues in Japan, and Japan’s world role.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, ODDI Registry of NIEs and SNIEs, Job 79–R01012A. Secret. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation this estimate. The Director of the CIA submitted this estimate with the concurrence of all members of the USIB with the exception of the representative of the FBI who abstained on the grounds that it was outside of his jurisdiction.