53. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Yasuhiro Nakasone
  • Makoto Momoi
  • Dr. Kissinger
  • John H. Holdridge


  • Dr. Kissinger’s Discussion with Mr. Nakasone, Director of Japanese Defense Agency

Dr. Kissinger welcomed Mr. Nakasone as an old student of his, and said that he had been looking forward to meeting with him.2 Mr. [Page 151] Nakasone declared that he was happy to find Dr. Kissinger in the White House, and added, he too, had been looking forward to this meeting. He explained that Mr. Momoi would interpret to insure the correct expression of his ideas. Dr. Kissinger assured Mr. Nakasone that anything which was said in the meeting wouldn’t leave the White House.

Mr. Nakasone noted that he was aware of the pressures on Dr. Kissinger’s time and therefore wanted to focus upon a few vital points. First, on the question of Japanese nuclear armament, he wanted to make it plain that Japan had no plans to go nuclear. Prime Minister Sato had made this point before the Japanese public, and he, Nakasone, was in complete agreement with Sato. Both of them believed that there was a national consensus in Japan on this issue, and that to go nuclear would be to defy this national consensus and run counter to the Japanese national interest. With respect to the NPT, Mr. Nakasone believed that Japanese ratification would proceed smoothly if the question of inspection could be settled on terms which were equal to the other terms in the Treaty. He then stepped back somewhat, saying that the ratification process might not go too smoothly, but would proceed. There would be debate in the Diet, but ratification would finally occur.

The second point touched on by Mr. Nakasone was the U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty. He expressed himself as firmly believing in maintaining the Treaty, which had kept peace in the Pacific Ocean area, and also had kept world peace. If there was a storm in the Pacific area, Asia would be in chaos, and therefore it was vital for the peace of the world that the U.S. and Japan maintain their ties through the Security Treaty. He went on to say that a system of relationships based on the Security Treaty should be maintained on a “semi-permanent basis.” The Security Treaty itself might need to be reviewed periodically, but the fundamental relations between the two countries would be maintained on a harmonious basis. Mr. Nakasone said he felt, though, that there was now a need to change the principles which had been in effect for conducting the U.S.-Japanese Security Consultative Committee. The U.S. has been represented on this Committee by its Ambassador in Tokyo and by CINCPAC, while Japan has been represented by its Defense Minister and Foreign Minister. There has been a certain series of historical factors behind this arrangement in Japan, and he had so far avoided putting the spotlight on the membership question. He now thought, though, that looking at things from the Japanese side the time had come for the representatives on both sides to be Cabinet Ministers. If this could be arranged, and if the SCC could meet periodically, it would serve as a psychological deterrent to the other side.

[Page 152]

Mr. Nakasone stated that one major item which he had brought up in his discussions at State and Defense3 had been that the situation in Japan had changed quite a bit, and that if he had come to the U.S. as Defense Minister two years ago, there would have been demonstrations on his departure. (Dr. Kissinger similingly observed that demonstrations might occur on his return, though.) As to the change in the SCC which he had proposed, a year or two ago this would have been described by the press as the beginning of the end of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance, but this time when he had mentioned it to journalists, there had been no reaction. Since the situation in Japan had become normalized, it was high time that security matters be addressed at the Cabinet Minister level.

Mr. Nakasone turned to the Nixon Doctrine4 and its relationship to the U.S. bases in Japan. This Doctrine, he believed, was reasonable for the U.S., but he had noticed a certain adverse reaction to it in Korea and Taiwan. Accordingly, to reassure the Koreans and Chinese, he had taken the initiative of sending some of his generals to these countries to reassure them about the Nixon Doctrine. From the Japanese point of view, it would be better to see the U.S. bases reduced and amalgamated, or even for the Japanese self-defense forces to take over control or management. What was needed for the security of the area was reliance on the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the presence of the U.S. 7th Fleet. His government reserved the right to ask the U.S. to reenter if needed, especially with respect to the U.S. Air Force. If these three things were done—reduction of the U.S. military presence, maintenance of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the 7th Fleet, and Japanese preservation of the reentry rights—the Japanese then could take over the defense of their own islands. The U.S. possessed 122 bases, which was too much.

Mr. Nakasone expressed appreciation for Dr. Kissinger’s efforts in bringing about an agreement on the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. When Okinawa reverts in 1972, Japan would face a “big job”: the business of getting the bases back from the U.S., returning the land to the original legal owners, getting contracts for this land in the hands of the Japanese government, then leasing the bases back to the U.S. [Page 153] government. Opposition might be expected from the original owners, who might refuse to sign contracts, and in order to avoid this it might be better for the U.S. to give up certain bases located among civilian areas.

The last point which Mr. Nakasone wanted to bring up was the problem of nuclear enrichment technology. Since Japan had renounced nuclear weapons and had held to a policy of peaceful use of nuclear energy, enrichment technology was very important for Japan and the U.S. should release some of this technology. Dr. Kissinger asked if Mr. Nakasone had discussed this in his conversations with others in Washington. Mr. Nakasone replied that he had talked over the matter with Under Secretary Johnson. Dr. Kissinger stated that in principle he was sympathetic with almost everything Mr. Nakasone had said. There was no problem in our consolidating bases, and we were doing something along such lines anyway. As for regular meetings of the SCC, he would explore this with his colleagues; Mr. Nakasone’s proposals sounded reasonable. With respect to Mr. Nakasone’s remarks on the U.S. nuclear enrichment technology policy, we were in process of considering a new policy and would make our decision within the next two weeks or so. In spirit, everything which Mr. Nakasone had said was acceptable.

Mr. Nakasone alluded to the possibility of Australia, Canada, U.S. and Japan working together in the nuclear enrichment field in some sort of a consortium. Dr. Kissinger observed that we were trying to decide what part of our enrichment technology we would share in what way. He wondered whether Mr. Nakasone was interested in gaseous centrifuge or gaseous diffusion techniques. Mr. Nakasone said that the Japanese had been working on centrifuge technology and had been making fairly good progress; however, this cost a great deal of money and caused suspicion among Asian nations. Therefore, Japan would prefer access to gaseous diffusion technology. (At this point the meeting broke up to permit photographs and to allow Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Nakasone to proceed to lunch.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 535, Country File, Far East, Japan, Vol. III, 7/70 to Dec 70. Secret; Exdis. Sent for information. Holdridge sent this memorandum to Kissinger for his approval on September 14. Kissinger approved. The meeting took place at the White House prior to a 1:15 lunch attended by Kissinger, Nakasone, and others. The topics discussed at lunch included nuclear enrichment technology, the Middle East situation, Communist China, the Nixon Doctrine, and Japanese offshore oil. (Memorandum of conversation, September 10; ibid.)
  2. Kissinger had taught Nakasone during a summer school program at Harvard University.
  3. Laird met with Nakasone at his office in the Pentagon from 10 until 11:45 a.m. on September 9. (Memorandum of conversation; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–67, Box 74, Japan 091.112) On September 10, Nakasone met with both Rogers and U. Alexis Johnson. (Telegrams 149632 and 149643 to Tokyo, September 12; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 535, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. III, 7/70 to Dec/70)
  4. According to the Nixon Doctrine, the origins of which are generally traced to a July 25, 1969, informal background briefing that Nixon gave to reporters on Guam, the United States would stand by its commitments but encourage Asian nations to take responsibility for their own security. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 29.