58. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • (1) Okinawa; (2) Korea; (3) FRG–USSR Treaty and Northern Territories; (4) China; (5) Indo-China; (6) Middle East; (7) US-Japan Economic Relations—General; (8) Textiles; (9) Environmental Cooperation; (10) Joint Econcom; (11) Hot-Line; (12) Parting Exchange


  • Eisaku Sato, Prime Minister of Japan
  • Genichi Akatani, Ambassador, Foreign Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • The President
  • Dr. Henry Kissinger
  • James J. Wickel, Department of State, EA/J (Interpreter)

While the press photographers were taking pictures, the Prime Minister thanked the President for sending him an autographed color print of one of the pictures taken during their previous meeting in November last.

The Prime Minister began the conversation by noting his audience with H.I.M., The Emperor, the day before departing for New York. As requested, he conveyed to the President H.I.M. the Emperor’s hopes that Japan and the United States would continue to maintain the strongest, most friendly relations as in the past.

[Page 162]

The Prime Minister thanked the President for receiving Mr. Kishi (his older brother) at the White House recently.2 Mr. Kishi had informed him fully of the conversation with the President.

The President expressed appreciation for the warm welcome given his daughter during her visit to Japan in July. She had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed the visit to EXPO 70, the luncheon given by H.I.M., the Crown Prince, and the dinner given by high officials of the GOJ.

The Prime Minister said that she was most popular everywhere she went in Japan.

The Prime Minister then noted that he wished to raise many points, and asked how limited the President’s time was.

The President said that time was no problem; he could take an hour or more, as necessary.

The Prime Minister (drawing out a Japanese language draft of his talking points) said that he wished to discuss eight items.

1. Okinawa

The Prime Minister noted with pleasure the good progress being made in negotiating the reversion of Okinawa, in consonance with the spirit of the Joint Communiqué which he and the President had issued last November. He assured the President that arrangements for the election of Okinawan representatives to the Japanese Diet were going well, and thanked him for approving this Okinawan participation in the national government. He assured the President that Japan was fully prepared to assume the obligations for the local defense of Okinawa along the lines discussed by Defense Minister Nakasone recently with his colleagues at the Pentagon.3 Progress in this area, he noted parenthetically, was smoother than in other areas recently. Recent discussions of the fiscal aspects of reversion by Secretary Kennedy and Finance Minister Fukuda had also proceeded well and smoothly, which pleased him particularly because he had chosen Minister Fukuda to succeed him as Prime Minister. The question of American business in Okinawa had not yet been presented for official decision in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) as part of the reversion negotiations, but he anticipated that this aspect also would be resolved as smoothly as the others. While the passage of time made it easy for specific problems to arise, he assured the President that he would take [Page 163] care to ensure that none became serious. He asked for the President’s comments on the Okinawa reversion negotiations.

The President said that he had told our people to cooperate in working out little problems in the same way that he and the Prime Minister had cooperated in solving the big problem.

Dr. Kissinger (in response to the President) said that the VOA relay station and civil aviation seemed to present the only major problems at the moment. We were pressing to resolve all detailed aspects of reversion by next summer, in order to present an agreement to the Congress and the Diet for the necessary legislative approval well enough in advance to ensure meeting the target date for reversion.

With respect to the VOA, the Prime Minister noted certain technical problems which required time for resolution. Meanwhile, Japan would not move quickly to halt the function of the VOA. However, there were anti-war and communistic elements in Okinawa. Naturally time was needed to deal with this matter, as well as the question of gradual American troop withdrawals. How to deal with these matters and at the same time take into account the views of the local people was the major question.

Dr. Kissinger explained to the President that VOA and civil aviation had not been raised to his level because it was hoped that a solution would be worked out at lower levels.

2. Korea

The Prime Minister raised an unrelated matter, the recent transfer of an American F–4 unit to the ROK. The ROK Ambassador in Tokyo had told him that the Koreans welcomed this unit with warm gratitude, since they were not as deeply concerned about the American military presence as the Japanese.

The President said that the F–4 transfer was a good move. He added that improved Japan-ROK relations on a more friendly basis were most helpful.

3. FRG–USSR Treaty and Northern Territories

The Prime Minister welcomed both the Middle East Truce and the FRG–USSR Treaty because they reduced world tensions. However, he added, Japan could not accept the USSR position which advocated the “freezing” of post World War II boundaries. The Soviet press has strongly criticised Japan’s position on the Northern Territories (Note: the islands of Habomai and Shikotan, and the two southernmost Kurile islands, Kunashiri and Etorofu). While Japan welcomed these developments as reductions of tensions, and hence the possibility of war, nevertheless, he stressed that it could not agree to a territorial “freeze” along the lines of the status quo.

[Page 164]

The President noted that the Soviets considered that everything on their side was “frozen,” but not on our side.

The Prime Minister recalled his response on this point to the lady Minister of Culture of the USSR in Tokyo shortly after the FRG–USSR Treaty was announced. He told her that he welcomed the Treaty since it reduced the possibility of war, but also pointed out that it failed to confirm national boundaries adequately. He also recalled telling Foreign Minister Gromyko that something must be done about this, particularly with respect to the status of Berlin.

The President, to clarify our position, said that we had never urged the FRG to make this Treaty with the USSR. That action was taken entirely at the initiative of the FRG. Up to now all the advantage has been on the Soviet side, with none for the government of the FRG. It was vital, he stressed, to secure new arrangements which would assure the viability of Berlin, and the viability continuation of its economic and political ties with West Germany.

In response to the President, Dr. Kissinger explained that the United States has never taken the position that the Northern Territories were Soviet territory.

The President said that the Soviets follow a double-standard. They demanded that the United States return Okinawa to Japan, but refused to discuss the Northern Territories.

The Prime Minister explained that the USSR occupied the Northern Territories one month after the end of the war. There had been no combat there at all. To correct any possible misunderstanding, he said that these islands had always been an integral part of Japanese territory for ages past; they had never belonged to any other nation including the USSR. Even the oldest maps of Imperial Tsarist Russia showed Etorofu and Kunashiri as Japanese islands. Had the Russians succeeded in their desire to occupy Hokkaido after the surrender, he did not doubt that they would still be there, and that Japan would be a divided state, like Korea. General Eisenhower and Ambassador Harriman, fortunately, had effectively prevented the Soviets from doing so at that time, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek then took the strong position that only the United States and China had any right to occupy Japan.

4. China

The Prime Minister noted that Canadian recognition and possible Italian recognition of the PRC complicated the China question. However, the GOJ felt a deep sense of obligation to Chiang Kai-shek in view of his past good will for Japan. The GOJ intended firmly to maintain its present position with respect to the government on Taiwan, and in the forthcoming vote on Chinese representation at the UN.

The President was pleased to hear this, because we also intended to maintain our same position. In the long run it would be desirable [Page 165] to normalize relations with Mainland China, as he had indicated to the Prime Minister last November, but now was [not] the time to do so. What was needed now was firmness.

The Prime Minister reviewed his discussion with Prime Minister Heath in New York. Even though the UK recognized the PRC, Prime Minister Heath told him that Britain supports the Important Question Resolution in the UNGA.

The President commented that Prime Minister Heath was a strong man.

5. Indo-China

Turning to Indo-China, the Prime Minister said that he had welcomed the President’s excellent statement on October 74 and had immediately indicated public support for it. However, as expected, Hanoi had not responded favorably. Even so, it was good to continue to appeal in this way to the American people as well as to the people of the world.

Although Japan could not assist militarily, the Prime Minister said that the GOJ intended to increase its economic assistance to Indo-China, thereby to further the stabilization which was also the goal of the United States Vietnamization program. To explore possible avenues for increased assistance, the GOJ had recently dispatched a study team to the area. He cautioned that not much could be expected of Japan in terms of amounts of money, but added that the GOJ wished to do all it possibly could.

The President expressed appreciation for the GOJ statement on his recent peace initiative. He too was not surprised by the North Vietnamese rejection, but said that he would continue to press for real negotiations. If the North Vietnamese refused, the United States was prepared to continue the Vietnamization program, and would remain vigilant against any North Vietnamese attempt to take unfair advantage of our troop withdrawals. North Viet-Nam could decide to negotiate now, or would have to accept the eventual need to negotiate, not with the United States, but with a stronger South Viet-Nam which had developed sufficiently to defend itself against being overcome.

The President hoped that Japan would play a more active economic role in South Viet-Nam, and in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, because the survival of non-communist governments there was in the best economic interests of all the nations in the Pacific. We could trade [Page 166] with such governments, but there was little trade with communist nations anywhere.

6. Middle East

The Prime Minister said that the United States carried two major burdens, Viet-Nam and the Middle East. He expressed full appreciation for the great efforts by the United States to bring about the present truce in the Middle East. With its continuation, and the President’s October 7 initiative on Viet-Nam, he hoped that the sense of burden felt by the American people would be lightened. These two developments, he trusted, would serve to reassure the American people, and give them grounds for hope.

In his meeting with Mrs. Meir in New York, the Prime Minister said that he had urged her to persevere in the present situation without resorting to war, even though the Arabs were violating the Truce.

The President said that the situation in the Middle East was very difficult because no one trusted anyone else. We would continue to work for peace and expected the Truce to continue, but an agreement would take time.

The Prime Minister said that he also told Mrs. Meir that the continued closure of the Suez Canal represented a great economic loss to the world, because it cut off a route between the Far East and Western Europe. In addition to urging her not to reopen hostilities, he also tried to persuade her of the need to reopen the Suez Canal. When she argued that the UAR did not allow Israeli ships to transit the Canal, he responded that the GOJ would support any international move to reopen the Canal under a form of international supervision which would permit the passage of Israeli shipping.

7. Japan-US Economic Relations—General

The Prime Minister said that textiles were the major economic issue for discussion, but he wished first to review our economic relations in general, in the context of Japan’s great economic development to third place in the world in GNP, and in terms of the great world-wide impact of Japan’s economic relations with the United States.

The Prime Minister noted that Japan has enjoyed a very favorable balance of trade with the United States over the past few years but imports from the United States have increased this year, including agricultural imports, thereby reducing the recent imbalance in our trade. The GOJ now supported accelerated trade and capital liberalization, as befitted the third nation in the world in GNP. The criticism of Japan’s inadequate and slow liberalization was general, and there were strong international pressures on Japan to accelerate its program. Recently when the working level sent up an accelerated liberalization [Page 167] program which he thought was too slow, the Prime Minister sent it back with instructions to really provide for accelerated liberalization. Perhaps it was still too early to feel the impact of recent GOJ decisions, but he assured the President that he was now implementing a broad and accelerated trade and capital liberalization program.

8. Japan-US Economic Relations—Textiles

With this as background, the Prime Minister addressed himself to textiles.5 While the stage for complete resolution has not yet been reached, he reaffirmed his own determination to bring to a fruitful conclusion the negotiations which have been resumed. Last year he had promised the President to do something to resolve the textile issue, and felt that he must apologize for embarrassing him by not doing what was expected. On returning to Japan from their meeting last year, he had been attacked frequently in the Diet for having made a “secret deal” with the President. In response to each such attack, he explained that he had told the President that it was not in the interest of either country to leave the issue unresolved to grow as a basis for distrust and that it must therefore be resolved, although he did not understand the substance involved in an agreement. Therefore, he concluded his responses to these attacks by saying there was no need for him to have made a “secret deal” with the President.

The Prime Minister expected to reach a solution in June when he sent the Foreign Minister and the Minister of International Trade and Industry to Washington to negotiate and was disappointed when agreement was not reached. He did not know the reason for this failure.6

The President said that the Prime Minister knew the difficult problem this was for him, because of his political commitment during the campaign. It was also a difficult problem in the Congress, where pressures were mounting in support of import quota legislation. However, there was little he could add now to what he told Mr. Kishi recently.7 As of now, the problem has been given to Mr. Flanigan and Dr. Kissinger to work on. He could only say again, as before, that failure to reach agreement could only open the floodgates for many [Page 168] other things. He wished to leave textiles to the negotiators, and saw no use of further discussions of them in this meeting.

The President also noted that while the Prime Minister had been criticised in his Diet for having made a “secret agreement,” he had been criticised in our Congress for not having made one, for having made a promise on Okinawa without any progress on textiles. However, it was best to let the matter rest there, in the hands of Mr. Flanigan and Dr. Kissinger. He did stress that this was still a vital problem.

The Prime Minister said that the pressures of time required an early agreement. He recalled saying at the time of their Okinawa discussions that he would do all that he could “within the limits of his assessments of the future.” At that time he had no assessment of how things would develop, but now time was pressing, and Ambassador Ushiba, who understood both the situation and the time limit well, was actively engaged in discussions with Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Flanigan. The Prime Minister promised to bring about an agreement once certain specific details were resolved through mutual concessions.

Dr. Kissinger informed the President that November 10 was the goal in the talks with Ambassador Ushiba. The President noted that this was after the election.

The Prime Minister (who understood this brief exchange in English) said that the specific details would be settled by Election Day; he must settle them on his return to Japan. The most important point was categories, and on return to Tokyo the Prime Minister said that he would have MITI Miyazawa explain them. No doubt, MITI Miyazawa would also put forth his own point of view, but in the end the Prime Minister recognized that he had to make the decision. He requested that the President permit him to take whatever intervening steps he thought would be necessary to reach a final decision in time. Further, he hoped that none of this would leak to the press, at least to the extent that we could control it.

The President said that he understood.

Dr. Kissinger said that we would keep to the present channel and would keep this from the press.

The Prime Minister said that the experts would have to be consulted when the specifics were taken up, and warned against possible leaks then. Even if there were none, the press was sharp and would write speculative articles, some of which would be wrong, but some which might coincide with fact. Should that happen he hoped that the American side would not assume that there had been a leak. He hoped also that neither industry be allowed to get overly upset about the speculative reporting which was bound to come. If this could be done, a fine agreement could be reached.

[Page 169]

The President said that we would do our best.

The Prime Minister said that he was pleased to hear this. For his own part, he recognized that the time had come for him to make the decision. He trusted that the President understood his position. He added that once Japan and the United States reached agreement, international confirmation of it by the other textile exporting nations would be necessary. The United States would have to move fast to convince them to accept it within the time limit. He said that Japan and the United States would have to reach agreement by November 3, and in the two weeks remaining after the mid-term elections and before the new Congress would meet and resume hearings on the Mills Bill, the United States would have to gain acceptance of the agreement by the other textile exporters. He again expressed his concern about a leak, and said that he would hand-carry what he had back to Tokyo rather than risk a leak through a telegram. He said that he fully intended to persuade MITI Miyazawa.

The President said that we would say nothing on this side.

The Prime Minister explained that the greatest problem has been the opposition of the textile industry in Japan to an agreement. Japan’s major concession at this new stage resulted from getting it to drop its demands for proof of injury before agreeing to voluntary restrictions.

The Prime Minister said that Ambassador Ushiba and Mr. Flanigan would continue their talks. While the question of separate categories was very difficult for him to understand, woolens seemed to be no problem, and agreement there could be reached easily. However, manmades would be a problem, and Japan would have to have some concession from the United States with respect to the percentage of the reductions.

The President said that he couldn’t go into this.8

9. Environmental Cooperation

The Prime Minister, referring to the recent visit of Mr. Train (Chairman of the President’s Council for Environmental Quality), said that [Page 170] it had been agreed in Tokyo that regular meetings be held at the Cabinet level to consider environmental matters. He requested that the President consider how best to provide for such an opportunity, and noted GOJ willingness to send a Minister to the United States to discuss environmental matters in response to an invitation. Mr. Train could doubtless report fully to the President the serious public concerns about environmental pollution in Japan, which has prompted the GOJ to revise its former slogan—No welfare without economic growth—to “No economic growth without welfare.”

10. Joint Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs

In view of the economic problems between both countries, the Prime Minister felt that it would be advisable to hold a regular meeting of the Japan-United States Joint Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs in the United States next year, since it would be the United States’ turn to serve as host. There would be no obstacle to prevent the attendance of the Japanese Cabinet Ministers responsible for economic affairs.

The President said this was an excellent idea.

Dr. Kissinger noted that this meeting was set for next year.

The Prime Minister said that it was essential for the United States and Japan to continue cooperating closely, particularly in view of the economic problems between us which could affect the relationship.

11. Hot-Line

The Prime Minister explained that the installation of the hot-line, which had been discussed in November, was now under study within the GOJ. An unfortunate misunderstanding that some sort of new crisis was impending could result if it were installed without proper public affairs handling in advance.

12. Parting Exchange

The President said that he was glad to have had this good talk. He wished to keep in close contact because, with Japan’s preeminent economic position, both nations were bound to have many common interests, and understandably some competition, which should be kept constructive. He promised to keep the Prime Minister informed of any significant international moves he would take concerning not only United States-Japan relations but also the world at large. One thing gave him hope. During his 1953 visit to Japan the sole subject of discussion had been United States-Japan relations, but today, in this talk as before, he and the Prime Minister had discussed the Middle East, Viet-Nam and Europe as well as Japan, all of which told us that Japan is not only a great power in the Pacific, but also a major world power with great influence. We recognize this, and therefore, consider that [Page 171] close relations between us are essential, not only for future peace and progress in the Pacific but also throughout the world. He assured the Prime Minister that Japan would always have a good friend in office as long as he was President.

The Prime Minister expressed appreciation for this. He noted that he and John D. Rockefeller, III, had agreed in New York last week that the bonds of familial love continue to hold parents and child together, despite their differences. This applied also to nations. He did not want the people of Japan to forget their deep obligation to the United States for helping them recover from the destruction of the defeat in World War II. Honoring one’s obligations was a traditional Japanese virtue which the Japanese should not forget. Even the current economic problems between both countries should be viewed in this context just as a child should be grateful to his parents for helping to raise him.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 535, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. III, 7/70 to Dec 70. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place at the White House. Drafted by Wickel. Under cover of a memorandum of October 27, Holdridge sent this memorandum of conversation and a draft Department of State telegram to Tokyo summarizing it for the Embassy’s benefit to Kissinger who approved both but wrote on the covering memorandum: “This was not to get to State without concurrence. Why did it?” On October 23, between 8–9 p.m., Haig made telephone calls to Wakaizumi, Flanigan, and Bergsten concerning preparations for the next day’s meeting between Nixon and Sato. (Ibid., Alexander M. Haig Chronological File, Box 998, Haig Telcons—1970) On October 21, Acting Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson submitted talking points to the President in anticipation of Nixon’s October 24 meeting with Sato. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 JAPAN)
  2. See Document 56.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 53. Laird and Nakasone engaged in a second conversation on September 14, from 10 until 10:40 a.m. (Memorandum of Conversation; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–67, Box 74, Japan 091.112)
  4. On October 7, Nixon gave a televised address concerning peace initiatives for Southeast Asia. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 825–828.
  5. According to talking points that Kissinger used to brief Nixon before his meeting with Sato: “We have informed the Japanese that you will not bring up the subject of textiles, in view of the failure to make progress on this issue. We have also told them that any post-meeting statement will not refer to textiles, and if asked we will only say that government contacts are continuing.” (Talking points for the President, October 24; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 535, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. III, 7/70 to Dec 70)
  6. For an exchange of letters on the failure of these negotiations, see Document 47.
  7. See Document 56.
  8. After taking leave of Nixon, Sato went to Kissinger’s office to join Aichi, Kissinger, and other officials who were discussing the language to be used in press guidance regarding the discussion of textiles between Sato and Nixon. According to the U.S. account of this meeting, “At least three times Aichi . . . asked Sato (in Japanese) whether he really understood the implications of the fact that he and the President had agreed that both governments resume negotiations on textiles, and the disastrous consequences if these negotiations did not produce an agreement.” Sato told Aichi that he understood these implications and “had resolved to settle this issue in the negotiations.” In the end, the U.S. and Japanese sides agreed that in response to inquiries, press officers could say that Flanigan and Ushiba “would reopen the negotiations in Washington as soon as possible.” (Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 5:30 p.m.; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 535, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. III, 7/70 to Dec 70)