73. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Sadanori Yamanaka, Minister of State and Director General of Administrative Affairs of the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office
  • Nobuhiko Ushiba, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Mr. Okazaki, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan
  • Mr. Sakomizu, Personal Secretary to Mr. Yamanaka
  • Dr. Kissinger, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John H. Holdridge, Senior Staff Member NSC


  • Conversation Between Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Yamanaka on Okinawa Reversion and Textiles Issue

After the initial greetings, Mr. Yamanaka remarked that he and Mr. Nakasone comprised a “tight team” working together for the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party. Mr. Yamanaka had intended to ask Mr. Nakasone to write a letter of introduction for him to Dr. Kissinger; however, before his departure for the U.S., Prime Minister Sato had asked him to meet with the President, so there hadn’t been time for him to ask Mr. Nakasone to write an introductory letter to Dr. Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger, recalling that Mr. Nakasone had been a former student of his, said that any friend of Nakasone’s was always welcome, with or without a letter.

Mr. Yamanaka noted that he and Mr. Nakasone had been two of four staff members working for Mr. Kono Ichinomo of the LDP. This group had later divided up two and two, with Yamanaka and Nakasone forming “an attack team.” Dr. Kissinger asked what an attack team did, and who it was attacking? Mr. Yamanaka replied that Mr. Nakasone was very undecided as to the object of the attack—he sometimes cooperated with Prime Minister Sato, and sometimes attacked him. Mr. Yamanaka asserted that he always supported Mr. Sato, and that was the difference between them. Occasionally there was dissention between Yamanaka and Nakasone, but they saw the advantage of working together. Their efforts were complementary, each having points which the other lacked.

[Page 197]Dr. Kissinger commented that he hadn’t been in Japan for a long time, so he had no knowledge of what was going on in the political situation. Mr. Yamanaka said that if Dr. Kissinger was interested in the Japanese political situation, especially what might take place immediately after the retirement of Prime Minister Sato, he would be happy to go into this for Dr. Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger replied that he wanted first to give Mr. Yamanaka the opportunity to talk about anything which concerned him. Mr. Yamanaka remarked here that he hadn’t any particular concern in mind, he simply wanted to brief Dr. Kissinger.

Dr. Kissinger stated that as Ambassador Ushiba knew, one problem with which he, Dr. Kissinger, was very much concerned with was Okinawa, and this he didn’t regret; another problem, however, was textiles, which he did very much regret. Mr. Yamanaka interjected that he felt some way would surely be found to deal with the textiles issue. Dr. Kissinger went on to observe that he would say just one thing and then drop the subject—it would be a serious mistake to underestimate in Japan the bitterness and sense of outrage with which the textile issue was greeted in the U.S. This was all out of proportion to the matter. By way of explanation, he had that same day overruled a proposal from a very high source that we should hold up signing the Okinawa agreement until we had some guaranteed agreement on textiles.2 He had overruled this proposal because he didn’t want to put the textile issue on that high a plane, and would not even submit it to the President. But, the fact that such a proposal could be made at all by people who had the right to go directly to the President showed what the attitude here was.

Continuing, Dr. Kissinger stated that there was also a possibility we would have trouble getting the reversion of Okinawa ratified by the Senate. Dr. Kissinger commented at this point that he was personally sick of textile negotiations and didn’t want to get involved in any more of them. Ambassador Ushiba asked what the Japanese might do. Dr. Kissinger declared that he wouldn’t make suggestions on this. The tragedy was that Japanese-U.S. friendship was the keystone of peace in the entire Pacific area. If we were divided over big issues, that at least would be understandable, but it was absurd for the future of the Pacific area to depend on an essentially commercial issue. Mr. Yamanaka remarked that he had come here in part in order to have an interview with Ambassador Johnson about textiles. Speaking frankly, the feeling in Tokyo about the textile issue was quite different from [Page 198]what Dr. Kissinger had conveyed about the impression here. After he returned to Japan, he would convey the “true situation” personally to Prime Minister Sato and would offer his advice.

Dr. Kissinger told Mr. Yamanaka he could be sure that Japan couldn’t have two people in the White House more dedicated to the future of Japan than the President and himself. The President considered Prime Minister Sato and Mr. Aichi as personal friends in addition to being officials of a great country. Dr. Kissinger reiterated that he had no specific problem on textiles to convey, and simply out of friendship wanted to convey an impression of the sentiment here. As Ambassador Ushiba knew, he had not injected himself in any of the detailed textile discussions.

Mr. Yamanaka said that Prime Minister Sato was afraid his personal relationship with the President, which he regarded as being a man-to-man one reflecting mutual confidence, was being undermined. That was why Mr. Sato had asked Mr. Yamanaka to convey his “loyalty” to the President. Dr. Kissinger remarked that he didn’t know what could be done to resolve the textile issue, but we would be having Ambassador Kennedy there and anything which could be worked out with him would certainly ease matters greatly. We would certainly have to see what the future brought. There would be, though, no underrating of the importance to us of Japan and of U.S.-Japanese friendship. Mr. Yamanaka expressed the belief that he could certainly influence Prime Minister Sato by talking to him personally upon his, Yamanaka’s, return.

Ambassador Ushiba asked for confirmation that the textile issue remained a key factor in the President’s mind. Dr. Kissinger explained that it had the unfortunate effect of raising a lot of irritation—our people felt that on two separate occasions things were supposed to have happened which didn’t. For the President, the biggest problems with Japan were our commercial relations. Our long-term political relations were not bad; in fact, they were very good, and we wanted to strengthen them. But this was an example of the sort of irritation which any critic of the Administration could build upon if he wanted to do so. Dr. Kissinger remarked that this was not his particular field; indeed, he tried to remain out of it all and up until a year ago didn’t even know what a category was.

Mr. Yamanaka asked Dr. Kissinger whether, when he was speaking about irritations, this meant that the President was personally irritated with Prime Minister Sato. Dr. Kissinger replied that this would be putting it too strongly. Nevertheless, the President had a political problem with respect to textiles which he had explained twice to Prime Minister Sato. On one occasion, he had not even wanted to raise the textile issue, but had done so at Mr. Sato’s request. Thus, the President [Page 199]didn’t have any personal irritation, other than the fact that the textile question made it easier for critics to raise issues which two years ago hadn’t even existed as problems. That was the source of his irritation. Ambassador Ushiba probably knew that at the time of the Okinawa negotiations the President had broken every deadlock in favor of Japan, not out of sentimental reasons, but out of profound conviction that the U.S.-Japanese relationship would determine the future of the Pacific.

Mr. Yamanaka noted with respect to the Okinawa agreement that the time for signature was approaching. On the U.S. side, there was opposition to the agreement on the part of the military, while on the Japanese side there was the opposition of the Okinawan people. Prime Minister Sato wanted to overcome all this opposition. Dr. Kissinger assured him that we would get the agreement concluded this month. Mr. Yamanaka explained that he was the Minister in charge of the Okinawa negotiations, and wanted to express his personal thanks for what Dr. Kissinger had just said. Dr. Kissinger reiterated that we were not acting out of sentimental reasons but in the belief that our political relationship with Japan was more important than military bases on Okinawa. Mr. Yamanaka asked, did Dr. Kissinger mean that because in the Okinawa negotiations the President had overcome all deadlocks, it was now the Prime Minister’s turn? Dr. Kissinger answered that this wasn’t the case, he was just describing the President’s attitude. He personally didn’t think that we should link Okinawa to the textile issue. This was a commercial problem, while Okinawa was an historical problem. The Japanese could anticipate difficulty in the Senate, though. Speaking as a friend, and in all honesty, he had heard more complaints about Japan in connection with commercial policy than on any other issue. For himself, he was determinedly anti-economic, and didn’t care one way or another.

Mr. Yamanaka said that since he and Dr. Kissinger had discussed textiles to such an extent, could he ask if there should be a government agreement in settling the textile issue? Dr. Kissinger expressed the opinion that it would be profitable to have a government agreement, but this seemed to be beyond the ability of the Japanese textile industry to accept. Every negotiator we had put on this matter had become infuriated, first Secretary Stans, then Mr. Flanigan, and now we had Ambassador Kennedy complaining and asking for drastic methods. Dr. Kissinger observed that he was doing half of Ambassador Kennedy’s job by trying to keep everything under control here. He didn’t know what the reasons for these harsh attitudes were. He had once known the details of the question, but was now trying hard to forget them.

Mr. Yamanaka stated that while he was not in charge of textile affairs and not commissioned to discuss them, as a Cabinet Member [Page 200]and a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, he had some influence and would talk about the problem when he got home.

Ambassador Ushiba mentioned that the Japanese textile industry would be implementing its voluntary restraints on textiles beginning in July. To this Dr. Kissinger noted that his people said that what the Japanese textile industry was doing wasn’t enough, and didn’t mean anything. He had decided that contrary to what diplomats believe, ignorance made the best negotiator, and that was what made him so good. He was completely ignorant, and hence was immune to what the Japanese said.3

Mr. Yamanaka, somewhat taken aback, asked if Dr. Kissinger was being sarcastic. Dr. Kissinger denied being sarcastic and said that he was being serious. Mr. Yamanaka asked whether, if Dr. Kissinger was really being serious, he was still a friend. Dr. Kissinger assured him that he could count on his still being a friend. He just wanted to give the mood here, and this had nothing to do with his personal feelings toward Prime Minister Sato or his personal friends in Japan. He had the good fortune—too long ago—to pay two visits to Japan, and had a great affection for that country.

Mr. Yamanaka wondered whether it might be possible for him to meet with the President, despite the shortness of time, to express Prime Minister Sato’s concern over his, Sato’s relations with the President. Dr. Kissinger said he would see what could be done, but it might be difficult. The President was preparing for a press conference that night which had already taken him two days. He and Mr. Yamanaka belonged to the “Union of Special Assistants to Prime Ministers and Presidents,” so he understood Mr. Sato’s and Mr. Yamanaka’s kind of concern. Mr. Yamanaka agreed that he and Dr. Kissinger belonged to the same union. Had this not been the case, Prime Minister Sato would not have entrusted him with this special mission and he himself would simply have gone on to the Environmental Congress. Dr. Kissinger promised to do what he could, but hoped that Mr. Yamanaka would understand that with a three-day weekend followed by a press conference the President’s schedule had been incredibly disrupted. Mr. Yamanaka could be certain, though, that he would report to the President immediately. Mr. Yamanaka said that he did understand, and that even for the Japanese there would be so much business on the desk after a three-day weekend that they would be very busy during succeeding days. Dr. Kissinger explained that when the President had a [Page 201]press conference he withdrew for two days and nobody saw him, not even Dr. Kissinger. His calendar then got impossibly jammed up. Dr. Kissinger remarked whimsically that he was angry with the President for picking this time—there was a dinner party which Dr. Kissinger had wanted to give, but he now had to watch the press conference on television.

Mr. Yamanaka thought that Dr. Kissinger’s advice had surely preceded the President’s speech. Dr. Kissinger indicated that he did this in writing, and gave a book of suggested questions and answers to the President, who would then call him on the telephone. He had, in fact, actually seen the President the previous night. Were there press conferences of this sort in Japan? Mr. Yamanaka said that there were, and Dr. Kissinger recalled that when we had been assembling a task force to deal with the Korean crisis of 1969 (the EC–121 incident) the Japanese press had flown over our task force and had been fortunate not to have been shot down. They had come with blimps and everything else. This had been in the Straits of Tsushima, where in 1905 the biggest naval battle in history had been fought between the Russians and the Japanese.

Mr. Yamanaka recalled that Prime Minister Sato had given a press conference on the day of his, Yamanaka’s, departure, and he had appeared together with the Prime Minister. Dr. Kissinger observed that he wasn’t allowed to appear with the President here. As Ambassador Ushiba knew, Dr. Kissinger was very retiring and some days didn’t appear in the newspapers at all. To this, Ambassador Ushiba mentioned that there were 5 or 6 pictures of Dr. Kissinger which had been taken in the Japanese Embassy during visits by well-known Japanese. Dr. Kissinger said that he had the Japanese Embassy infiltrated.

Dr. Kissinger remarked that he had run a seminar program in Harvard, in which there had been many Japanese students. One of these was Fujita, who was now a well-known television commentator. Mr. Yamanaka expressed some surprise at this since Mr. Fujita was older than Dr. Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger pointed out that this was a special program, and quite a few students had been older than he. He went on to express his pleasure at seeing Mr. Yamanaka, and asked him to convey his warm regards to Prime Minister Sato. He should stress that despite all criticisms, friendship with Japan was our basic policy. Mr. Yamanaka said that he would certainly convey everything Dr. Kissinger had said to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Yamanaka wanted to know if Dr. Kissinger had examined the Okinawa treaty, and if he could give a judgment of its conditions. Dr. Kissinger said that he had indeed examined the treaty. Mr. Yamanaka felt on the VOA issue the Japanese could take legislative action which would provide for U.S. access to the VOA facilities for five years, with [Page 202]consultations on the question after two years. On another matter, since there was no civil airport on Okinawa, the Japanese wanted Naha airport to be returned so it could be transferred to the Ministry of Transportation. To this end, the U.S. P3 squadron would need to be transferred. Dr. Kissinger noted that we were in a position of talking to a few generals about this. They were on bread and water right now and would give up very soon. (He asked Mr. Holdridge if this remained a problem, and Mr. Holdridge said that it did not.) Mr. Yamanaka went on to say that on the Japanese side, they were prepared to bear the expenses for the return of the airport. Dr. Kissinger said he believed that everything would be worked out, and asked if Ambassador Ushiba agreed. (Ambassador Ushiba did.) It was not official yet, but he believed we were moving in a positive direction. Mr. Yamanaka mentioned that this would bring a very good change in the mood of the people of Okinawa and of the main Japanese islands. At this point Dr. Kissinger stressed that what he had said should be regarded as unofficial.

The meeting concluded with Mr. Yamanaka and Ambassador Ushiba hoping that Foreign Minister Aichi and Secretary Rogers would be able to iron out the last details of the Okinawa reversion agreement at the OECD meeting so that the signature of the agreement could still take place about mid-June. Dr. Kissinger was confident that this would be done.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 554, Country Files, Far East, Okinawa, Vol. II, 1971 and 1972. Secret. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office. Holdridge sent Kissinger talking points for this meeting in a memorandum of June 1. (Ibid., Box 536, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. IV, 1 Jan–June 30, 1971)
  2. Before the Kissinger–Yamanaka meeting, Kissinger rejected a proposal from David Kennedy, suggesting that the United States condition its signing of the Okinawan reversion agreement upon a resolution of the textile problem. (Memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger, June 1; ibid.)
  3. When Kissinger reviewed the transcript, he crossed out the sentence that read: “This [Kissinger’s self-proclaimed ignorance about the textile issue] was fortunate for him [Kissinger], for they [Japanese negotiators] would undoubtedly convince him if he knew what everyone was talking about.” The page was retyped without the sentence.