81. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Conversation with Japanese Ambassador Ushiba

In accordance with my telephone conversation with him from San Clemente on the evening of July 15, I met with Ambassador Ushiba at his residence at 5:00 P.M. on Sunday, July 18. Our meeting lasted about one hour and a half, and Minister Okawara was also present.

At first Ushiba said that he, and he thought most Japanese officials, admired and envied the ability of the President to take such a bold step with regard to Peking.2 A move of this kind would be entirely impossible for any Japanese Prime Minister, for it would have to have been preceded by discussion within the party and the cabinet, with the inevitable leaks.

He fully understood and accepted the reasons for secrecy with regard to the move, but the fact of the matter was that this was going to present most serious problems to Sato and his supporters in the LDP. As viewed within Japan and as it would be presented by the opposition, Sato had over the years based his policy on the Yoshida tradition of close collaboration with the United States in foreign policy, especially in the China issue, but the charge would now be made that the United States had pulled the rug out from under this policy by making this dramatic move on China policy, not only without consulting but even without any substantial prior notice to the Japanese Government.

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Thus Ushiba felt that it was of the greatest importance that we consult closely and move together to the greatest degree possible on the Chirep issue in the U.N. We had been working closely together on this up until now, and the political effects in Japan on our relations would be very much exacerbated if we appear to be moving separately from Japan or again “leaving Japan behind” on this issue. I said that I understood and accepted Ushiba’s point, but that the Chirep issue was very complicated. I assured him that our objective continued to be to do all possible to maintain the GRC seat in the U.N. We then had a detailed discussion about the various U.N. alternatives.

Among the other points made by Ushiba during our conversation were the following:

1. A fundamental policy objective of Peking was to split Japan off from the U.S. and “neutralize” it.

2. Peking will “not soften” on its refusal to do business with Sato and his wing of the LDP in the hope and expectation that increasing pressure from the Socialist and Komeito parties, as well as from the left wing of the LDP, will eventually force the formation of a more “neutral” government that will be willing to loosen its ties with the U.S. to meet the popular demand in Japan for improving relations with Peking.

3. During the Diet debate on the Okinawa Agreement, which will come the middle of October, the opposition will include among its attacks the following points:

A. With the improvement of relations between the U.S. and Peking, the U.S. bases on Okinawa are “outdated.” Thus there is no justification for the U.S. retaining extensive military facilities on Okinawa, and Japan should not exacerbate its problems with Peking by permitting the U.S. to retain those facilities.

B. As the sudden move of the U.S. with respect to Peking shows that Japan cannot give “credibility” to the U.S., no “credibility” can be given to U.S. assurances that nuclear weapons are being removed from Okinawa. (Ushiba said there were of course answers to these charges, but they nevertheless would have considerable appeal to many Japanese.)

4. The political crisis to the position of Sato and his supporters would probably come during the Diet session that opens in January. It would not come in the form of a direct non-confidence vote in the Diet, but rather in the form of a move within the LDP to replace Sato with someone more acceptable to Peking. Such a move would be more likely if Sato had had to use “strong arm” methods to get the Okinawa Agreement through the Diet in October, and would be even more likely if the U.S. had not ratified the Okinawa Agreement by the January session of the Diet.

I told Ushiba that I very much appreciated his frank analysis of the situation and agreed that it was going to be necessary for both Governments to keep in very close touch with each other to avoid the problems that he foresaw.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 536, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. V, 1 Jul–Sep 71. Secret; Limdis. Drafted July 20 by U. Alexis Johnson who sent it under cover of a letter to Kissinger on that date. In his letter, Johnson noted that his memorandum did not mention “the fact that Ushiba showed me a long letter that Prime Minister McMahon of Australia had sent to Prime Minister Sato about the necessity of Japan and Australia concerting with each other on the U.N. problem, in the light of the U.S. move to Peking that had caught them both off guard.” Holdridge forwarded Johnson’s letter to Kissinger under a July 22 memorandum, in which he observed: “The main thrust of Ushiba’s comments on the China announcement was that, since by giving only short notice to Tokyo we had pulled the rug out from under the traditional Japanese policy of close collaboration with the U.S. in foreign policy, it is now of the greatest importance that we consult closely on Chirep.” Kissinger initialed Holdridge’s memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. On July 15, Nixon announced that Kissinger had secretly traveled to Peking in order to arrange a Presidential visit. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972.