86. Memorandum From Thomas J. Barnes, Richard Solomon, and Clinton E. Granger of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • SRG Meeting: U.S. Interests and Security Objectives in the Asia-Pacific Area

Purpose of This Meeting:

—To review the regional assessment and the statement of U.S. interests and objectives in the Asia-Pacific area as set out in the response2 to the first section of NSSM 235.

—To reach a consensus on this policy statement prior to putting it before the President in a proposed NSDM (Tab F),3 either at an NSC meeting or in a memorandum.


Last August we recommended to Secretary Kissinger that prior to looking at our policy in the forthcoming Philippine base negotiations, we should have an inter-agency review of U.S. interests and security objectives in Southeast Asia. Secretary Kissinger recommended that the NSSM should cover the entire Asia-Pacific area.4 Subsequently, because of the expected early beginning of our negotiations with the Filipinos, you recommended that we combine the broad review of U.S. policy with the particular issue of our position in the Philippine base negotiations. With your approval, the NSC then issued NSSM 235, that [Page 364] called for a review of developments in the Asia-Pacific region, an assessment of the intentions and capabilities of major nations in the region, and a statement of U.S. interests and objectives. We received the NSSM response (Tab C) at the end of March. The NSC then circulated separately Section I of the NSSM response to State, Defense, and CIA, informing them that the statement of U.S. interests and security objectives would serve as the framework for future consideration of specific area issues. (Future NSSMs, for example, will deal with the particular issues you raised regarding a larger defense role for Japan and future U.S. military presence in Korea.) State, Defense, and CIA accepted the NSSM response without change.5

Agency Views

State will endorse the paper as a timely and useful statement of U.S. policy within which future specific issues can be considered. Deputy Secretary Robinson will recommend Presidential approval of the NSSM study. CIA will probably concur in the study’s intelligence judgments, but, as a matter of principle, avoid comment on the policy aspects. Although DOD approved the NSSM response, we understand that it will now argue that we should not issue a NSDM on the subject. This attitude reflects DOD’s interest in maintaining as much flexibility as possible on its own deployment and strategic policies, and in some respects its penchant for making policy without reference to higher authority. The latest “Defense Policy and Planning Guidance” paper, dated November 1975, asserts, for example, that we will encourage Japan to improve its capabilities to contribute to protection of the Pacific Ocean lines of communication.6 This point involves a Japanese ASW capability to the Philippine Sea, 1000 miles beyond Kyushu, and runs counter to one of the study’s principal conclusions—avoiding a regional security role for Japan, an objective stated in the 1974 NSSM on Japan.7 Deputy Secretary Clements may point specifically to the listing [Page 365] of the missions of U.S. forces in the Pacific on page 13 of the study (Tab C) as too specific or unnecessary. He may also state that the President’s speech in Honolulu last December provides sufficient policy direction.8

Need for Reassessment

As we noted in our April 12 memorandum to you, the NSSM response represents the first comprehensive national statement of U.S. interests and security objectives in the Asia-Pacific region in seven years.9 A serious review is in order because of the developments that have altered the fundamental dynamics of international politics in the area: the Sino-Soviet conflict, the marked changes in Sino-U.S. and Sino-Japanese relations, the fall of Indochina, and the U.S. military withdrawal from the mainland of Southeast Asia.

We support your inclination to issue a detailed elaboration of policy such as in the proposed NSDM. We believe that a meaningful but still flexible statement of U.S. policy in the region is sorely needed. We believe that the list of U.S. security objectives in the NSDM fills this function.

The study itself is overly long and often redundant. Some failing in this regard was almost inevitable because of the need to accommodate many views on wide-ranging subjects. The study is also more descriptive than analytical, but this is a natural characteristic of inter-agency assessments. Nevertheless, there was agreement on the trend of events, as well as on the capabilities and intentions of Japan, the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and the ASEAN states; and on the U.S. interests and objectives that flow from the new situation. We believe that the recommended objectives are realistic in terms of both U.S. interests and capabilities. We have extracted the major judgments of the inter-agency study to form Tab B.10

[Page 366]

Your Approach at the Meeting

Talking points for the meeting are at Tab A.11

We suggest that you open the meeting by establishing the importance of the paper as a major policy document. You should underscore that you believe a thorough reassessment of the situation in the Asia-Pacific area, and a statement of our interests and objectives, are timely. You should note that the statement of U.S. interests and objectives is intended to provide a broad policy framework within which other specific issues can be addressed. These issues include:

—Our position in the Philippine base negotiations.

—The U.S. security role in Korea over the next three to five years.

—Enhanced U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and encouragement of greater Japanese efforts in self-defense.

—Expansion of Japanese defense capabilities.

—Our negotiating posture with regard to the five districts of Micronesia whose political future remains undetermined.

—Future military drawdowns from Taiwan.

—Normalization of our relations with China.

—Our advanced weapons and technology transfer policies toward Taiwan, Korea, and the Peoples Republic of China.

—Our future security assistance to Thailand and other Southeast Asian states.

—Normalization of our relations with Vietnam.

You should indicate that the purpose of the meeting is to try to reach a general consensus on the basic judgments of the inter-agency study and on the statement of interests and objectives. In addition, you may wish to add that, as much as possible, the meeting should try to avoid getting bogged down in minor and editorial issues.

We suggest that you then proceed to review the major judgments (Tab B) of the inter-agency review and to inquire whether there are any basic disagreements. You may then ask if there are any fundamental differences with the statement of interests and objectives.

If Defense argues that we should not issue a NSDM, you may wish to state that you believe the President would like the record to show that this Administration has made an intelligent reassessment of policy in light of the fundamental changes that have taken place in East Asia in the past few years. The last overall assessment is seven years old, and obsolete. Moreover, while the Honolulu speech of last December represented a fine statement of the basic premises of U.S. policy, the Presi[Page 367]dent wants to be involved in setting policy guidelines that go beyond these generalities.

If Defense asserts that the listing of military missions on page 13 of the study is unnecessary, you should reply that: this section is an important aspect of the policy statement; such a definition of military missions is a political question that the President should determine; the wording on this subject is still broad and flexible; and we will consider any military deployment questions separately and in detail but within the NSSM 235 framework.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 17, Senior Review Group Meeting, 6/4/76—U.S. Interests and Objectives in the Asia-Pacific Area (NSSM 235) (1). Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Interdepartmental Group Habib submitted sections I and II of the group’s draft response to NSSM 235 (Document 67) to Scowcroft under separate covering memoranda, March 29 and April 6 respectively. Section I addressed general U.S. interests and security objectives in the Asia-Pacific area. Section II covered the specific issue of the manner in which these interests and objectives should apply to U.S. base negotiations with the Philippines. (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 39, NSSM 235, (1 of 2) (3–4)) Davis forwarded section I, discussed by the SRG during its June 4 meeting, for review to the Departments of State and Defense and the CIA under a covering memorandum, April 1. (Ibid., NSSM 235, (2 of 2) (6)) The final version of section I is printed as Document 107.
  3. Attached, but not printed.
  4. On September 2, 1975, Barnes sent a memorandum to Kissinger recommending the review. Scowcroft subsequently wrote on Barnes’ memorandum: “HAK wants to review in terms of our entire Pacific posture and interests—not just SEA.” (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 40, NSSM 235 (2 of 2) (11))
  5. Abramowitz and Springsteen sent separate memoranda to Scowcroft on April 10 and April 12 conveying the views of their respective departments. (Ibid., NSSM 235 (2 of 2) (5))
  6. The relevant portion of the DPPG, distributed by Schlesinger under a November 4, 1975 covering memorandum, read as follows: “Japan, because of its location, economic strength and close security relationship with the U.S., remains the keystone of our policy in Northeast Asia. For this reason we continue to encourage Japan to improve its capability to contribute to the protection of the Pacific Ocean LOCs and to maintain conventional military forces adequate to defend the Japanese Islands against air attack and seaborne invasions and to counter Soviet passage from the Sea of Japan.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Schlesinger Papers, Box 22, Action Memoranda, Oct.–Nov. 1975)
  7. NSSM 210, “Review of Japan Policy for the President’s Visit to Japan,” September 11, 1974, is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. E–12, Documents on East and Southeast Asia, 1973–1976, Document 194.
  8. Ford gave an address at the University of Hawaii on December 7, 1975, near the end of a ten-day journey during which he traveled to the PRC, the Philippines, and Indonesia. He outlined a “new Pacific Doctrine” premised upon the application of American strength to achieve a stable balance of power in the Pacific, a strong partnership with Japan, the normalization of relations with the PRC, stability and security in Southeast Asia, the resolution of outstanding policy conflicts, and the creation of “a structure of economic cooperation reflecting the aspiration of all the peoples of the region.” (Public Papers: Ford, 1975, pp. 1950–1955)
  9. Barnes’, Solomon’s, and Granger’s April 12 memorandum to Scowcroft reporting on the status of the NSSM 235 study is in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 39, NSSM 235 (1 of 2) (3). The previous study was initiated by NSSM 38, “Post-Vietnam Asian Study,” issued on April 10, 1969. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 365, Subject Files, NSSMs—Nos. 1–42)
  10. Attached, but not printed.
  11. Attached, but not printed.