87. Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • NSSM 2352


  • Chairman—Brent Scowcroft
  • State
  • Charles Robinson
  • Philip Habib
  • James Goodby
  • DOD
  • William Clements
  • Amos Jordan
  • Morton Abramowitz
  • JCS
  • Lt. Gen. William Y. Smith
  • CIA
  • Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters
  • Evelyn Colbert
  • NSC Staff
  • Thomas Barnes
  • Richard Solomon
  • Michael Hornblow
  • Donald MacDonald
[Page 368]

Lt. Gen. Walters gave intelligence briefing. (Attached)3

Gen. Scowcroft: Are there any questions? Well the NSSM 235 study was designed in the aftermath of Vietnam to serve as an umbrella for other Asian country studies we might wish to conduct. It does have the characteristics of an umbrella study and does contain a number of truisms. There were, though, a number of things which challenged me regarding substantive political changes and I thought it was important for us to get together and see where we want to go from here. Chuck do you have any comments?

Mr. Robinson: We think the study4 is a useful background document. It provides a good summary of problems in the light of current events. We think it could serve as a basis for decisions arising out of subsequent studies.

Gen. Scowcroft: It was not designed to be a decision-making document but as a policy document. We have had no policy document on East Asia since 1969.5

Mr. Robinson: We think it is a useful summary which will be helpful in producing more detailed studies leading to decisions.

Gen. Scowcroft: What do you think Bill?

Mr. Clements: I have not read the report and can’t really comment on it. Joe [Jordan?] may have some comments. Dick (to Gen. Walters) in your analysis there were two things which I missed. One concerns the growth of the Chinese Navy and the other is the Russian production facility on their Pacific Coast.

Lt. Gen. Walters: That is correct. There has been a substantial reinforcement of the Chinese fleet but they still only have [less than 1 line not declassified]

Ms. Colbert: The build up of their South seas fleet was done to correct serious deficiencies. They considered it important to build up their defensive capabilities because of the increased threat to their sealanes. However, as compared to the Soviet Fleet their Navy is very limited.

Lt. Gen. Walters: The one area not cut back by the Chinese is the Navy.

Mr. Clements: I would like to carry this one step further. I would like to know whether within the added naval effort submarines have received more attention? Is there some significance to this? For example, there have been extensive expansions of Soviet submarine production facilities.

[Page 369]

Lt. Gen. Walters: Yes, but there has been only one new nuclear submarine launched.

Mr. Clements: Won’t both China and Russia have significant production capabilities in two to three years?

Lt. Gen. Walters: [less than 1 line not declassified] The Soviets can produce D-class submarines in the Far East which are nuclear powered and carry missles. They can produce nothing beyond a D-class submarine in the Far East.

Mr. Solomon: Have they tested SLBM’S?

Lt. Gen. Walters: [less than 1 line not declassified] They have had some trouble with the nuclear submarines.

Mr. Jordan: We believe that this is a useful background study, but it has not sorted our priorities enough and should not lead to a NSDM.

Gen. Scowcroft: If the consensus is that this statement should not lead to a policy-making document, should it be turned into an umbrella guidance document?

Mr. Jordan: We think the study should be more precise about our military objectives and the probable threats to our military, and the importance of our military force in the area. The study is now too general. It is a catalogue and provides no real guidance.

Lt. Gen. Smith: The problem is it gives the appearance of guidance without providing guidance. For example, it says nothing specific about force deployments.

Mr. Habib: We would need a specific paper covering deployments. In this study we cannot get into that specific kind of requirement.

Mr. Abramowitz: The study does set forth force design objectives.

Mr. Jordan: It sets our priorities. The deployments would follow from the priorities.

Gen. Scowcroft: On what basis are our deployments decided now?

Mr. Jordan: It is hazy indeed.

Mr. Habib: We have no problem with this as providing general guidelines. After all it is derived from the President’s Honolulu speech.6 We feel we already have clear guidelines.

Lt. Gen. Smith: Since a policy has been enunciated in the President’s speech, what more is needed?

Gen. Scowcroft: We need something more than a Presidential speech.

Mr. Habib: If we get into deployments, that is a separate problem.

[Page 370]

Mr. Clements: Is the study supposed to cover our basic general relations with Japan and the Philippines?

Mr. Habib: Yes.

Mr. Abramowitz: According to the study Japan would not have an important regional role. I question this conclusion.

Mr. Habib: This paper does not deny Japan a role in the area. But we do want to deny Japan a regional military role. I remind you this paper was cleared by Defense.

Gen. Scowcroft: We are now getting into specifics. In this meeting we have to decide what to do with the study. If we bless the study, should we have a NSDM? There is no point in getting into specific items in the study. The decisions we have to make is what we should do with the study.

Mr. Habib: Well, there is a real problem with Japan which has just been pointed out. This is the sort of problem that you get in with these kinds of general guidelines.

Gen. Scowcroft: Well, it does foreclose a Japanese regional security role based on the 1974 NSSM on Japan.7

Mr. Habib: That is what guided the Secretary of Defense in his last major go-around with the Japanese.

Mr. Abramowitz: That was only because of sensitivity to the Japanese political scene.

Mr. Habib: That raises the problem of how this was carried out. If what Brent says is true, it should not have been carried out.

Mr. Clements: The whole thing is fuzzy. In our government we have no clear policy of where we are regarding Japan.

Gen. Scowcroft: Are there any fundamental problems with the study? Can’t we scrub it down with a view to having an overall policy document?

Mr. Habib: I have one basic objection; what did we ask the working group for? Was it an options paper, or are we just going to take this and shred it? We won’t get the precision you want in an umbrella document.

Gen. Scowcroft: I am not talking about precision I am talking about broad guidelines, but there is a problem in the paper with Japan and Korea.

Mr. Habib: There should be separate documents on Korea and Japan.

Ms. Colbert: One of the problems in basing something else on this paper is its point of departure. This paper focuses on South East Asia. [Page 371] This is where the serious analysis is. China and Korea, for example, are not discussed on the same level. If the principal problems are Korea and Japan then separate NSSMs on Japan and Korea are needed.

Mr. Habib: I think this is a hell of a good background paper.

Gen. Scowcroft: I am trying to reverse the proliferation of studies which just evaporate. These exercises must be useful to the people who work on them.

Mr. Habib: Producing the Philippine paper has raised two other questions. Should there be separate NSSMs on Japan and Korea?

Lt. Gen. Walters: Must everything be tied together?

Gen. Scowcroft: If you just put this study on the shelf it will have no status.

Mr. Habib: It has more status than you are giving it.

Gen. Scowcroft: Defense doesn’t want it to have status because they don’t agree with it.

Mr. Abramowitz: Right.

Mr. Robinson: Our challenge is to get it to say something we can all agree on.

Mr. Jordan: There are surface issues which are buried in the study such as the defensive role of Japanese forces outside of the home islands. There are also definite problems in Northeast Asia which are slighted.

Gen. Scowcroft: I have no objection to 95 percent of the paper. It was not designed to be a complete study of everything in the area. It was designed to have an overall Asian framework. I don’t like what the paper says regarding Japan. I recognize it as an issue which should be studied in depth.

Lt. Gen. Smith: It is hard to draw the line. There is a need for other studies. Substantive decisions should follow from such a paper.

Gen. Scowcroft: Yes—95 percent of this paper is okay. We need a general statement of our Asian policy. The last such statement dates back to 1969 when we had a different strategy.

Mr. Clements: Well, let’s work on that five percent.

Mr. Habib: The paper does provide good guidelines. If it just sat, people could refer to it and deal with the issues it discusses. I would like to see some debate over the Japanese security role.

Gen. Scowcroft: There are several alternatives to consider. On one extreme we can drop the study now and it would not have any status. On the other extreme, we could write a NSDM based on the study. There is an option in between in which we would draft something for my signature or Jeanne Davis’ signature to send out, saying that this [Page 372] study has been considered and reflects the general guidelines of our Asian policy. This will give it some kind of legitimacy.

Mr. Jordan: We could ask a working group to flesh out the Northeast Asian topics which were slighted, and then make some assessments and surface the issues and meld them into a final paper.

Mr. Habib: What more needs to be said? The Northeast Asian issues are specifically dealt with in this paper.

Mr. Jordan: They are dealt with only in the most general terms. There is just a one sentence assertion.

Mr. Habib: It is not an assertion but a one sentence statement, which if you don’t agree with should be changed. Perhaps the China section could be beefed up?

Mr. Abramowitz: Yes, there is no talk of arms sales to the Chinese.

Mr. Clements: And there is no mention of technological transfer to the Japanese in relation to their military forces.

Mr. Habib: This is not the purpose of this paper.

Mr. Clements: I have now read the Japanese section of this paper. I don’t find that these general guidelines give me an understanding of Japan’s role.

Mr. Habib: Look at pages 13 and 14.

Mr. Abramowitz: Do we never want the Japanese to sell APC’s to Singapore?

Mr. Habib: No, I think we should sell APC’s to Singapore. However, this paper cannot deal with that kind of detail. If we take Joe’s suggestion the paper won’t serve a general umbrella purpose.

Lt. Gen. Smith: It can lead to that, but it doesn’t have to lead to that.

Mr. Abramowitz: I think that the President’s Pacific Doctrine speech offered us a good rubric. There were elements left out where we need some guidance, but they are not covered here. What you have here is motherhood. Do we want an evolving Japanese security role in the area or not?

Gen. Scowcroft: Just because this thing is motherhood doesn’t make it necessary for us to turn our backs on it. There is nothing wrong with motherhood, if it represents a document the Bureaucracy can use as a starting point.

Mr. Habib: Well, it does do that. If we take the middle role you suggested, it does do that.

Lt. Gen. Smith: After we make certain changes.

Mr. Habib: I don’t know why we couldn’t do that before. This is the first time I have heard any Defense Department objections.

Gen. Scowcroft: Would we get something out of it that would be worth the extra effort going into it?

[Page 373]

Mr. Jordan: Why don’t we in Defense pull out that five percent and identify alternate approaches and then put it back into the hopper.

Gen. Scowcroft: That is all right. I do think there is a problem with the Japanese phraseology. We can deal or not deal with the issue.

Mr. Jordan: One-third or less of the NSSM deals with Northeast Asia.

Mr. Barnes: The heart of the problem is pages 12 and 13 and most of that relates to Northeast Asia.

Gen. Scowcroft: My problem with the Korean part of the paper is the use of the word “adjust” in describing what we will do with our forces over the next five years. It is not true that we will “adjust” in any respect to the level of Korean forces. The implication in this study is that we will pull out our forces as things quiet down. That just is not true. Our forces in Korea serve a number of purposes.

Mr. Habib: That is your interpretation. The word “adjustment” can mean a lot of different things.

Gen. Scowcroft: When was the last time we “adjusted” up?

Mr. Habib: A word change would take care of your problem.

Gen. Scowcroft: What we need is a memorandum ratifying this document, saying that it is a useful background document. I just don’t like things like this to go into limbo.

Mr. Habib: We could say that the study would form the basis for more detailed examinations.

Gen. Scowcroft: The working group should meet and make adjustments, and we should then circulate the paper.

Lt. Gen. Smith: Even though the paper contains a lot of motherhood, it also has a lot of good things in it.

Mr. Clements: [4 lines not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [6½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Abramowitz: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [3 lines not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Abramowitz: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [4 lines not declassified]

Mr. Abramowitz: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [1 line not declassified]

Lt. Gen. Walters: [1½ lines not declassified]

[Page 374]

Mr. Habib: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Lt. Gen. Smith: [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Habib: [4 lines not declassified]

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 24, Meeting Minutes—Senior Review Group, June 1976. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Document 67.
  3. Attached, but not printed.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 86.
  5. See footnote 9, Document 86.
  6. See footnote 8, Document 86.
  7. See footnote 7, Document 86.