338. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President’s First Meeting with Prime Minister Miki


  • Prime Minister Takeo Miki
  • Foreign Minister Kiichi Miyazawa
  • Ambassador Takeshi Yasukawa
  • Toshiki Kaifu, House of Representatives and Deputy Cabinet Secretary
  • Sadaaki Numata, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)
  • The President
  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador James D. Hodgson
  • General Brent Scowcroft, NSC
  • James J. Wickel, Department of State (Interpreter)

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

[Page 986]


Miki: Turning to Europe, Mr. President, you just returned from there last night. In everyone’s eyes the European Security Agreement appears to have resulted from Soviet efforts to realize their original concept of freezing the status quo in Europe. I am aware that the United States and other nations attached conditions to their acceptance of participation in the Helsinki Conference, but what I wish to ask, Mr. President, is what is your foremost diplomatic objective in the United States’ Soviet policy?

President: First, let me comment on the CSCE. I believe there is a lack of sufficient background information on what the CSCE really does. In the first place, with respect to borders, it reaffirms the borders agreed to in treaties signed in 1947 and 1948, and nothing further, except in the case of Germany, where the CSCE reaffirms the borders agreed to by West Germany in 1971. Therefore, the CSCE does nothing more than reaffirm borders agreed to in 1947, 1948 and 1971. This point is not well enough understood.

Second, the CSCE Agreement adds an element of integrity and morality, in terms of the right way of doing things, so that the Soviet Union would not do again what it did in the cases of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The Eastern Europeans, if I may interpret what they said in the meetings and elsewhere, believe the CSCE is a document that will prevent the kinds of action from being taken as in the instances I described. They do not say this is guaranteed, but they seem to feel they have added protection that they didn’t have before. In that sense CSCE is constructive. We will have a meeting in Belgrade in 1977, to review what happens in the subsequent two years.

My endorsement of CSCE is based on the good faith of those who agreed to it, including the Soviets. I expect all 35 signatories to live up to the agreement language.

In our relations with the Soviet Union we do not agree with their system (nor do they agree with ours). We do not feel that détente between the Soviets and the United States is a solution to all the world’s problems, but it can be used, and has been in some cases, to ease tensions and avoid confrontations. I expect it to continue as a vehicle for those purposes.

Détente is a two-way street; it is not all one-way for the Soviets (and won’t be as long as I am President). It is a mechanism for use at a time of rising tensions and confrontation. In some cases it has been disappointing, in other cases helpful. I do not mean that it is one-sided. It is mutually beneficial, and hopefully, can help solve some of the problems facing the world.

[Page 987]

Secretary: If I may add a word, Mr. President, the debate about CSCE is totally cynical. It is generated by those who for 20 years advocated the exact opposite of what they now say. As the President has said, there are two realities in Europe, frontiers and political influence. There has been Yalta,2 and then the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 and 1948,3 and the German Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971.4 As a result there are no contested frontiers in Europe. To talk about frontiers is to reaffirm Treaties and legal language.

The political influence of the Soviets in Eastern Europe is not related to this conference. The Soviet Union has some 40,000 tanks between the Urals and the Elbe, and no Western nation wants to build that many tanks. Until someone does these critics are only engaging in an exercise of expressing demogogic platitudes.

I’m talking very frankly, but then I didn’t have much sleep last night. I’m reading a new novel about Japan (“Shogun”) and realize everything I’m doing is totally wrong.

Strategically we wish to weaken Soviet political influence in Eastern Europe, not confirm it. And we believe we can weaken it more effectively by détente than we could by cold war. During the cold war period we could use military force, but under détente we must use diplomacy.

If the President can be welcomed by tens of thousands as he was in Warsaw, Bucharest, Kracow, and Belgrade, this weakens the Soviet Union. This could not have happened without détente.

We are under no illusions about the Soviet Union. If they have the opportunity to use pressure, they will do so. We (and you) must adopt positions that our domestic opponents can’t attack if we have to resist. I used the example yesterday of the prize–ring–is it better for us to fight flat-footed in mid-ring where we can be hit easily, or to move around and make ourselves harder to hit? Then if the Soviets do something, and we can tell our people we have done all we can for peace, we will be in a stronger position to resist.

If we look at the Middle East, détente has not helped the Soviet Union. We do not aim at hegemony, and dividing the world between us, because that would be suicidal. We wish to contain the Soviet Union [Page 988] with modern methods, which are not those of the cold war period but are entirely new.


Miki: Based on the outcome of the CSCE conference what prospects do you see for further progress in SALT and MBFR?

President: I had two meetings with General Secretary Brezhnev,5 in which we made some headway on SALT. There are some problems which are very technical, and some which are very fundamental. I believe the odds on an agreement are better than 50–50, but not certain. We will continue to negotiate. I believe that SALT is in the interest of the entire world as well as US-Soviet relations. We will continue to work at it, but we will insist that whatever materializes must be mutually beneficial.

Regarding MBFR, we recognize that the negotiations have been stalled for some time. We are working with our European allies to try to develop a position that might move the talks forward, but this depends on the reaction the Soviets have.

We believe that a MBFR that reduces military forces on an equitable basis is in the best interest of Europe, but the talks are stalemated. We hope the Soviets will be as flexible as we will. We will continue to work closely with our allies so that our efforts will lead to greater unity and not split us.

When are the MBFR talks scheduled to reconvene, Henry?

Secretary: September, Mr. President.

CSCE Effect on Asia

Miki: Turning to the repercussions generated in Asia by the CSCE, the Soviets extended an invitation on July 30 to (LDP Diet Member) Hirohide Ishida, Chairman of the Japan-Soviet Parliamentarians Friendship Association, to hold a meeting to discuss an Asian Security Conference.

In the long term, although it may not be visible yet except in special circumstances, what the Asians are most sensitive to is Soviet and Chinese influence in Asia. The Chinese, for example, view the Asian Security Conference proposed by the Soviets as an attempt to encircle them …

Secretary: they’re right.

Miki: … and therefore oppose any third nation hegemony. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship Japan is negotiating with China, as you know, has been stalled by opposition to the inclusion of the hegemony [Page 989] clause. It is obvious that the Chinese are vigilant against any increase in Soviet influence in Asia. What do you feel will be the effect of the CSCE on this trend in Asia, in the context of Soviet influence?

President: First let me speak about the United States’ relations with the People’s Republic. Our relations were initiated by Mr. Nixon. I fully support these relations, and believe they are of vital importance. I expect to go to the People’s Republic sometime late this fall. I feel that our relations are moving along on schedule. The Shanghai document6 is the basis for continuing and expanding our relations. I see no serious problem developing in that regard.

We all recognize that there is competition in Asia between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic. We believe that our continuing relations with China are important in maintaining stability in Asia, and we will make every effort, in a responsible manner, to broaden our relations with the People’s Republic. Secondly, we epect to maintain continued close relations with your government, Mr. Prime Minister. We feel this is vitally important for the stability and security of the Pacific. I have been encouraged by our discussions in Japan, and this morning. Tomorrow we can reaffirm the importance of our relations.

I recognize there are problems in the Pacific area, not in our relations but in peripheral areas. We should be frank in discussing those relations, as they refer to relations between the United States and Japan.

Therefore, we seek to broaden our relations with China, while maintaining and strengthening our relations with Japan. This will have an impact on the influence of the Soviet Union in the Pacific area. Henry, have you anything to add?

Secretary: I was asked in Helsinki about an Asian collective security conference, and said if there is such a meeting, it would take place without the United States. I do not think Asia can be compared with the situation in Europe.

Miki: I agree.

Secretary: We will not participate in an Asian collective security conference, or anything of that kind.

Second, we believe the Soviet Union is trying to encircle China, and in no way do we wish to participate. China has its own aspirations, and in ten years may cause trouble for all of us, including Japan, but at the present time it is not in our interest to weaken China. Therefore, we will not cooperate with the Soviets in any anti-Chinese maneuver in Asia. It was for that reason that we signed the Shanghai [Page 990] Communiqué, with its hegemony clause. We knew what we were doing, and made it explicit.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 14. Secret. Drafted by Wickel. The meeting took place at the White House. The following day, Ford, Kissinger, and Scowcroft discussed the meeting with Miki. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “The President: What I told the Japanese about Helsinki is already in the paper. Kissinger: They simply leak everything. They are unbelievably tricky.” The conversation continued: “President Ford: I have to be away giving a speech to the American Legion. I thought I would discuss détente. Kissinger: You should also discuss SALT and CSCE. I think you should lay it on the line: What in the hell have we given up or ratified at Helsinki? The Democrats want me to assure them I won”t speak next year. The President: That shows one thing–they are scared. Don’t you promise anything.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 282, Presidential File, Memoranda of Conversation, 1975 August, Folder 2)
  2. Relevant extracts from the Protocol of Proceedings of the Crimea (Yalta) Conference, February 11, 1945, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 10–12.
  3. Presumably Kissinger is referring to the Paris Agreements of 1954 between the three Western powers and the Federal Republic of Germany. For the text of the agreements, see ibid., pp. 425–431.
  4. Kissinger is apparently referring to the Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union, signed at Moscow on August 12, 1970, commonly referred to as the Moscow Treaty. For the text of the treaty, see ibid., pp. 1103–1105.
  5. See Document 329.
  6. For the Shanghai Communiqué of February 27, 1972, between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, see Department of State Bulletin, March 20, 1972, pp. 435–438.