58. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

[Omitted here is dissussion unrelated to arms control]

Kissinger: Now, just a minor thing. In the letter in which they are transmitting this thing [the SALT agreement] to Congress, we asked the Arms Control Agency to draft it—and it actually had already passed through my office and was on the way to your office.

Nixon: Um-huh.

Kissinger: It said “This culminates a twenty-five years of consistent American policy” -

Nixon: Oh Christ!

Kissinger: - “to bring nuclear weapons under control.” Well, I changed this to say, “This represents the efforts of this administration, pursued from 1969 on” -

Nixon: Right! Of course!

Kissinger: - “to” -

Nixon: The nuclear policy over 25 years, now that’s a pure Smith gripe. You know that, as if—you know—he tries to say—his whole line has been, Henry, that this is the outgrowth of the Nonproliferation Treaty. It has not a goddamn thing to do with the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the Test Ban treaty and all the rest. This is nuts. I wasn’t for those things, not really.

Kissinger: I wasn’t either.

Nixon: I supported nonproliferation because we had to. But you see, Smith, Bob, is always trying to put it as if—you know why that is? The son-of-a-bitch is trying to give credit to the Democrats. Do you agree?

Kissinger: Of course. If it is an obligation entered into as a result of the Nonproliferation Treaty it’s a—we didn’t support—since we didn’t negotiate the Nonproliferation Treaty. It isn’t our record.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: So, again on my way to Japan, on my trip to Japan, the State Department was bugging the daylights out of me and I was getting briefing papers, letters, planted questions, if I would publicly support the Nonproliferation Treaty in Japan and squeeze the Japanese government.

Nixon: I hope you didn’t.

Kissinger: I didn’t. I sort of mumbled around where ever the ambassador was present. But I told Sato and Fukuda privately that what you said in San Clemente is our policy.

[Kissinger is apparently referring to a January 7, 1972, meeting at San Clemente between the President and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. According to a memorandum of that conversation, Sato asked the President whether Japan should move rapidly to ratify the NPT and he replied as follows: “Each nation should handle this problem in the light of its own circumstances. It is not a matter for us to decide and we respect the right of each nation to decide for itself in the light of its own desires. The United States…is not exerting pressure. In fact…Japan might take its time and thus keep any potential enemy concerned.” According to the memorandum, Nixon then asked Sato to “forget the preceding remark.” The record of the meeting was attached as tab B to a January 21, 1972, memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger at the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Office Files, Box 1025, Pres./HAK Memcons, President/PM Sato, Jan 6–7, 1972.]

Haldeman: [unclear] have any problem?

Kissinger: No, but—

Nixon: [unclear] has to report it, Bob. [unclear]

Kissinger: No, he’s a decent guy, incidentally.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: He’s a good guy.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: And this trip does him a lot of good.

Nixon: Yeah, because he got to go the—

Kissinger: Yeah, he got to—

Nixon: Let me say, the State [Department] always puts that Nonproliferation Treaty in there. You know what the reason is? The State Department bureaucracy considers that to be theirs, Henry. Really, it’s a selfish damn thing. Now listen, the Nonproliferation Treaty has nothing to do with the security of the United States of America. You know very well.

Kissinger: It’s made at the expense of other countries.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: And basically—we can’t say this publicly—I sort of would like to see [text not declassified].

Nixon: That’s right. I support it too.

[Omitted here is discussion Kissinger’s recent trip to Japan.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 732–11. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the tape recording published here specifically for this volume.
  2. The President and Kissinger discussed the NPT and the Department of State’s effort to get Kissinger to urge Japanese ratification of the treaty while visiting that nation.