165. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, January 4, 1973, 5:40 p.m. 1 2



  • Nobuhiko Ushiba, Japanese Ambassador
  • Ryohei Murata, Counselor, Japanese Embassy
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John H. Holdridge, Senior Staff Member, NSC

DATE, TIME: January 4, 1973, 5:40 p.m.
PLACE: Mr. Kissinger's Office

SUBJECT: Discussion Between Mr. Kissinger and Ambassador Ushiba on Japanese Government Appeal to the U.S. and Hanoi on the Vietnam War

Ambassador Ushiba asked if Mr. Kissinger was going to Paris on January 7, and Mr. Kissinger confirmed that he would indeed be departing on that date. Ambassador Ushiba wished Mr. Kissinger success. Mr. Kissinger thanked the Ambassador.

Mr. Kissinger said that before going on to what the Ambassador wished to discuss, he himself wanted to convey—on the assumption that what he said would not be in the newspapers—some thoughts of the President on recent developments in U.S.-Japanese relations. What he, Mr. Kissinger, wanted to do was to express the President's irritation and almost indignation at the communication which we had received from the Japanese Government with respect to Vietnam. As a result of this communication, the President bad actually ordered him not to see the Ambassador, and the only reason the appointment was taking place was because he had told the President that the Ambassador was going back to Tokyo to report to the Japanese Cabinet. The President had asked him to tell the Ambassador that if Japan continues to treat an enemy of the U.S. on an equal basis with us, and to inform three other governments before telling us what it was doing, it could then no longer expect special relations with the White House, and we would have to deal with Japan as we would with any other government. As far as we were concerned, this was the most serious blot which had [Page 2]occurred in our relationship since the present Administration had been in the White House. It was to be hoped that Ambassador Ushiba's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister understood this fact.

Ambassador Ushiba wondered what it was that we objected to in the communication—was it the content or the timing? Mr. Kissinger indicated that first, we didn't appreciate the simultaneous approach. We considered that the U.S.-Japan relationship was different from the one which Japan maintained with Hanoi, but Japan had approached an enemy and a friend simultaneously. Then, the Japanese communication had also discriminated against us over the bombing. Ambassador Ushiba protested that the bombing had not been mentioned, and that the Japanese Government had wanted to avoid bringing this subject up. Mr. Kissinger emphasized in reply that the criticism of the bombing could be derived from the context of the communication.

Continuing, Mr. Kissinger said that, thirdly, we were not the ones who had broken up the talks. So, frankly, we had objected to the message itself, its content, and the fact that other governments had been informed about it. It had to be said that the President's reaction was extremely negative. Ambassador Ushiba stated that this was contrary to all expectations in Tokyo, and he would report what Mr. Kissinger had said. Mr. Kissinger cautioned that the President's reaction would be even more negative if this matter were leaked to the press; therefore, it was best that Ambassador Ushiba reported orally.

Mr. Kissinger said that calling Ambassador Ushiba's attention to this whole situation was the major thing he had wanted to accomplish in this conversation. He would not even have been permitted to see Ambassador Ushiba if the Ambassador were not going back to Tokyo—this might give some feeling for the intensity of the President's reaction.

Ambassador Ushiba declared that what Mr. Kissinger had just said was unexpected, and that he would certainly let people in Tokyo know about it.

Turning to the subject of the Paris talks, Ambassador Ushiba asked how things looked. Mr. Kissinger replied that we wouldn't know until next week. We couldn't tell in advance, and would just have to see how it goes. Ambassador Ushiba said he hoped that Mr. Kissinger would be successful "this time"—of course he had been successful through the whole period, but this might be the most important moment. Mr. Kissinger said in response that allies who had some degree of [Page 3]reliance on the U.S. shouldn't want us to settle the Vietnam war on any terms at all. Ambassador Ushiba agreed. Mr. Kissinger went on to say that if we could get a reasonable agreement, we were of course eager to settle. We would of course also keep the Japanese Government informed as to any developments, but at this point there had been no essential change. The only new thing was that the technical talks had been resumed.

Mr. Kissinger asked Ambassador Ushiba when the latter would be returning from Tokyo. Ambassador Ushiba stated that he would return around the 15th of January, to which Mr. Kissinger remarked that he himself hoped to be back then, too.

Ambassador Ushiba asked about the position of Saigon—had there been any change? There were many rumors going around to the effect that Saigon had altered its stand against a settlement. Mr. Kissinger cautioned that not too much credence should be given to rumors. He himself believed personally that there wouldn't be any change until there was a clear outcome arrived at in Paris.

Ambassador Ushiba wondered if, apart from the Vietnam situation, there was some message from Mr. Kissinger that he should tell his Ministers. Mr. Kissinger observed that if it hadn't been for the Japanese Government appeal on Vietnam, he would have said that U.S.-Japan relations were basically good Of course, we had the perennial problem of the trade deficit, which was still very much with us. For our part, though, we were eager for the closest relations between Japan and the U.S., and would continue along the lines laid down at the Hawaii meeting, which the President remembered with so much pleasure. Basically, our relationship was good. Ambassador Ushiba said he realized that the trade problem was very urgent, but believed that Prime Minister Tanaka would tackle it. Ambassador Ushiba asked who was in charge of the natural gas deal with the Soviet Union. Mr. Kissinger replied that this would probably be Secretary Schultz. Ambassador Ushiba asked if Mr. Kissinger could let him know for sure later on. Mr. Kissinger agreed to do so. By the time he returned from Paris he would know. For the present, Secretary Peterson was still in charge of the Committee handling this matter, but later on it would probably he handled jointly by Secretary Schultz, Mr. Flanigan, and Mr. Kissinger himself.

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Ambassador Ushiba raised the question of the possibility of an energy statement—would one be forthcoming? Mr. Kissinger replied in the affirmative, but added that he expected things to go on for a time much as they were at present.

Ambassador Ushiba brought up the subject of a visit to the U.S. by the Emperor. He had already discussed this matter with Ambassador Johnson. Mr. Kissinger ascertained from Ambassador Ushiba that no specific date had yet been set, and said that we would look into this matter and set a date within the next month.

Ambassador Ushiba mentioned that former Japanese Prime Minister Sato was planning to pay a visit to the United States. Mr. Kissinger noted on this score he was certain that the President would see Mr. Sato. In response to a query from Ambassador Ushiba, he indicated that no firm date had been set as yet, but that he had recommended a meeting with Mr. Sato to the President and was certain that the President would agree. The President had great admiration for Mr. Sato, and would surely want to have a good long talk with him. Without the textile problem to interfere, there would be no problem. Ambassador Ushiba indicated his agreement.

Mr. Kissinger reiterated his belief that relations between Japan and the U.S. were on a good basis. Evidently misunderstanding this remark, Ambassador Ushiba stated that the question of U.S. bases in Japan was on the way to a solution. He had personally discussed this question with the Defense Department, and had found that people there had a good understanding of the issues.

Switching the conversation back to economics, Ambassador Ushiba said that from the remarks made earlier he surmised that Mr. Kissinger was still more-or-less concerned with Japan's economic problems with the U.S. as well as with the political ones. Mr. Kissinger replied that he was afraid so. According to Ambassador Ushiba, Mr. Kissinger's continued involvement in economics was "a good thing."

Mr. Kissinger mentioned smilingly that the U.S.'s Vietnamese friends were madder at him than were the Japanese. The Japanese had pulled ahead of us with respect to China, and therefore had no reason to be mad. Ambassador Ushiba laughed, and seized upon this remark to ask what had happened in U.S. relations with the PRC. He assumed that there would be no immediate changes, but were we leaping forward or backward? Mr. Kissinger replied that we were not in a race with the Japanese with respect to the PRC, but it was certainly fair to say that there had been no [Page 5]leaping backwards. Ambassador Ushiba raised the possibility of a leap forward when the Vietnam war was over, to which Mr. Kissinger commented that while this was conceivable, there were no present plans. Ambassador Ushiba wondered about U.S. recognition of the PRC, and Mr. Kissinger indicated that there was no reason to expect recognition soon.

Ambassador Ushiba asked, was there any chance that Mr. Kissinger would pay Japan a visit this year? Mr. Kissinger said in reply that his previous visit to Japan had been a good idea, and if the Japanese were interested he would be willing to make another one in late spring or early summer.

Ambassador Ushiba referred to the fact that there would be a U.S.-Japan Cabinet-level meeting in June or July; Mr. Kissinger noted in response that Secretary Rogers would go to this meeting. Ambassador Ushiba then stated that Prime Minister Tanaka was planning on paying a visit to the United States. Mr. Kissinger emphasized that the Prime Minister could count on that; there was no question about it. The visit had been agreed upon in Hawaii. It then became apparent from further remarks from Ambassador Ushiba that the Japanese wanted to be able to announce the date for the Prime Minister's visit at the time that the Emperor's visit was announced. Mr. Kissinger suggested that a specific proposal should be made, and we would get the Japanese an answer. He directed Mr. Holdridge to take care of this particular matter. He further suggested to Ambassador Ushiba that during the latter's visit to Tokyo it would be helpful if he could find out what the Prime Minister's thinking was regarding a visit to the U.S. Ambassador Ushiba agreed.

Ambassador Ushiba raised the question of a possible Presidential visit to Europe. Mr. Kissinger said that he had read about this in the newspapers, but we had no particular plan. When the war in Vietnam ended—that is, assuming it ended—then a Presidential visit to Europe might be possible.

Ambassador Ushiba asked about the SALT talks, to which Mr. Kissinger simply indicated that they were progressing, but there was nothing much to say about them at this time. He didn't have any idea as to when the CSEC might take place, but felt that there might be meetings by September on mutual force reductions.

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Ambassador Ushiba observed that the President had exercised strong leadership with respect to economic and monetary questions. Would there be any opposition in Congress? Mr. Kissinger said that this seemed to have been our fate—we encountered Congressional opposition all the time, and this particular President had never had a Congress composed of a majority from his own Party. He agreed with a statement from Ambassador Ushiba that we could count on the President's strong leader ship.

Mr. Kissinger briefly mentioned that we were very much interested in developing further the relationships which the advanced countries maintained with one another. By advanced countries, he meant the Western European nations, the U.S., and Japan. Ambassador Ushiba expressed interest in this concept.

In conclusion, Mr. Kissinger suggested that Ambassador Ushiba might wish to get in touch again following his return from Japan.

(Note: following Mr. Kissinger's remarks concerning the Japanese Government's communication on Vietnam, Ambassador Ushiba appeared to be extremely embarrassed and ill at ease—manifested in typical Japanese fashion by a great deal of giggling.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 538, Country Files, Far East, Japan, January–June 1973, vol. 9. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office. On January 3, John Holdridge provided talking points for Kissinger’s meeting with Ushiba and attached telegram 232944 to Tokyo, December 28, 1972, which contained the text of a message that Ushiba gave to U. Alexis Johnson on December 27, 1972, appealing to the United States to resume Vietnam peace negotiations as quickly as possible. (Ibid.)
  2. Kissinger criticized the Japanese government’s Vietnam message and discussed the state of U.S.-Japanese relations with Ambassador Ushiba.