167. Conversation Between President Nixon and John B. Connally, Washington, January 31, 1973.1 2

Nixon: John, how are you?

Connally: Hello, I’m surprised to see you. How are you?

Nixon: God, I’m sorry to keep you waiting.

Connally: Not at all. Not at all.

Nixon: You know, I haven’t slept. I have these damn foreigners in here and they—

Connally: [Laughter]

Nixon: In translation, they all run you behind.

Connally: Oh, I’m sure that’s right. You had Sato in here?

Nixon: Yeah. Anyway, I considered it, you know, as a courtesy call with opportunities. And he’s still got respect for former Prime Ministers there, and he is our friend, on the other hand.

Connally: How’s he feeling?

Nixon: I’m giving him a dinner tonight. Oh, Christ, he looks great. He must be 70 years of age, but he just looks great. And he, of course is—we were much better off when he was there than when Tanaka was there. Tanaka’s a very cocky, jingoistic type, and Sato is the old-line, friendly guy, helping the U.S. like Kishi.

Connally: Right.

Nixon: So that’s why we didn’t deny him anything. I—just to sort of keep that Japanese inner circle well soil of mollified to a certain extent, but—but be that as it may, the—We will probably face a situation, but I don’t think it’s going to come while I’m here, but it will come in, certainly, in ten years, it could come in five years, with Japan, a few major problems with us. I think a major problem, not just economically, but I think the Japanese have a—I’m not referring to the Satos or the Tanakas, or people like that. There’s a new breed. The Japanese, basically, are a terribly ambitious, frustrated, dynamic people, and they cannot be captive and they’re going to play whoever they can, and they’ll play all against us. They only thing that keeps them, you know, at the present time somewhat in our corner, is the fact that they use so much economically. We’re a bell of a good customer, balance or trade deficits are good, but as time goes on, the younger elements in Japan are going to become goddamn difficult for us, so that’s why, by that time, you may want to be—you may have to play the China game a little harder to keep the Japanese in. That’s—that’s your future. Who knows?

[Omitted here is a discussion of energy and economic issues.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 845–11. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. The President’s Daily Diary indicates that this discussion occurred as part of a larger conversation between 4:52 and 6:13 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Nixon and Connally discussed Japanese politicians and relations between the United States and Japan.