173. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, May 21, 1973, noon.1 2




  • President Nixon
  • Masayoshi Ohira, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

DATE TIME: Tuesday - May 21, 1974 12: 00 noon
PLACE: The Oval Office
The White House

[The press is admitted for photographs.]

President: I had good visit with Prime Minister Tanaka in Paris [on April 7, at Pompidou funeral]. Please extend my regards to him.

Ohira: I will. Thank you.

President: Where do you go from here?

Ohira: I go to New York tomorrow night.

President: You got a degree? How many have you received?

Ohira: It's my first one.

President: Will you make a speech?

Ohira: No, I was very fortunate.

[The press leaves]

Ohira: I am most honored to have this opportunity to pay a courtesy call on you in what must be a very busy schedule. I first want to convey Prime Minister Tanaka's warmest personal wishes to you. I feel also most honored to be invited to one of the honored universities of the United States — Yale University. I consider it a great honor.

[Page 2]

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had here to meet with American officials yesterday and this morning. Yesterday I spoke with Ambassador Rush and today I renewed my friendship with Ambassador Ingersoll and had a serious discussion with him. I missed Dr. Kissinger here in Washington, but that is abundantly compensated by the fact that his efforts for peace are succeeding under direction of the President. I am pleased not only for the success and dignity of the United States but also for the cause of world peace. I would like to emphasize that our close relationship with the United States provides a firm basis for our foreign policy and is the cornerstone of our efforts to build peace in Asia and the world. We want to build on this relationship and I feel very grateful to discuss this with you today. We feel our close ties with the United States have even greater significance and importance now during a situation in Asia where there is not yet sufficient stability — and in the whole world.

I want to take this opportunity to say that the importance we place on U.S. relationship is also the basis of Prime Minister Tanaka's foreign policy. I want to emphasize this.

President: Jim Hodgson will be my new Ambassador. Although he was Secretary of Labor, he has broader experience. He is a worthy successor to Ingersoll who has moved to broader responsibility for Asian policy.

Ohira: We are indeed looking forward to having Mr. Hodgson with us at the earliest date.

President: I totally agree that the cornerstone of peace in Asia is the U.S.-Japanese relationship. We are the strongest democratic powers in the area, and as we move into an era of peace that will become even more important. It is also important to recognize that Japan and the United States as world economic powers work closely with the European Community.

In the Middle East, I can tell you we have reached a breakthrough in the negotiation on disengagement between Israel and Syria. However, there are difficult odds ant ends to be worked out. We are hopeful they will be. This agreement, coupled with the Israeli-Egyptian agreement, while temporary, bring the possibility for broader talks for peace in the Middle East. We feel that once the momentum begins, while the going will be hard, we can succeed. As we learned last October from an economic standpoint, the impact of war on economies like the U.S. and Japan is catastrophic. That is why we believe that all should support our efforts — which are not selfish efforts — to get the parties together for a peaceful settlement.

[Page 3]

Other areas over the long term which are of even more concern are Japanese relations with the Soviet Union and the PRC. I think the policies of the U.S. and Japan are parallel here. While the Soviet Union and the PRC don't get along too well, our joint policy is to get along with both without taking sides. I note that Japan is proceeding with discussions with the Soviet Union on developing their oil and gas reserves and with increasing trade and contact with the PRC. We think this is correct from a pragmatic point of view, for you and for the United States.

What are the Foreign Minister's ideas on changes in the PRC? Will there be a change in leadership or will it continue?

Ohira: We are trying hard to grasp what is the situation in the PRC and what are the implications. I feel, though, that we don't have an answer. Our relations with the PRC are proceeding naturally and as common sense dictates. Should there be a change in leadership, we must and can continue smooth relations.

President: I feel that whatever leadership change occurs in the Soviet Union and the PRC, while people change, interests remain the same. So, as far as we are concerned, we must be evenhanded. Both will watch us to see we don't tilt to one side or the other.

Ohira: I agree entirely with that point.

On the Siberian development projects, the Prime Minister conveyed to you the status of the projects. I wonder if you have any ideas to express.

President: We look positively on the directions in which you are moving. We think you must move carefully to protect your interests. They need the technology and the money you can bring; they must pay a price to get that cooperation.

As you know, several American companies are interested. While we can't control them, we would welcome cooperation between them and Japanese companies. Any time we can work together it is to our mutual benefit. Japan today does not speak with a big military voice but it speaks with a mighty economic voice, and we trust that in the years ahead more weight will be placed on economic factors.

In the meantime, the U.S. intends to maintain its military strength against the Soviet Union — and they will toward us. We will try to negotiate SALT at the summit; I can't predict what will happen but it will progress. We [Page 4]can't have unilateral reductions of strength around the world, though, because that strength maintains the balance for them as well as for us. Speaking of our mutual security agreement with you — while once the PRC strenuously objected to it three or four years ago, they seem not to object now. That is obviously for pragmatic reasons. A defenseless Japan wouldn't be in their interest, because they couldn't do anything about it — but it might be in the interest of one of the negotiators. Our policy of mutual cooperation is in the interest of keeping a balance throughout the area in the interest of deterring those who might be interested in adventures in the area. I will direct Secretary Kissinger to keep you and Prime Minister Tanaka informed of our negotiations with the Soviet Union and on the Middle East and so on, but primarily on the Soviet Union because they vitally affect you and the Europeans.

Ohira: I am most grateful to you for your remarks. As you stated, there is increasing understanding of the importance of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty — by us, by the PRC, by the Soviet Union and by the Japanese people. We can't be complacent and we must strengthen our ties further.

I appreciate your comments on the Siberian projects, and it is essential for us two to cooperate in these projects.

President: What is the reaction in Japan to India's nuclear explosion?

Ohira: Actually I heard the news in New York and I haven't been able to digest it or get Japan's reaction. We are not shocked substantively and it is not likely to affect our policy substantively.

President: I guess the question is of a chain reaction for others to go nuclear.

Ohira: That is difficult to tell, but I can say that Japan is in no way thinking of going nuclear. Japan doesn't contemplate going nuclear. That is my responsibility and I can say Japan is not going to change its policy.

President: I would not indicate what Japan should do, but I would just point out the increasing likelihood of nuclear war as more states acquire these devices. Of course, the answer is to look to working even harder to strengthen a structure of peace — economically, politically, etc. — so that states will reject the option of force, nuclear or otherwise. It sounds idealistic but there is no other way to approach the problem.

Please convey my best wish to the Prime Minister, to Mr. Fukuda and our other friends in Japan.

[Page 5]

Ohira: I certainly will to Prime Minister Tanaka and your other good friends. Mr. Fukuda will come on June 10 to Washington.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 4. Secret. The conversation took place in the Oval Office. The President’s Daily Diary indicates that the meeting lasted from 12:07 until 12:57 p.m. and included, in addition to the persons listed on the memorandum of conversation, Yasukawa, Okawara, Numata, and the Japanese and American interpreters, Sadaaki Numata and Manabu Fukada. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Nixon and Ohira surveyed international developments, including the naming of a new U.S. Ambassador to Japan.