189. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, May 21, 1974, noon.1 2



  • Masayoshi Ohira, Foreign Minister of Japan
  • Takeshi Yasukawa, Japanese Ambassador to the United States
  • Yoshio Okawara, Director General for American Affairs, Foreign Ministry
  • Sadaaki Numata, Interpreter
  • The President
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Manabu Fukuda, Interpreter

DATE, TIME, AND PLACE: May 21, 1974, 12:00 noon
The White House

SUBJECTS: (1) U.S.-Japan Alliance; (2) Middle East Situation; (3) Sino-Soviet Relations; (4) U.S.-Japan Cooperation on Siberian Resource Development; (5) Indian Nuclear Test; (6) Finance Minister Fukuda's Coming Visit to U.S.

Ohira Reaffirms U.S.-Japan Alliance

After an exchange of greetings, Ohira emphasized that close ties with the U.S. remain the essential element of Japan's foreign policy. The U.S. and Japan must continue their efforts to maintain close and firm ties as the basis for peace in Asia and the world. Although both nations have maintained their ties with care, they must not become complacent at this time. Continued efforts to maintain close relations are essential, since the situation in Asia and the world remains unstable. He emphasized the importance with which Tanaka personally views relations with the U.S.

The President began by discussing Mr. Hodgson's appointment. He said he has total confidence in Hodgson and thought he would be a worthy successor to Ambassador Ingersoll. He thought that Hodgson could work well with the Japanese.

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The President said he totally agreed with Ohira's comments on the importance to Asia and the world of U.S.-Japan relations. The U.S. and Japan are both powerful nations, and they must make every effort to achieve an era of peace. It is also important to recognize that Japan and U.S. are major economic powers of the free world.

Middle East Situation

Turning to the Middle East, the President said there are signs of a breakthrough in our effort to achieve peace. Although a solution is still difficult — there are many odds and ends to be resolved — there is hope that something significant will come out of the current negotiations. Both Syria and Egypt are now negotiating with Israel. While a solution at this time may be temporary, we think we can lay the foundation for broader agreement later. The achievement of peace in the Middle East is in the interest of all the nations involved, and we think there is now momentum in that direction.

From an economic standpoint, the effects of the October war were quite large, especially for countries like Japan. All nations should support our efforts to achieve a solution to the energy problem. Our efforts are not selfish; others will benefit, too.

Sino-Soviet Relationship

The President said that the U.S. and Japan are pursuing parallel courses on relations with the PRC. The USSR and the PRC are still not getting along. He asked Ohira if he had any views on the possibility of a change in leadership in the PRC.

Ohira said that he is trying to digest the situation, but he could not at this time make a clear statement of future prospects. Japan and China are now pursuing a course based on common interests and have fairly smooth relations. The best course is one of natural development. Even if there is a change in leadership, Japan believes it can get along with China.

The President said that whatever change of leadership might take place in either the Soviet Union or the PRC it will not mean a drastic change in relations. He emphasized that it is essential that we continue an evenhanded treatment of both the PRC and the USSR, because both countries are watching to see how we might tilt.

U.S.-Japan Cooperation on Siberian Resource Development

Foreign Minister Ohira noted that Prime Minister Tanaka had sent a letter to the President on Siberian development. He asked for the President's comments on the Japanese position as stated in that letter.

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The President said we look on this as being a positive direction to pursue. However, he cautioned Ohira to be very careful in negotiating with the Soviets. Japan must protect its interests; they need Japan's technology, but they must pay the price not in money but in diplomacy. The United States cannot control any nation, and we welcome cooperative endeavors with the Soviets or any other country. He said that Japan today does not speak from a background of military power but that it does speak from economic strength. During the years ahead, he said, we trust that Japan's power will continue to be in the economic sphere.

The President went on to say that the U.S. must maintain its military power because of the Soviet Union. He indicated that he expects the summit conference to be difficult. There will be hard negotiations ahead on strategic arms, he said, but we expect some progress to be made. This, he said, will be good for the free world, but the U.S. cannot unilaterally reduce its military strength in ether Asia or Europe. Peace must be obtained from strength.

U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty

On the Security Treaty with Japan, the President noted that the Chinese objected to the Treaty three or four years ago but not today. This change obviously stems from pragmatic reasons. The maintenance of the security relationship with Japan is essential in maintaining balance in Asia and in an effort to bring about some restraint among the major nations there. He said he would have Secretary Kissinger keep the channels open for informing Japan on U.S.-Soviet negotiations on arms limitations as well as the Middle East situation.

Foreign Minister Ohira said that Japan understands the importance of the Mutual Security Treaty. He said the situation seems healthy now, but that sound development must continue. He reiterated that we must not be complacent. He thanked the President for his comments on the Siberian projects and emphasized that Japan hopes to secure U.S. cooperation in Siberia.

Indian Nuclear Test

The President asked Ohira for his views on the Indian nuclear test. Ohira said that he had had no time to consider the situation since he was away from Japan at the time of the test. He said that Japan, as a nation with a potential nuclear capability, will do nothing to cause worries in that regard. Japan will not go nuclear. Ohira said that Japan's policy on this matter is now his prime concern, but that he firmly believes that Japanese policy will not change.

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The President said that he did not want to attempt to dictate to Japan on this matter but that, philosophically speaking, there will be an increasing danger of world-wide nuclear war if more and more nations acquire a nuclear capability. He said that the answer to that problem is, of course, very difficult, but that we must strengthen the structure of peace through our common interests both economic and political. Nations, whatever power they have, must reject the use of nuclear weapons.

Finance Minister Fukuda's Coming U.S. Visit

At the conclusion of the meeting, Ohira said that Finance Minister Fukuda will be in the United States around June 10 and would like to meet with the President. The President said he would be happy to meet with Fukuda, if he (the President) is here.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1029, Presidential/HAK Memcons, 1 June 1974– [8 August 1974] [3 of 3]. Secret; Sensitive. The conversation took place in the Oval Office. On May 14, Yasukawa sent Nixon a memorandum stating the Government of Japan’s position regarding Siberian development. (Ibid., Box 1337, NSC Unfiled Material, 1974, 1 of 9) Springsteen suggested that no response to the Japanese memorandum was necessary, but recommended that Nixon refer to it during his May 21 meeting with Ohira. (Memorandum from Springsteen to Scowcroft, May 17; ibid.)
  2. Nixon and Ohira discussed the U.S.-Japan alliance, the Middle East, Sino-Soviet relations, Siberian development, and India’s nuclear test.