195. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, September 21, 1974.1 2

Memorandum of Conversation

DATE: September 21, 1974 5:30 pm
The White House

SUBJECT: Prime Minister Tanaka Call on President Ford


  • US
  • The President
  • The Secretary
  • James D. Hodgson, Ambassador to Japan
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, NSC
  • James J. Wickel, Department of State (Interpreter)
  • Kakuei Tanaka, Prime Minister of Japan
  • Toshio Kimura, Foreign Minister
  • Kiyohiko Tsurumi, Deputy Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Takeshi Yasukawa, Ambassador to the United States
  • Hidetoshio Ukawa, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Interpreter)

(Note: Press photographers took pictures during the following informal exchange.)

The President: Welcome to the White House. I wish the weather was better this afternoon. (There was a rain shower during Prime Minister Tanaka's arrival at the White House.)

Prime Minister Tanaka: Thank you Mr. President for taking this time to meet me. More than a year has passed since my last visit to the White House and I wish to come here more often. I have just completed a five-day visit to Brazil. It took nine hours and forty minutes to fly from Brazil to Andrews AFB, first over the green sea of the Matto Grosso, and then over the real sea. I plan to spend tonight in Bermuda, before flying to Canada to begin my visit there. I have come to Washington because I wished to meet you before welcoming you to Japan in November.

The Secretary: Mr. President, you will find the Japanese press amazing. On one visit to Tokyo I gave an off-the-record briefing to a non-governmental group of 30 private [Page 2]Japanese, and was amazed to read a verbatim transcript of it in the press the following day. On asking for the Japanese definition of an off-the-record briefing I was told that "off-the-record" meant that only one member of the group briefs the press on such a meeting.

Prime Minister Tanaka: Your White House photographer (Mr. Kennedy) accompanied me on my first visit to Peking.

The Secretary: Mr. Kennedy was then working for UPI. (Note: At this point the press photographers left the Oval Office.)

The President: It is nice to have you here. As you said, it would be good to meet more often. I look forward to seeing you again in Tokyo.

Prime Minister Tanaka: I offer my warmest congratulations to you on assuming the Presidency.

The President: Thank you.

Prime Minister Tanaka: My congratulations on the assumption of the Presidency by a veteran of the Congress are all the more heartfelt because I myself have served as an elected member of the Diet these past 28 years.

The President: We should understand each other well.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The Government and people of Japan will warmly welcome you Mr. President in November, when you make the first visit to Japan by an incumbent American President; the Japanese have long wished to have a Presidential visit.

The President: Mrs. Ford and I look forward to the visit. I visited Japan several times in the past, but it will be an honor and a privilege to be the first President in history to visit Japan.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The people of Japan are preparing to make your welcome to Japan a memorable major event in the long history of friendly relations between Japan and the United States. I myself have visited the United States once or twice each year; in the past thirteen or fourteen years I visited the White House six times, and hope to return often, at least once a year.

The President: I look forward to your return to Washington; after my own visit to Japan, plans could be made for your next visit to Washington. Your visit would be helpful, in [Page 3]terms of helping to maintain the excellent relations between the United States and Japan.

The Prime Minister: The United States, as the major power in the world, has diplomatic relations with a broad range of nations. However, the fundamental principle of Japan's diplomacy is the maintenance of smooth, friendly relations with the United States; the most important point to note is that this principle was true in the past, is true now and will remain true in the future.

The President: We believe our present relations with Japan are excellent. I know of no serious problems in our relations. There are some things which we could work out, but I know of no tensions or difficulties.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The Mutual Security Treaty is fundamental to Japan's relations with the United States, through which Japan wishes to contribute to peace in the world and Asia. Japan's foreign policy deals with some 147 nations, but Japan's relations with the United States are the most important of all.

The President: I share this feeling, especially in terms of the number of problems we have in common and the leadership we must both show in the Pacific.

The Prime Minister: Japan is a nation lacking in natural resources. Therefore, trade, particularly with the United States, is vital to Japan. During the thirty year's of the post-war period 25 percent of Japan's trade has been conducted with the United States directly, plus an additional 5 percent with American firms with overseas investments, for example, with American oil companies. The fact that 30 percent of Japan's trade, or nearly one-third, is with the United States underlies its importance as a trading partner to Japan. Textiles were a difficult problem, but I did my best to resolve that issue. Also, at one point there was a trade problem, but I am pleased to have fulfilled my promise to restore the trade balance to a healthy situation in a relatively brief period.

The President: Japan may lack a number of natural resources, but the Japanese people are a great resource, which makes up for the deficiencies in coal or other minerals which Japan requires. The people of Japan are a great people. We are delighted to have them as friends. Trade is also important to us. We are now in the process, and I am doing my best to get Congress to enact the necessary legislation to permit me and other members of the Executive Branch to [Page 4]negotiate meaningful reductions of trade barriers to the mutual benefit of all the parties. I hope we won't have any difficult problems like textiles, or difficult trade problems like the one that required us to impose soybean export controls last year. I do not expect any need to impose controls, even though this year's crop is disappointing in some areas. Our crop this year is bigger than last, but not as big as we hoped. Viewed in terms of trade, our relations have benefited both nations, and should be expanded to the further benefit of both.

Prime Minister Tanaka: Japan relies on the United States for 90 percent of its wheat, soybeans and corn. Therefore, the President's assurances that the United States would not impose restrictions on grain exports would be welcome news to the people of Japan, who wish to be assured a stable supply of food.

The President: We took off all production controls on all crops. We are still hopeful that the final crop figures for this summer would exceed the latest forecast, but the final harvest would depend on a number of factors, such as early frost which could affect the corn crop. Next year I will make the greatest effort to increase production again.

Ambassador Hodgson: The importance of this subject to Japan could be illustrated, Mr. President, by the fact that the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry told me, during my recent initial courtesy call, that the nature of the U.S. crop reports which he receives first thing every morning determine whether he has a nervous stomach all day.

Prime Minister Tanaka: I share the views you expressed in your speech at the UN, on such important world problems as inflation, food and energy, including oil. If these are allowed to slide, as up to now, there could be further increases in oil prices or a failure of the world grain crop, either of which could have a severe impact on inflation.

Such developments could pose a grave danger of reducing world trade. Therefore, these matters should be dealt with positively, as major world problems.

The President: I spoke at the UN Wednesday (September 16) stressing the interdependence of the nation's of the world, the oil producers and consumers of energy, as well as the agricultural producers. These must relate to each other, and not fight with each other. It is interesting that the editorial reaction in the United States has not been critical. I was firm, but said some things which had to be said.

[Page 5]

The Secretary: Comments from the UN are also good. I look forward to meeting Saturday at Camp David with Foreign Minister Kimura and Finance Minister Ohira to review the energy problem. Camp David provides the same kind of wooded privacy as Karuizawa where I once met the Prime Minister. I will also see Foreign Minister Kimura at luncheon Friday (September 27).

Prime Minister Tanaka: Former Finance Minister Aichi died suddenly, the evening before he was scheduled to depart Tokyo for Paris to participate in a C-20 meeting.

The Secretary: It was a great privilege to have worked with Aichi, who had been most cooperative and constructive in dealing with problems such as energy.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The original G-10 within the IMF was expanded into the C-20, of which the five key nations, France, United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, United States and Japan, comprise the Committee of Five which discusses important questions.

The Secretary: Mr. Prime Minister, you would be surprised at how many countries think they are important.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The Committee of Five could meet without opposing each other, and discuss problems in a relaxed manner, as if they were in Karuizawa.

The President: I hope that the high-level representatives of these powerful and influential countries of the west can reach some affirmative answers directly relating to the economies of the United States and Japan, and the world.

Prime Minister Tanaka: Japan wishes to cooperate in positive discussions, and hopes these talks will reach some conclusions. Having participated in such discussions myself over the past 13-14 years, concerning the IMF, World Bank, IDA, international liquidity and key currencies, I hope a positive conclusion can be reached, in terms of international political relations. The fact that Giscard d'Estaing, a strong debater, is now President of France, might offer some merit for discussion of specifics. I hope the time is now ripe for this. In my own experience, the United States, Japan and Federal Republic of Germany always see things eye-to-eye, but France disagrees. However, Giscard d'Estaing is now President of France.

The President: Henry has had many enjoyable times negotiating with France, especially with its former Foreign Minister. In fact some people say that Henry even voted for the change in France.

[Page 6]

Prime Minister Tanaka: France, which has been critical of the proposals put forward a number of times by the United States, is now confronted with a situation in which it too must try to resolve these economic problems. Therefore, I hope the Committee of Five will be able to reach a conclusion.

The President: The Brussels Conference reached a good conclusion on the emergency program for energy, leading to good progress and success. France is not a formal participant, but I understand that it might find some way soon to take part without becoming a formal member.

The Secretary: I appreciate Japan's very strong cooperation in this effort.

The President: We have a high regard for Ambassador Yasukawa. In several discussions I have come to know the Ambassador, and consider him a fine representative of the Government and people of Japan.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The most important qualification for an official in the Foreign Ministry is to understand the importance of Japan's relations with the United States; I appointed Yasukawa Ambassador to the United States because he understands this point fully. Within the Foreign Ministry the choice of top position is between the Minister and Ambassador to the United States. Thank you, Mr. President, for your favorable evaluation of Ambassador Yasukawa.

The President: I have seen a number of Ambassadors, but Japan has one of the best.

Ambassador Hodgson: It is worth noting what the Foreign Minister and his associates have done in the past weeks to turn around a difficult and precarious situation through diplomacy and cooperation.

Ambassador Yasukawa: I briefed the Prime Minister on the constructive role played by the United States in helping resolve the Korean dispute.

Prime Minister Tanaka: I understand and appreciate the role played by the United States. The problems of the ROK and Taiwan affect peace in Asia, and are also of great importance when viewed in terms of East-West relations. Japan has historical problems in its relations with each, and I hope that the United States understands that there may be cases in the future, as in the past and present, when it should offer its cooperation and assistance to help smooth relations.

[Page 7]

The President: We have warm and good relations with both nations. We certainly feel that we have a direct relationship with the ROK; we have an excellent relationship with Taiwan. We feel that it would be in the best interest of the United States for Japan to have the same. We are encouraged by the settlement of Japan's difficulties with the ROK. I read about this and was kept informed of developments. It would be unfortunate if relations were to be disrupted, or there were no resolution of the difficulties. We should also work together in the UNGA on the Korean items.

Foreign Minister Kimura: I plan to discuss this with the Secretary on September 27.

Prime Minister Tanaka: The "point" to consider in Japan's relations with the ROK and Taiwan is how these affect the peace in Asia. Therefore, I appreciate the friendly efforts by the United States to help Japan and the ROK settle their differences. I am certain that the Secretary and Minister Kimura will hive a good discussion of this question.

The President: I have no doubts that we have an identical approach to these problems. Some people in the United States are sour and unhappy about the United States role in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, because of the war in Vietnam, but this has been settled by the peace treaty. Thus, we are now free to deal more broadly and concentrate on a broader area of the Pacific. The American people want us to stay in the Pacific and play the same kind of cooperative role we play in the Middle East and Europe, and all areas. Our policy is global, not regional, and we will continue to play a constructive role in the Pacific and Asia.

Prime Minister Tanaka: Thank you Mr. President for these assurances. Also, thank you for the positive cooperation extended by the United States, which has the power to influence the peace of the world, in resolving Japan's difficulties with the ROK. I look forward to welcoming you to Japan in November. Japan had previously invited Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, but neither visit could be realized. In view of the long history of diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States the entire nation would welcome the first visit by an American President.

Ambassador Hodgson: There was a special kind of drama in Japan surrounding the question of your visit, Mr. President. When you took office, there were two questions in Japan: 1) Would you continue United States foreign policy, and 2) what priority would you give to United States-Japan relations. One or your first official actions was to ask the Secretary Lo stay on, which meant there would be no policy [Page 8]change; and second, you met with Ambassador Yasukawa, and accepted an invitation to visit Japan. Thus, in one stroke, both questions were answered.

The President: This will be my first visit abroad. Before November I will briefly visit a border town in Mexico, but not on an official visit.

Prime Minister Tanaka: Japanese etiquette requires that I call on you before welcoming you to Tokyo. Thank you for the opportunity to do so. According to a saying in the Far East, it is easier to meet a man the second time, and by the third meeting they are like brothers. Having met you for the first time when you were in Congress, and for the second time today, I will welcome you to Japan like a brother.

The Secretary: We might tell the press that the President and the Prime Minister reviewed a broad range of bilateral and multilateral matters, including food, energy and trade, and discussed the President's forthcoming visit to Japan.

(Note: The following exchange took place during the walk to the cars.)

Prime Minister Tanaka: I would like to invite you to play golf with me during your visit to Japan.

The President: I accept.

Prime Minister Tanaka (to his aide): Include golf in the schedule and make the arrangements.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 6. Secret; Nodis. The conversation took place in the Oval Office. Drafted by Wickel. As a correction, on page 2, an unknown hand wrote “Kennerly” in the margin, a reference to David Hume Kennerly, Gerald Ford’s White House photographer. A less detailed version of the same conversation, prepared by Scowcroft, is ibid. Kissinger’s briefing memorandum with talking points for Ford is ibid., Presidential Briefing Material for VIP Visits, 1974–76, Box 1, 9/21/74, Japan, Prime Minister Tanaka.
  2. Ford and Tanaka discussed U.S.-Japanese relations and Ford’s anticipated trip to Japan.