41. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, September 27, 1973.1 2



  • Norman E. Kirk, Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • Frank H. Corner, New Zealand Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • Lloyd White, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States
  • The President
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • John A. Froebe, Jr., Staff Member, National Security Council

DATE, TIME AND PLACE: September 27, 1973, 10:40 - 11:40 a.m.
The Oval Office

SUBJECT: Basic U.S. foreign policy posture; Japan’s role in Asia; Declaration of Principles; U.S. - New Zealand cooperation in science research; South Pacific development; U.S. - New Zealand bilateral trade.

The President: [After an initial exchange of pleasantries during the press photo opportunity] I regret that I never got to New Zealand during World War II. I did see Guadalcanal, Noumea, and the New Hebrides. Confidentially, I can recall that our fighter pilots when they got leave preferred taking it in New Zealand rather than Australia. They were offered either Sidney or Auckland. Auckland was almost invariably the preferred place.

Prime Minister Kirk: I can remember well when the Japanese came. I also remember earlier in the war when the Prince of Wales and the Repulse went down.

The President: Yes. That was the end of the era of the battleships.

[Page 02]

Secretary Corner: It was also the end of the British in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Kirk: I was interested to see at a recent celebration of the Coral Sea victory that about one-half of the Americans attending had New Zealand wives. This also shows the strong relationship that exists between our two countries.

The President: I was in New Zealand in 1953 for three days. I remember New Zealand as a beautifully green country. I met with members of all three of your parties, who told me that New Zealand lives on grass. They also said that I must see the South Island while I was there.

Secretary Corner: The Prime Minister, you know, is from the south.

The President: Then I said the right thing! The south has spectacular scenery.

Prime Minister Kirk: Most of my country’s population is presently drifting north. Now more than half of the population is located on the North Island.

Basic U.S. Foreign Policy Posture

The President: I want you to know that we are very happy to have you here, Mr. Prime Minister. I look forward to seeing you again this evening. I am sorry that your wife is not here also. All who will be at the dinner tonight will be your friends, and they will include both Democrats and Republicans.

I noted from your U.N. General Assembly speech of yesterday that you put emphasis on the relationship between small and large nations. I want you to know that I feel very strongly that, although we have met with the Chinese and the Russians — and I have emphasized this point to the State Department and to Secretary Kissinger — we must remember that each nation is important to U.S. policy. Who can say where the next leadership will come from. Bolivia and the Ivory Coast will be here next week — but I am not putting New Zealand at that level. We [the U.S. and New Zealand] have our differences, but our goals are the same.

One last point — and Secretary Kissinger may have mentioned this in his U.N. General Assembly speech — some may say that the U.S. is interested [Page 03] only in the balance of power. We are deeply concerned that Japan does not feel it has to turn toward the Soviet Union, that the Chinese do not feel they have to turn inwardly, and that the Soviets do not turn toward an adventuristic policy. I would also mention our concern for the European Community, within which there are many differences. However, when you look across this great spectrum, what matters finally are people. We are vitally interested not in a paternalistic relationship with our allies, but in one that grows out of mutual respect.

That is our basic position. Secretary Kissinger may want to add something to that.

Secretary Kissinger: I have nothing to add, Mr. President.

Prime Minister Kirk: But when you’re only three million people, you can pursue only political solutions. New Zealand is the odd man out. There are some considerable hurdles to get over. New Zealand intends to follow independent policies, but proceeding from the principle of mutual respect between nations.

Japanese Question

Prime Minister Kirk: We think that the next few years are extremely critical for Japan. Japan must not feel isolated. For this reason the GATT negotiations which have just gotten underway are terribly important. If we can avoid isolating Japan through trade, then within five to six years through regionalization — which would include the PRC and the Indonesians (who are also scared of Japan) — we may be able to avert this danger. We hope that through bilateral arrangements we can create a regional association that all pull them together in efforts aimed at self-help.

The President: By region are you referring to Southeast Asia?

Prime Minister Kirk: In general, yes. I would also include the South Pacific states, but not necessarily India.

Secretary Kissinger: From our experience, India would be hard to include in such an organization.

[Page 04]

Prime Minister Kirk: A basic objective would be to stimulate Japan to contribute more toward the development of the region. We would hope to create common interests that will hold Japan and the nations of the region together. New Zealand will try to get close to the ASEAN countries, working through bilateral arrangements. For example, we are now talking to Malaysia about new immigration arrangements. We have worked out with Malaysia a mutual immigration scheme. It is a scheme that is within realistic limits. It provides for an equal number of immigrants going each way, and is not based on racial discrimination.

The President: If you can carry this out, you are indeed a masterful politician.

Prime Minister Kirk: New Zealand has already accepted 50,000 Polynesian islanders.

The President: Are they able to get New Zealand citizenship?

Prime Minister Kirk: Yes, they receive New Zealand citizenship. We are now accepting about 1,500 Polynesian islanders a year. Interestingly, as Prime Minister I represent more Cook Islanders than there are in the Cook Islands.

We found that if you disperse new immigrants well and provide them with technical training and employment, they can be absorbed. In addition, we cannot very well tell Asians, “We want an equal relationship with you but don’t want your people.”

So as I indicated, we have been discussing this with Malaysia. We have also been interested in U.S. immigration. But your citizens do not want to give up their U.S. citizenship if they come to New Zealand. What we in New Zealand need is some sort of dual citizenship for these Americans.

The President (to Secretary Kissinger): Do we have this with Israel?

Secretary Kissinger: Israel gives them dual citizenship. But we do not recognize this. The U.S. legal position is that we cannot recognize dual citizenship.

Prime Minister Kirk: We would like to have dual citizenship since we believe that immigrants should be able to participate fully in the life of [Page 05] the country to which they go. Also, there would be no better bond between our two countries.

The President: Right! Trade is good but people are better.

Secretary Corner: U.S. citizens in New Zealand would be better even than our ANZUS Treaty.

Prime Minister Kirk: We already have a number of Americans in New Zealand engaged in our joint Antarctic research project.

The President: I am impressed by your analysis of Japan. I have many times told European leaders — including Brandt, Pompidou and Heath — “In working towards the European Community, don’t isolate Japan.” The difficulty with Japan is that they have their past. They lost a war. They have now become an economic giant but they are still a military pigmy. We believe they must, however, continue to rely on the U.S. security-wise. Japan without the U.S. defense commitment would have two options: either they would have to make a deal with the Soviets, or they would have to rearm.

Another point is that on the economic side the Japanese are moving with tremendous speed. With this in mind, we should remember that we cannot have a global economic community without Japan. Japan must be right at the head table.

Declaration of Principles

The President: Secretary Kissinger brought your comments on your and Australia’s relationship with the Declaration of Principles to my attention. There is also the idea of a Pacific Basin organization that would include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. The experts can work out the details of such a proposal. But what I want to assure you is that in working towards a Declaration we don’t intend to create a great power condominium. We don’t want to leave Australia and New Zealand out.

Secretary Kissinger: I think the Prime Minister, knowing the French, realizes that working this out with the French will be extremely difficult.

[Page 06]

The President: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: The French this past week in New York told me that they are willing to accept almost anyone else in the Declaration except Australia.

Prime Minister Kirk: I can assure you that we have been very careful in our statements that might affect France.

The President: The point I would make is that the Australians demagogue the issues. New Zealand has expressed concern, but in a proper way. The French see and appreciate these distinctions.

Prime Minister Kirk: We were not anti-French in our statements; we were anti-nuclear testing.

Secretary Kissinger: But you did it diplomatically.

In the declaration we are discussing with the Europeans we may end up with two sets of negotiations. Then we could have an umbrella declaration that would bring in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. This may be the easiest way. .

Japanese Question

Prime Minister Kirk: Japan’s problem is complicated by their historical background and by their endless capacity to be organized — like robots. I am afraid that we may be reaching a critical point with Japan.

Secretary Kissinger: Chou En-lai recently told visitors — and this should not go outside this room — that his government is now considering encouraging the Japanese to rearm so that they will use up their resources. They fear the economic strength that Japan will have in ten years if they do not. I think that it is interesting that the more the Chinese have gotten to know the Japanese, the more nervous they have become about them. You remember what Chou told you, Mr. President.

The President: Yes, it was 180 degrees away from this position. At that time Chou said that Japan should renounce its Mutual Security Treaty with the U.S., and that we should get out of Korea. To be sure, if we would [Page 07] bring our troops home, it would be easier for us politically domestically.

Your analysis of Japan is very acute, Mr. Prime Minister. I find it interesting that the Chinese seem to absorb almost everyone while the Japanese seem to absorb almost no one. But I agree that a Japan left alone will become a serious threat.

Prime Minister Kirk: In the next ten years Japan will be the principal threat in Asia, after that maybe the Chinese will become the primary threat. We have found as a result of our Minister of Trade’s recent visit to Peking that we were able to develop with the Chinese the theme that if you do not want Russia in Asia then you [the Chinese] should not frighten the small countries in Asia. The Chinese responded to this argument. It seems to me that if the Chinese frighten such nations as Thailand, this will invite the Soviets to come in. We told the Chinese that they could help improve stability in the area by avoiding such actions.

Secretary Corner: There are signs that the Chinese are easing up on their support for subversion in Southeast Asia.

Basic U.S. Foreign Policy Posture

The President: Given our common goals and systems of government, it should be recognized first — and we can be thankful for this — that we have no ambitions in terms of expansion. Our goal is rather to contribute to lifting the standards-of-living for all the world. This may seem like idealistic soft-headedness. But it is in all of our interest to see that the economic well-being of the nations of the world will be the dominant force that will move their leaders.

I would be less than candid if I did not take up the question of why the U.S. supports such governments as South Vietnam — in its military capability — and why the U.S. maintains forces overseas. This is no winner for the U.S. either at home or abroad. It has, however, been a political ploy for many foreign leaders to kick the U.S. around as long as the U.S. does not go home. The point I would make is that everything is based on self-interest. However, the U.S. self-interest is best served by our continuing to play a leavening role in Asia. Then governments like Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore will not feel totally alone with their neighbor to the north, and we will avoid possibly encouraging the soviets to dabble in the area.

[Page 08]

Prime Minister Kirk: But kicking the U.S. around arose out of policies of the past. I think there might be an advantage to your withdrawing [some of your] forces from abroad. Such a reduction might give the U.S. credibility as a great power — it is not every great power that would be willing to do this.

The President: You mean in line with the policy of helping others to help themselves?

Secretary Corner: New Zealand has done this by reducing its forces in Singapore.

The President: And I want to express my appreciation for your aid to South Vietnam. But New Zealand has decided to play a role in this area. I believe that you must play a role, for if you do not someone else will.

Prime Minister Kirk: I believe that I can sometimes be helpful by saying things publicly [about the situation in Asia] that you, as a leader of a great power, cannot.

As to our forces in Singapore, we told Singapore that we would leave our troops there as long as they want us to stay. I myself doubt that the Five Power Arrangement will last more than another five or six years. I might note that Indonesia supports the Five Power Arrangement.

The President: It is well that you understand the importance of Indonesia.

As I recall, Green Island is pretty close to Indonesia. This is where I got to know New Zealanders [during World War II]. Our planes were there evacuating the wounded. The planes also brought in medical alcohol on occasion. Some of the alcohol, however, would be “liberated.” We found ways of mixing this with orange juice. It made a horrible concoction. As I remember, the Australian beer that we came by there was very strong. On one occasion when an Australian pilot brought some in — we had a ball.

But seriously, going back to Indonesia — it is incredibly rich in natural resources. It is important that they also do not feel alone.

Prime Minister Kirk: And particularly with their common border with Papau-New Guinea. This new frontier could become an irritant between Australia and Indonesia. Economic development could help.

[Page 09]

The President: But aren’t we starting with a very low level of people? A good part of their population there is actually back in the Stone Age. Other nations in the world, such as India for example, may be poor but they have some history behind them

Prime Minister Kirk: Papua-New Guinea is nearing self-government.

GATT Negotiations

Prime Minister Kirk: If I might change the subject, we appreciate very much your decision to include agricultural products in the GATT round. We hope that this will help keep pressure on Japan to liberalize its import controls on agricultural products.

The President: Our interests here are parallel. But on this question of agricultural products we immediately run into a buzz-saw with the Europeans.

Prime Minister Kirk: But it seems inevitable that the European policies in this area must change. They must find a way to gear their agriculture to a constant flow of agricultural products. Again I want to say that we welcome U.S. support on this issue.

U.S. - New Zealand Cooperation in Science Research

Prime Minister Kirk: Going on to another area, we had an invitation to send some of our people to a California seminar on geothermal power. I believe that there is considerable room for U.S.-New Zealand cooperation in scientific research. We have in our country people of considerable talent in this area. Particularly in light of the energy crisis, this whole question of developing substitute sources of energy seems to me to be especially relevant at present. We would like to fit our cooperation in this area into some overall framework. We would like to explore the possibility of cooperation with you in this field.

The President: Done! We will give this high priority. We have no language and some of the other barriers between our two countries that might impede such cooperation. I didn’t realize that we did not already have an agreement in this field.

[Page 10]

Secretary Kissinger: I think that we already have some cooperation in the scientific area, but I believe the Prime Minister wants to get into new areas of scientific and technical cooperation.

The President (to the Prime Minister): You develop the proposition. We will cooperate.

Prime Minister Kirk: We could have a treaty on scientific and technical cooperation.

The President: We will have our foreign ministers work this out. Done!

South Pacific Development

Prime Minister Kirk: I would also like to point out that we are increasing our foreign aid. We are now devoting about 50 percent of this aid to the South Pacific and we plan to increase this further. The island societies of this area seem to turn to us. We have also given three-quarters of a million dollars to the South Pacific Conference in an effort to shake it out of its lethargy. We have also promoted the South Pacific Forum and the South Pacific Bureau. We are working on a South Pacific Council which would be similar in principle to the Nordic Council and would be essentially a parliamentary body.

But the U.S. is not there. If we are able to develop a South Pacific Council, we hope that we could have some form of U.S. representation. The U.S. as a Pacific power could play a useful part — in a quiet way. We are hoping for speedy changes in the living standards in the South Pacific. We hope to be able to work with them to stabilize this area. It is obviously of great interest, lying alongside Australia and to the north New Zealand, if we can establish a South Pacific Council. We may later also try to get Indonesia to join in, and to widen it in order to include Papua-New Guinea. Basically, we believe that such a parliamentary association can be a very useful supplement to the more usual inter-governmental cooperation.

The President: Yes. We have participated in similar groupings with Japan and with Europe.

Secretary Kissinger: But we have not examined this whole question yet.

[Page 11]

Mr. Prime Minister. There is a question, for example, as to whether we should include Micronesia.

Prime Minister Kirk: A South Pacific Council might be able to help with some of the problems in Micronesia.

Secretary Kissinger: We will study the matter and will let you know through Ambassador White.

U.S.-New Zealand Cooperation in Science Research

Prime Minister Kirk: To return to the question of scientific cooperation, I believe that New Zealand has a great potential to be of assistance in this area, particularly as regards geothermal energy.

Secretary Corner: About one-third of New Zealand’s energy needs are now derived from underground steam.

Ambassador White: Some here in the U.S. have sought New Zealand advice in this field.

Secretary Corner: One of our greatest exports is scientists. If we could increase research in New Zealand, we might be able to retain some of these people. I myself have even thought of the possibility of harnessing wind.

The President: Could we make use of that produced in the Senate?

In the statement we issue at the end of our talks this morning I want to give strong emphasis to cooperation in the energy field.

Prime Minister Kirk: I want to point out that in the past New Zealand scientists have also made significant contributions in the field of nuclear research.

Secretary Corner: The Prime Minister insists that in anything New Zealand does with the U.S. we pay an equal share of the expenses involved.

Prime Minister Kirk: New Zealand has produced a fair quota of scientists over the years.

[Page 12]

Secretary Corner: We have some of the most outstanding heart surgeons, and some Americans have traveled to Wellington to avail themselves of their skills. There are areas in which we can give as well as receive.

Prime Minister Kirk: New Zealand has a high standard of education. The problem is to retain the people that our education produces. Each year we lose our best.

The President: Where to?

Prime Minister Kirk: To you here, to Australia, and to the U.K. If we find areas where we can contribute, then New Zealand also will gain.

The President: The U.S. will be most forthcoming. I assumed we were already cooperating in this area. It is in the U.S. interest to do this. Like man in the Stone Age, we never know what chemistry between persons — between Americans and Chinese, between Americans and New Zealanders — will produce a basic new idea. We welcome it.

U.S. - New Zealand Bilateral Trade

Prime Minister Kirk: Speaking of our relationship in general, aside from trade we have no complaints.

The President: I remember several years ago your predecessors asked if we could take more lambs. We increased our imports a little. Now we are asking for all we can get.

Prime Minister Kirk: What we want is a steady growth of trade.

The President: I would think that you would also want a stable market here.

Prime Minister Kirk: We must plan four to six years ahead. We do need stable markets and a stable rate of growth. I also have had our Trade Development Board consider what New Zealand might do to increase access to our market for U.S. exports. Where we can we will do so. We have considerable interest in poultry imports. A fortnight ago we increased quotas for some items. We recognize that we must buy more in order to be able to sell more.

The President: We will have a chance to talk-again at inner tonight, and I am looking forward to this.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcoms, April–November 1973, HAK & Presidential [2 of 5]. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Undated talking points from Kissinger, initialed by Scowcroft and seen by the President, are ibid., Box 934, VIP Visits, New Zealand, Prime Minister Kirk, Folder 4.
  2. Nixon and Kirk discussed relations between the United States and New Zealand.