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81. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter 1

Ushiba Visit. Next Monday,2 Japanese Minister of State for External Economic Affairs Ushiba will begin a four-day visit which will include talks with Bob Strauss, Mike Blumenthal, Ray Marshall, Juanita Kreps, Bob Bergland, Charles Schultze, Arthur Burns, Henry Owen, Dick Cooper and Congressional and business leaders. We hope the Vice President will also see Ushiba at the outset to set the overall tone.3 An interagency group will complete three weeks of intensive work tomorrow on a common set of talking points and briefing papers to assure that we are all working from the same base.

By Ushiba’s own admission in recent press conferences, the proposals he is bringing fall short of our maximum expectations.4 Our preliminary analysis, and that of Mike Mansfield,5 is that while the Japanese measures are indeed deficient, they represent forward motion with the prospect of more to come. Our aim during the Ushiba visit is to keep steady pressure on the Japanese, but avoid the kind of overt shock that will fuel antipathies toward the Japanese here and make it more difficult for them to respond at home. Accordingly, we believe we should: (a) defer definitive response to Ushiba’s measures until after he departs, and then send a coordinated interagency message, and (b) publicly treat the Ushiba visit as an important stage in an ongoing consultative process rather than a confrontation, and work against inevitable pressures from the press to brand the visit a failure.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Ushiba visit.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 19, Evening Reports (State): 12/77. Secret. Carter wrote “Warren. J” at the top of the page.
  2. December 12.
  3. Carter wrote “ok w/me” in the margin adjacent to this sentence.
  4. An article in the December 9 edition of The New York Times reporting a recent interview given by Ushiba is entitled “Japanese Indicate They Cannot Meet U.S. Trade Demands.” (Andrew H. Malcolm, The New York Times, December 9, 1977, p. D1)
  5. In telegram 18972 from Tokyo, December 9, Mansfield assessed the proposals that Ushiba would make in Washington. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770458–0415) Armacost provided his assessment of Ushiba’s proposals in a December 13 memorandum to Brzezinski. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 24, Japan: 9–12/77)