354. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Tokai Decision

Ambassador Smith is standing by for your decision regarding the proposal summarized below. Given the extraordinary importance and public visibility of this issue in Japan, it will be preferable to have a resolution of this issue prior to Smith’s departure from Tokyo in roughly 12 hours from now.

The memorandum from Warren Christopher2 contains a recommendation, supported by ACDA, that the changes proposed by Smith be accepted. The brief cable from Smith, marked by me,3 summarizes the key elements of the proposed deal, while his longer cable explains [Page 907] the significance of the Japanese offer to delay construction of the plutonium conversion plant.4

In essence, the Japanese (1) want to defer decision on coprocessing for two years, subject to successful R&D and INFCEP; (2) recognize that U.S. originated fuel will not be available beyond the two-year period unless they then accept coprocessing; and (3) are willing to impose a voluntary deferment on the construction of their proposed plutonium conversion plant, despite their existing financial commitments to proceed.

I have asked for comments, as you instructed, from Jessica Tuchman and Kitty Schirmer. Their reactions are as follows:

Schirmer: “I concur with the Christopher memo and Brzezinski’s recommendation to accept; in our public announcement we should stress the major commitments the Japanese have made at our behest.”

Tuchman feels that we should insist on a commitment from the Japanese to go into coprocessing unless it is agreed by both sides that it is technically infeasible or ineffective; in effect, our original position. Her view is that the implied commitment by them, implicit in the two-year deferral, will be viewed by Congress and elsewhere as an excessive concession.

On balance, having had extensive consultations with Gerry Smith, Joe Nye, Christopher, and others, I feel that we should authorize Smith to proceed as urged by him.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, The Papers of Michael Armacost: Lot 89D265, Box 4. Secret. A handwritten “C” in the upper right corner indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. See Document 353.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 353.
  4. Smith’s longer cable is telegram 13359 from Tokyo, August 31. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850106–2030)
  5. Underneath the last sentence, Carter wrote “ok. J.C.” On September 12, the United States and Japan announced that they would “cooperate in evaluating the nuclear fuel cycle and the future role of plutonium” and would “defer decisions relating to the commercial use of plutonium in light water reactors at least during” the INFCE program over the next two years. (Documents on Disarmament, 1977, pp. 560–562)