266. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the President’s Meeting with Prime Minister Ohira of Japan


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Vice President Walter Mondale
  • Acting Secretary, Warren Christopher
  • Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown
  • Secretary of Treasury, William Miller
  • Secretary of Energy, Charles Duncan
  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Special Trade Representative, Reubin Askew
  • Ambassador Mike Mansfield, Ambassador to Japan
  • Ambassador Henry Owen, Ambassador at Large
  • Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Richard Holbrooke
  • NSC Staff Member, Donald Gregg (Notetaker)
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Michael Armacost
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Nicholas Platt
  • Japan Desk Officer, Alan Romberg
  • United States Interpreter, Cornelius Iida
  • Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira of Japan
  • Foreign Minister, Saburo Okita
  • Ambassador Yoshio Okawara, Ambassador to The United States
  • Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Koichi Kato
  • Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Yasue Katori
  • Minister Kiyoshi Sumiya
  • Director-General, North American Affairs Bureau, Shinichiro Asao
  • Director-General, Economic Affairs Bureau, Reishi Teshima
  • Director of the First North American Division, Hiroshi Fukuda
  • Executive Assistant to the Prime Minister, Yoshiyasu Sato
  • Counselor, Embassy of Japan, Koichiro Matsuura
  • First Secretary, Yutaka Kawashima
  • Chief of Second North American Bureau, Kazuo Ogura
  • Japanese Interpreter, Sadaaki Numata

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

The President noted that Panama is now talking to Japan (and the US) about building a new sea-level canal in Panama. The President said that the US is interested in this project, and welcomes Japan’s participation in a feasibility study.2 (C)

The President noted that when President Johnson was in office, a feasibility study for sea-level canal was made. He offered to give that study to the Japanese.3 (C)

Ohira said that when President Royo came to Tokyo, he told the Japanese that they account for one-third of all current traffic through the canal. Ohira said that he would be happy to join with the US and Panama in looking at the feasibility of a sea level canal. Ohira noted that Royo had suggested setting up a three-man committee to study plans for a new canal. Ohira said that he was not certain of the advisability of the suggested committee, and that he would like to consult with the US on that issue. (C)

Acting Secretary Christopher said that the US would welcome Japanese participation in a feasibility study, and that we will be in touch to arrange matters. (C)

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The President jocularly suggested that the US provide the engineering and the equipment, and that Japan provide the money for a new canal. (Laughter). Ohira responded jovially that he would have to “study very carefully” any such proposal. (U)

The President said that a new canal did present some environmental problems, but that they did not seem to be insurmountable. He said that he would provide the Japanese with the earlier feasibility study without further ado.4 (C)

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 38, Memcons, President, 5/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. See Document 264.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 76.
  4. Muskie sent the 1970 Sea-Level Canal Feasibility Study with a June 5 letter to Okita. In the letter, Muskie reiterated Carter and Vance’s welcoming of the opportunity to participate with Japan and Panama in a new study on the feasibility of a sea-level canal in Panama. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 43, Pastor, Country, Panama, Sea Level Canal, 7/77–10/80)