134. Memorandum of Conversation1


The President said he had emerged from his private meeting with Prime Minister Nakasone 2 with a sense of positive momentum in solving our outstanding disputes, particularly in regard to trade and defense.He and the Prime Minister had agreed that we had a strong relationship with great responsibility for the world economy and for world recovery, and was gratified to have the Prime Minister’s personal support.

Asked to summarize the status of our bilateral relations, Secretary Shultz said that United States-Japanese relations were of the utmost importance, whether they concerned economic affairs, strategic affairs, business affairs, or financial affairs. For example, the reason the Secretary of the Treasury and the Finance Minister were not at the meeting was because they were discussing subjects of international [Page 521] weight in Paris.3 Our bilateral defense relationships were fundamental. In view of the strength and size of the Japanese economy, our two nations together had to take joint responsibility not only for the world economy but for support of the free-trading system, the strategic system, and the values we shared. To do this effectively we needed to stress bilateral problems.

Secretary Shultz said that when he greeted the Prime Minister the day before, he had been attending a meeting in the Cabinet Room, where he left the President surrounded by representatives of business and labor from all over the United States who were communicating their concerns to the President.4 We had to identify our concerns and talk them through. We were encouraged by the strength with which the Prime Minister had addressed these issues; we had to look at many problems. In the defense area, some steps had been taken, but we also had to compare what had been accomplished with the missions and goals we had set out to achieve.

Trade and defense were the central elements of our bilateral relationship, but beyond that we shared many interests in the world, for example our relationship with China, and the promotion of world peace.

The President said that there was one issue he had not had a chance to address with the Prime Minister as yet, law of the sea. The Prime Minister should know that we had been in touch with mining groups, who were interested in a consortium approach. If we worked outside the Convention, we should be able to work out a satisfactory approach to deep-sea-bed mining.

Secretary Block said that as the Prime Minister was aware, there was a considerable amount of concern about selling agriculture commodities to Japan. The United States appreciated the importance of the Japanese market for American agricultural products which approach 7 billion dollars, and the United States was a reliable supplier. Nevertheless, we were concerned about trade barriers to some products, the [Page 522] most serious of these being citrus and beef, which were the focus of a good deal of political pressure. These had become a symbol for farmers in the United States, who might have Datsun pickup trucks and Sony TV sets, but could not sell citrus or beef. We were prepared to resume talks on these quotas as soon as it was apparent there were some possibilities of substantial progress.

Prime Minister Nakasone said he would like to address matters of principle, leaving details to the Foreign Minister. As he had told the President in their private meeting, our two countries on opposite sides of the Pacific shared a destiny and must discharge their responsibilities in accordance with their strength. He intended to observe the Joint Communique that the President and Prime Minister Suzuki had signed in 1981.5 While there were frictions in regard to defense problems and trade, we shared the same concepts, and our differences applied to the details of solutions. We had to continue to consult closely. The Prime Minister said that the President came from California and knew the Pacific Region. The United States also faced the Atlantic, and therefore was a two-ocean nation, but for Japan there was just the Pacific. As a Pacific nation, Japan could contribute to peace in that region; thus far, Japan and the United States were cooperating on economic measures directed at the Soviet Union, in regard to GATT, and in assisting the LDCs with their debt problems. This was good cooperation, which he wanted to continue whole-heartedly and sincerely. It was especially important, as the President had said, for both countries to preserve the free-trading system. If protectionism grew, we would repeat the experience of the 1930s. For that reason, his cabinet was making every effort to address trade and defense issues, not in response to US influence, but for Japan’s own sake, to discharge its own responsibilities.

Prime Minister Nakasone said the main task of his administration was to build a Japan open to the world; he wanted to guide and persuade the Japanese people toward this end. His predecessors had, of course, made their utmost efforts to behave as equal partners of the United States, but speaking frankly there were shortcomings in their performance in US eyes. The Prime Minister said that when he took office, his cabinet had many debts to repay; they could not be all repaid at once, but he would try. He and the President had both devoted their lives to politics, and he was sure they shared the view that they had to take party strategy into account. The President would understand that in order to pay debts, he had to have the support of his cabinet.

Prime Minister Nakasone said he was aware of the President’s concern about law of the sea. His government had postponed signing the Convention at the end of last year at the behest of Ambassador [Page 523] Rumsfeld. However, after careful consideration, the government had decided that Japan was associated with LDC group for LOS purposes, and had to look to its relationship with the LDC’s. There were problems with deep-sea mining, but the other areas of the Convention brought much progress. His personal view was that once the Convention was in force, it would be possible to solve problems. As it stood now, it was as if nations were competing to occupy territory on the surface of the moon. The Prime Minister promised to consider the President’s view on LOS when he returned to Japan, but he had just expressed his own opinion.

Minister Abe said that it was just 60 days since the Nakasone government came to power, but more than any other government it had been trying to make clear that relations with the United States were the most important for Japan. The Nakasone government was making every effort to solve United States-Japan problems. As Secretary Shultz had noted, the biggest issue was trade. In order to maintain and defend the free-trading system, the Japanese government was trying to discharge its responsibilities. In reducing tariffs on agriculture and manufactured goods, it had tried its best to meet the requests of Congress and other groups; tobacco for example, had been reduced by 15 percent, chocolate had been reduced appreciably, and tariffs on 27 other manufactured items had been reduced or eliminated. There was strong domestic opposition to these moves on the part of the industries affected, as well as within the LDP, but the Prime Minister had decided to accept the risk.

Prime Minister Nakasone said that Secretary Block had referred to beef and citrus. He was aware of the strong demand made by the United States in regard to these items in December, but Japanese farmers had become agitated. When he decided to reduce the tobacco tariff and expand the number of outlets for foreign tobacco products, he did so without obtaining the consensus of the Liberal Democratic Party. There was much criticism on the grounds that he was supposed to be a leader, and had no mandate to be a dictator. The Prime Minister said that just before his departure, beef and citrus farmers had presented him with a petition signed by about 9 million persons to make no concessions while in Washington, and 10,000 farmers had turned out for a demonstration. It was wise for both sides to let these issues cool off a while and then let the experts deal with quotas when they expired.

The Prime Minister said that when he went to Korea,6 President Chun had asked him to convey to the President his request that the [Page 524] President work to maintain the free-trading system. He also would like to convey the thought suggested by Prime Minister Trudeau in Tokyo,7 just before Nakasone left for Washington, that at the Williamsburg Summit8 it might be a good idea for Trudeau, the President, and himself to get together and discuss Pacific problems, as long as it could be done in a way that would not provoke the Europeans.

The President suggested that they continue discussion at lunch.9

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Subject File, Memorandums of Conversation—President Reagan (12/27/1982–1/31/1983). Secret. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House from 11:50 a.m. until 12:29 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) Sigur sent the memorandum to Clark under a January 28 covering memorandum in which he noted that Seligmann had drafted the memorandum of conversation, commenting: “Seligmann’s notes are quite complete and I have little to add.” Sigur also listed the attendees: the President, Nakasone, Bush, Shultz, Weinberger, Block, Baldrige, Brock, Clark, McFarlane, Mansfield, Wolfowitz, McNamar, Gregg, Sigur, Meese, Seligmann, Abe, Fujinami, Okawara, Nakajima, Murata, Kitamura, Hasegawa, and Karita. Also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXX, Japan; Korea, 1981–1984.
  2. The President and Nakasone met privately in the Oval Office from approximately 11:30 until 11:50 a.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) The memorandum of conversation of their meeting is in the Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Subject File, Memcons—President Reagan (12/28/82–1/83). It is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXX, Japan; Korea, 1981–1984.
  3. Regan and Takeshita were in Paris to attend the G–10 ministerial. They were also scheduled to meet privately at Galbraith’s residence the morning of January 18. (Telegram 1616 from Paris, January 14; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830023–0204)
  4. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room on January 17 from 2:04 until 3:08 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) In his personal diary entry for January 17, the President wrote: “—Issues lunch and then a meeting with a dozen top C.E.O.s from Ford, Caterpillar, U.S. Steel etc. plus heads of Farm Bureau & Nat. Cattlemen. This too was a solid discussion of Japans gimmicks to pretend free trade but practice protectionism. This Nakasone meeting is going to be a make or break one.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. I, January 1981–October 1985, p. 189) Shultz met with Nakasone that afternoon from 3:10 until 3:45 p.m. in Suite 1531 at the Madison Hotel. A draft memorandum of conversation is in the Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Subject File, Memorandums of Conversation—President Reagan (12/27/1982–1/31/1983). It is also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXX, Japan; Korea, 1981–1984.
  5. Reference is to the joint communiqué Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki signed on May 8, 1981. For the text, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1981, Book I, pp. 414–416.
  6. Nakasone visited South Korea January 11–12. In telegram 468 from Seoul, January 14, the Embassy transmitted the unofficial English language translation of the joint communiqué concerning the visit. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830023–0196)
  7. Trudeau visited Japan January 16–19. In telegram 1404 from Tokyo, January 24, the Embassy summarized the visit. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830041–0015)
  8. See footnote 9, Document 129.
  9. The luncheon took place in the State Dining Room from 12:29 until 1:31 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary)