41. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • General Foreign Policy, Automobiles, Defense, North-South


  • US

    • Secretary Haig
    • Under Secretary Rashish
    • Under Secretary Stoessel
    • Assistant Secretary-Designate Holdridge
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary Armacost
    • William Sherman, DCM, Tokyo
    • William Clark, Jr., Japan Country Director
    • Cornelius Iida, Embassy Tokyo (Interpreter)

    • Foreign Minister Ito
    • Ambassador Okawara
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Yasue Katori
    • Shinichiro Asao, Director General, North American
    • Hiromu Fukada, Director General, Economic Bureau
    • Yoshio Karita, Director, First North American Division
    • Sadaaki Numata, Japanese Embassy (Interpreter)

Following a 1/2 hour tete-a-tete,2 the Secretary and the Foreign Minister joined the larger group. The Secretary welcomed the Foreign Minister on his first discussion in Washington with the new [Page 138] Administration. He said he was greatly pleased that the Foreign Minister had been able to make this visit and, given the reputation which had preceded the Foreign Minister, was certain that the talks would be productive. The Foreign Minister thanked the Secretary for receiving him at such a busy time. He said he had hoped to come earlier but the Diet discussion of the budget had precluded an earlier visit. He said the job of Secretary of State with the current Administration was a very serious burden. The close relationship with the US is the basis of Japanese foreign policy and he expressed the hope that these discussions, if successful, should contribute to mutual trust between the two countries.

The Secretary said that it was his personal conviction and that of the President and the whole Administration that the US relationship with Japan was the fundamental anchor of the US policy in Asia, the Pacific, and, indeed, the trilateral relationship between the US, Japan and Europe. It is essential we build on this relationship and improve it even further. Saying he would not go into great detail, the Secretary outlined briefly the approach of the new Administration. First, overall policy must be supported and strengthened by improving the military balance of the US with respect to the Soviet Union. This is the single exception in our budget in a period of austerity. Second, it is the Administration’s intention to revise the kind of partnership we hold with our allies and others of like views and to strengthen these relationships. This would be done through true consultations—not just through provision of information—but consultations in the true sense of the word. This aspect is more urgent in a period when all are faced with shrinking natural resources, difficulties in access to energy, and a potential for trouble in the Third World.

The Secretary continued, noting it is clear the US cannot achieve its first two policy objectives unless we reverse our serious internal economic situation. President Reagan has announced a multi-faceted plan designed to seize control of runaway inflation. This has several aspects including tax relief, relief for the private sector, and relaxation of regulatory requirements. In addition, there will be efforts to control the monetary supply in a better manner. In the past, problems have been addressed by printing more money. This has not proved successful and we have been unable to maintain interest rates at an acceptable level. There are those who would call the present approach supply side economics, The Secretary said he called it sound economics.

The Secretary said there was a rather full agenda and suggested getting through as much of it as possible before the lunch so that discussion at that time could be more general and informal.3 The Foreign [Page 139] Minister said he agreed to proceed in that manner and suggested that discussions begin with the automobile problem, which was not conducive to good digestion.

[Omitted here is discussion of automobiles.]

Before going to lunch, the Secretary suggested that the East/West problem be discussed and the Foreign Minister agreed. The Secretary said the Minister may have detected a degree of robustness in our statements on East/West issues in the new Administration. We felt that for too long the US, and the West at large, had overlooked the propensity of the Soviet Union to intervene either directly or through proxies in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and recently in our own hemisphere. We would be less than frank if we didn’t say the West had failed to counter earlier Soviet moves in Angola, Ethiopia, Kampuchea and the first moves in Afghanistan. This had misled the Soviet leadership which continued to intervene with little opposition in areas of importance to the West. Such intervention also subverted the aspirations of these countries to develop their own course, which is their right.

The Secretary stated that the US considers this Soviet activity to be a violation of the 1972 agreement4 and thus is counter to detente. We will remain dedicated to linkage in the full range of our relations with the Soviet Union: trade, credits, technology transfer, arms control, as well as in our recognition of the political legitimacy of a regime which was increasingly a model of Marxist-Leninist failure; not success, but failure.

The Secretary said that we are, in the case of Japan, grateful for the cooperation we have received since the Afghanistan invasion. We are as concerned as Japan over the growth of Soviet forces in the Northern Territories, their growing naval power in the Pacific, and the 30,000 Soviet troops in Mongolia. In this regard, the Secretary said he had taken the opportunity in a talk with former Prime Minister Fukuda last week to emphasize that Japan’s sovereignty is best assured by the development of all aspects of nationhood.5 This is the way he had answered the question on Japan’s defense role. He said he believed that international peace and stability were best assured by a West where all nations, including Japan, had their own organic defense capability. This will allow us to better manage and cope with the threat from the East.

[Page 140]

The Foreign Minister thanked the Secretary for his comments and said that a consistent and reliable US policy was an important factor not only for the US, but for the world. Without such consistency Japan would find the world a difficult place. Japan expects to see strong leadership by the US and an effective strengthening of the solidity of the Western world, with the US taking a lead. This is most important to world peace. Japan would also expect to take its place and play its role in the Western world and will develop its own defenses in keeping with the requirements and constraints upon such activity. The question is what does Japan do as a member of the Western world? In Japan’s view the issue should be addressed not only in terms of defense but also through diplomatic activity and economic efforts, that is, a comprehensive approach.

The Foreign Minister said he wished to express his views on economic cooperation with the developing world. In Japan’s policy great attention is placed on the North/South problem. If these problems are not solved, instability in the South can be used to advantage by the Soviet Union. It is important that the Western nations not take actions which drive these developing countries toward the Soviet Union. He said these comments were necessary because of recent journalistic speculation that the emphasis of the new US Administration was shifting from viewing the North/South problem as a totality toward a policy which makes distinction between friends of the US and others in the Third World. In this formulation, the US would place emphasis on helping the former rather than the latter. He said he did not know if this was true, but Japanese policy did not pick and choose between members of the Third World. It was Japanese policy to attempt to bridge the gap between the North and the South.

With respect to relations with the Soviet Union, The Foreign Minister said that relations were currently cool. In part this was due to the continued Soviet occupation of the Northern Territories, which Japan claimed as its territory, and indeed the Soviets had now deployed troops on those islands. Japan will continue to seek the return of this territory as it deals with the Soviet Union. Secondly, after Afghanistan, relations between Japan and the Soviet Union cooled to the extent that there were virtually no ministerial exchanges or any exchanges of very important visitors. Japan did not participate in the Olympics6 and has continued to be restrictive in granting new credits, viewing them on a case-by-case basis. In the area of technology transfer, Japan has abided by the conditions imposed by COCOM. The Foreign Minister told the [Page 141] Ambassador that there was no change in Japanese policy in regard to these two areas.

The Foreign Minister asked what the current US thinking was on the exchange of high-level visits with the Soviet Union and on large economic projects. He asked if the US would continue to maintain the grain embargo. He expressed concern that should the Soviets and the US find themselves in total confrontation, this could lead to a threat of nuclear war. All nations were concerned in such an event. Thus there was great interest in Japan over the question of arms control, and especially of the SALT talks. He asked what the Secretary’s thoughts were on arms control discussions with the Soviet Union. Finally, he asked for the Secretary’s views on the Brezhnev proposal for a Summit meeting contained in his speech to the Party Congress.7

At this point the meeting broke to reassemble at the luncheon table.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Files, Secretary Haig Memcons and Whitehead Briefing: Lot 87D327, Sec/Memcons—March 1981. Secret. The conversation took place in Haig’s conference room at the Department. Drafted by Clark, Jr., on March 31. The complete memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXX, Japan; Korea, 1981–1984. For Haig and Ito’s remarks to the press, made on March 24, see Department of State Bulletin, May 1981, pp. 29–30.
  2. No record of this earlier meeting has been found.
  3. The memorandum of conversation from the luncheon meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXX, Japan; Korea, 1981–1984.
  4. Reference is to the Basic Principles of Relations Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, signed by Nixon and Brezhnev in Moscow on May 29, 1972. The text is printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 26, 1972, pp. 897–898 and in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 633–635. A separate communiqué, which references the Basic Principles, was released at the conclusion of the May 1972 Moscow summit meeting and is printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 26, 1972, pp. 898–902.
  5. Haig met with Fukuda at the Department on March 19. Fukuda also met with the President on March 20. The memoranda of conversation are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXX, Japan; Korea, 1981–1984.
  6. Reference is to the 1980 summer Olympic Games, held in Moscow. The United States boycotted the Games. For Vice President Mondale’s April 12, 1980, address regarding the boycott, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 143. Additional documentation concerning the U.S. decision to boycott the Games is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXV, Global Issues; United Nations Issues.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 30.