The Nixon `Shocks' And U.S. - Japan Strategic Relations,


Working Paper No. 2

Michael Schaller

The University of Arizona

In a somber speech to the Diet in January 1972, Prime Minister Sato Eisaku acknowledged that "drastic changes in world conditions" during 1971 had "put Japan in a difficult international situation." Because of these "new conditions," he believed it "reasonable to say that uneasiness and irritation" had become "pervasive among the Japanese people." Given Sato's normal reserve, this had to be counted a blunt, emotional statement.1

During the summer and fall of 1971, President Richard Nixon administered a series of jolts - or Nixon Shokku, as the Japanese dubbed them - which challenged the strategic and economic relationship that prevailed between the United States and Japan since the Occupation. For over two decades, containment of Chinese and Vietnamese communism and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty formed the strategic pillars of Japanese and American cooperation. Also, a strong dollar and "open" American market had served as engines driving Japan's economic growth.2

The 1971 shocks culminated a process begun when Lyndon Johnson capped escalation of the Vietnam War in 1968. It continued when Nixon, in July 1969, declared that henceforth Asian allies should not seek the help of American troops but must prepare to defend themselves against conventional threats. Nixon's search for what he termed a new structure of peace revealed that Washington could no longer afford the old structure. Since the onset of the Cold War, American leaders viewed the Soviet Union and China as threats to the open trading system that formed the core of

what they called the "Free World." As Nixon took office in 1969, however, not only had the Soviets approached strategic parity with the United States, but economic policies pursued by Western Europe and Japan threatened American prosperity. By 1971, ballooning trade and balance of payments deficits eroded faith in the dollar and reduced Washington's global influence.

Speaking in bold cadences but feeling vulnerable, Nixon and his advisers used a military lexicon to describe the economic assaults on American hegemony. For example, in the spring of 1971, Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans reportedly declared that "the Japanese are still fighting the war. Their immediate intention is to try to dominate the Pacific and then perhaps the world." That August, as foreign pressure to redeem dollars for gold reached a climax, Secretary of the Treasury John Connally told Nixon that the government "can't cover our liabilities - we're broke; anyone can topple us." For the first time since the Second World War American global economic interests collided with those of the European allies and Japan. Facing an economic crisis unprecedented since 1945, Nixon described his "New Economic Policy" as an effort to "stick it to the Japanese."3

In pursuing detente with the Soviet Union and an opening to China, the United States acknowledged it could no longer shoulder alone the costs of containment in both Europe and Asia. The Nixon Doctrine, the return of Okinawa to Japan, strategic arms control, the liquidation of the war in Vietnam, restricting imports, and cutting the dollar's link to gold were all attempts to assure an orderly transition as the United States entered a period of relative decline and began to reduce its military presence in Asia.

The Nixon Administration and Japan

During his nearly six years in office, Richard M. Nixon centralized to an unprecedented degree the foreign policy apparatus under his control. Presidential aides took charge of most policy initiatives and none wielded greater authority than National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger. Both Nixon and Kissinger held the State Department in contempt and seldom shared information with Secretary of State William Rogers. As the senior career diplomat, Under-secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson remarked, the State Department was "at the center of things" under Kennedy and Johnson but had moved to the periphery. Johnson spent much of his time "trying to shield the Department from the pummelling that rained down upon it from the" White House. Kissinger "certainly enjoyed putting the boot in State whenever possible," but Johnson "never doubted that Nixon was ultimately behind him."4

As vice president during the 1950s and as a representative of Pepsi-Cola and other multinational firms during the 1960s, Nixon visited Tokyo frequently and felt confident in his ability to get on amicably with leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. In a article entitled "Asia After Vietnam" which Nixon published in the October 1967 issue of Foreign Affairs, he stressed the importance of America's Asian allies doing more to defend themselves against "China's ambitions." Repeating a theme he voiced in the 1950s, Nixon criticized Japan's reluctance to expand its military posture and play the part of a regional power, including acquisition of nuclear weapons.5

Even before Nixon's inauguration, Henry Kissinger drafted a memorandum for the president touching on the importance of resolving Okinawa's status. Shortly after taking office, the new president approved a broad study of Japan policy (NSSM-5) and spoke to the NSC staff about the danger to bilateral relations if Japanese demands for Okinawa's reversion sparked public excitement as had the security treaty in 1960. To avoid this, Nixon favored the rapid return of the Ryukyus to Japan. If accomplished quickly, he believed the U.S. would be able to retain base rights under favorable terms. According to one NSC staff member, "Nixon understood that it was up to the Americans to make the case" the Japanese would accept.6

Henry Kissinger shared Nixon's assessment of Okinawa but found it difficult to sustain interest in Japan. An aide recalled that he found his Japanese counterparts difficult to relate to, complaining that they were "not conceptual, that they have no long-term vision, that they go for decisions by consensus." While Chinese leaders such as Zhou Enlai fascinated Kissinger, Japanese officials struck him as "prosaic, obtuse, unworthy of his sustained attention." They were, he allegedly remarked, "little Sony salesmen." Worst of all, "every time the Japanese ambassador has me to lunch," Kissinger complained, "he serves Wiener schnitzel."

Beyond his personal discomfort with Japanese, Kissinger and Nixon shared what one NSC staff member later characterized as a "parochial" outlook on foreign policy. Both men measured power according to a military formula. By this calculus, Japan hardly merited the rank of great power. If anything, its economic strength was seen as a growing detriment to American interests while its military weakness burdened the western alliance.

Because Kissinger paid less attention to Japan than to other major powers, the State Department enjoyed a bit more influence over policy than it possessed in related matters. As one department official observed, Kissinger preferred not to grapple with a problem "until there is a crisis." He dealt with Okinawa in part because Nixon considered it a priority, but allowed the details of reversion to be negotiated by career diplomats. Other Japanese policy issues, especially economic ones, bored or confused him.7

Kissinger argued in his own defense that "neither I nor my colleagues possessed a very subtle grasp of Japanese culture and psychology." Before learning much, the Nixon administration inflicted "some unnecessary shocks to Japanese sensibilities. Much of the problem, Kissinger asserted, stemmed from the fact that international economics "had not been a central field of study for me." He only later realized that "key economic policy decisions are not technical but political." In the end, Kissinger claimed, he and Nixon "built an extraordinarily close relationship" with Japan.8

Okinawa, the Nixon Doctrine, and Textiles

In January 1969, the NSC began a review of strategic relations with Japan. Focusing on Okinawa, the study recognized that a violent incident on the American-controlled island could quickly jeopardize security relations with Japan and the U.S. defense position in the Pacific. Japanese public and political opinion nearly unanimously demanded restoration of sovereignty and greater control over remaining American bases. In March 1969, Prime Minister Sato told the Diet he intended to make return of a nuclear weapons-free Okinawa the first issue of business with Nixon.

Within the American government, only the Joint Chiefs of Staff voiced serious opposition to reversion. They "considered our Okinawa bases to be of inestimable value," not just for current operation in Indochina, "but for our whole strategic position in the Pacific." Nevertheless, even the JCS recognized the Ryukyus would have to be returned. They probably hoped that talking tough would bolster the administration's negotiating stance and get Tokyo to concede more. Most of all, the Joint Chiefs sought minimal Japanese controls on bases remaining on Okinawa. U.S. bases on the Japanese home islands were subject to numerous restrictions regarding the storage of nuclear weapons and troop deployment. The military leaders hoped Japan would agree to permit nuclear weapons storage on Okinawa and freedom to deploy troops there to Vietnam and places such as South Korea and Taiwan without prior consultation.9

Concerned that Japan might abrogate the Security Treaty when free to so in 1970 unless Washington met Sato's demand for the return of Okinawa, Nixon and Kissinger incorporated the position demanded by the Joint Chiefs into their broader plan to return the Ryukyus. According to NSC staffer Morton Halperin, Kissinger suggested that one way to negate opposition to the retention of American nuclear weapons on Japanese soil was to encourage development of Tokyo's own atomic arsenal. He "repeatedly remarked to his staff that nations such as Israel and Japan would be better off with nuclear weapons."

Kissinger instructed Roger Morris to prepare freewheeling "scenarios" that contemplated a more assertive Japan. These ranged from a Japan that had become an "independent nuclear power" to one in which the military had seized control. The NSC staff joked that in fashioning these policy papers they could "totally restructure the world. But reality triumphed and in March 1969 the staff delivered to Kissinger and Nixon their conclusion that the "pressures in Japan for reversion [of Okinawa] were now unstoppable." The risks of maintaining the status quo far "outweighed the military cost of having somewhat less flexibility in operating the Okinawa bases under Japanese sovereignty." A refusal to accommodate Japanese demands might result in "losing the bases altogether" both in the Ryukyus and Japan.10

The Joint Chiefs called for linking Okinawa's reversion to a promise from Japan that American forces on the island were free to mount operations in defense of South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. At the end of April, 1968, Nixon incorporated Pentagon views and agreed to return Okinawa if Japan indicated general approval for using the Okinawa bases for regional defense. The United States preferred to retain nuclear weapons on the island but, "was prepared to consider, at the final stages of the negotiations, the withdrawal of [nuclear] weapons while maintaining emergency storage and transit rights, if other elements of the agreement were satisfactory."11

Even though Nixon intended to give Sato most of what he wanted, neither the president nor his aides publicly committed themselves to anything. Presumably, they believed this would bring pressure on Tokyo to make concessions Washington desired. However, it also led Sato to refuse to set a meeting date with Nixon unless he received assurance that Okinawa would be returned under acceptable (i.e. nuclear-free} conditions. Two informal leaks resolved this impasse.

On June 3, 1969, Hedrick Smith reported in The New York Times that Nixon had decided to return Okinawa and withdraw nuclear weapons from the American bases there. About the same time, NSC staff member Morton Halperin told a Japanese diplomat (whose report to Tokyo was intercepted by U.S. intelligence) that if Tokyo agreed to Washington's general terms for reversion, the president would pull out nuclear weapons.

Although Nixon and Kissinger denounced these leaks and used them to justify wiretaps on journalists and public officials, they helped, rather then hindered, bilateral cooperation. Also, anyone who followed the Okinawa question recognized that Nixon had few options other than those he secretly approved. Both Smith and Halperin believed they were assisting the negotiating process by reassuring the Japanese that if they met Nixon halfway, the president would withdraw nuclear weapons as part of a final agreement. In the end, the leaks facilitated cooperation.12

Japanese-American negotiations on Okinawa began in earnest in June 1969 and continued through the Nixon-Sato summit that November. Ambassador Armin H. Meyer, assisted by State Department Japan specialists Richard Sneider and David Osborn, met regularly in Tokyo with staff of the foreign ministry. Secretary of State William Rogers and Undersecretary U. Alexis Johnson conferred several times with Japanese Foreign Minister Aichi Kichi. Having set the parameters, Kissinger and the NSC staff allowed the State Department to work out the details concerning issues such as the future of Voice of America transmitters on the island, the status of American owned businesses, and the amount Japan should pay for roads and other facilities built by the United States.13

The two sides tacitly agreed on several points. The United States wanted continued access to bases on Okinawa and would accept some limits to assure this. Japan desired the restoration of sovereignty over Okinawa and insisted that some limits be applied to remaining American bases. If the United States withdrew nuclear weapons, the Japanese would grant greater flexibility to use Okinawa bases for combat than applied to bases in Japan proper.

Undersecretary of State U. Alexis Johnson suggested that Nixon and Sato punctuate their upcoming summit with a joint communique announcing agreement to return Okinawa by 1972 with American bases on the island subject to the terms of the U.S. - Japan Security Treaty. The treaty barred storage of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil without prior approval, but permitted the transit through Japan of such weapons aboard ships and planes. To placate the Joint Chiefs, Sato would approve wording in the communique stating that the security of South Korea was "essential" to Japan and that of Taiwan "important." If, when Okinawa reverted to Japan, the Vietnam war continued, "reversion would be accomplished without affecting the United States efforts to assure the South Vietnamese people the opportunity to determine their own political future without outside interference." This would permit Vietnam combat operations.

Sato would complement the communique with a speech - vetted by Johnson - declaring that if the United States required Japanese bases to meet an armed attack on Korea, the Japanese government "would decide its position positively and promptly." The prime minister would also promise that Japan would take a "positive attitude" toward the use of bases to defend Taiwan. Although not legally binding, these assurances went beyond previous commitments to regional security.14

As the diplomats worked on the details of the Okinawa deal, Nixon took a lengthy trip though Asia, timed to coincide with the Pacific touchdown of the Apollo 12 Lunar mission. On July 25, at a press briefing in Guam, the president issued a rambling statement on future security policy which his aides soon dubbed the "Nixon doctrine." Thinking out loud about the American "role in Asia and the Pacific after the end of the war in Vietnam," Nixon warned against isolation. He pledged to honor existing security pacts with Asian nations and promised to provide material support to resist aggression . But, he stressed, American ground troops would not be on call to fight another Vietnam-type war. The United States would resist nuclear intimidation by the Soviet Union or China, but Asian nations must take primary responsibility for their own defense.15

The president's call for a new security structure in Asia reflected both political and economic realities. The emergence of dynamic export economies among America's European and Asian allies, who balked at increasing defense expenditures, infuriated Nixon and members of Congress. Numerous Americans clamored for assistance against allegedly unfair foreign competition. Increasingly, the business press and many companies pointed with anger at "Japan, Inc.," a pejorative term to describe collusion between politicians, bureaucrats, and industrialists to promote exports but protect domestics markets from foreign competition. Complaints by American textile companies - who contributed generously to Nixon's 1968 campaign - made the president especially anxious to get Japan to agree to reduce the export of synthetics to the United States.

Henry Kissinger hoped to avoid involvement in the arcane, "low policy" issues of textile quotas. However, when Nixon told him "in no uncertain terms that he meant to have a textile agreement and that as a Presidential Assistant I was to contribute to the objective," he relented. Despite his initial reticence, Kissinger played a key role in textile negotiations through his contacts with a private emissary designated by Prime Minister Sato to serve as his intermediary. The Japanese go-between whom Kissinger called by the pseudonym "Mr. Yoshida" (later revealed to be Wakaizumi Kei, an academic with closes ties to Sato) and Kissinger worked to resolve textile and nuclear weapons issues before Nixon and Sato met.

In Kabuki theater, special actors called kuroku (black veils) move across the stage arranging scenery and assisting performers. Although visible, their black robes render them "unseen" by the audience. In Japanese politics, kuroku refers to behind-the-scene intermediaries who play a critical role in arranging deals. In the Okinawa and textile negotiations, Japanese practice, the appeal "back channel" contact held for Kissinger, and Nixon's dread of direct argument came together.

Kissinger and "Mr. Yoshida" began conferring September 1969. The National Security Adviser essentially handed his counterpart Commerce Department proposals and stressed that an agreement must follow this guideline closely. "Mr. Yoshida" indicated that Sato would accept these export limits in exchange for Nixon's promise to return Okinawa without nuclear weapons.

Despite an initial hesitation to link the questions, Kissinger came to favor the idea of a brokered solution to the textile and Okinawa issues. He knew that Nixon loathed direct argument and would appreciate his aide clinching the deal before Sato came to Washington. This gratitude would boost Kissinger's standing with the president and, he hoped, allow the NSC to focus on the "high policy" issues worthy of attention. Nixon applauded the use of the back-channel. "Let's try to get it done and not fool around with the State Department," he exclaimed when told about it.16

In the three months leading up to Sato's visit, Kissinger and Wakaizumi thrashed out solutions. While American officials made no secret of their willingness to return the Ryukyus, they stressed that the exact terms of reversion depended on progress in related talks. As Kissinger put it, Nixon would resolve the nuclear question once Japan resolved the textile question.

In spite of apparent progress, a major problem existed. In Sato's eagerness to assure the rapid return of Okinawa under acceptable terms, he accepted the American export restraint formula without consulting Japanese manufacturers, MITI officials, or other ministries whose approval and cooperation was required for implementing the plan. Sato was so determined to avoid accusations that he achieved the long sought recovery of Okinawa by callously selling out the textile industry, that he not only failed to consult, but kept all knowledge of the bargain secret from them. Although he probably hoped to soften the terms by resuming negotiations later, the prime minister's action set the stage for bitter recrimination during the next two years.

In fact, the deal began to unravel even before the two leaders blessed it. On November 17, two days before the prime minister arrived in Washington, "Yoshida" placed what Kissinger described as a "frantic phone call" explaining that Sato could not announce in Washington acceptance of the export restraints demanded by the Nixon administration. He still intended to carry out the agreement but for political reasons insisted that a textile agreement appear to emerge from the bi-lateral talks underway in Geneva or from negotiations by diplomats in Washington.17

Compared to the twisted skein of the textile problem, efforts to broker a deal on Okinawa appeared relatively simple. Kissinger and Wakaizumi agreed that in advance of the summit, Nixon would propose to withdraw nuclear weapons from Okinawa provided they could be introduced in case of emergency. Sato would reject this, offering, instead, to allow the United States to "raise the question" of reintroduction. Nixon would "accept Sato's compromise," and both sides would consider their needs met. In fact, Nixon ultimately insisted that Sato sign a secret agreement permitting emergency re-introduction of nuclear weapons.18

The Nixon-Sato Summit

Nixon, an admirer of Sato's older brother, Kishi Nobusuke, got on well with the visiting prime minister. With the tough questions apparently settled, they could share credit for announcing the Okinawa settlement. Sato promised to extend the Security Treaty for a "considerably long period" beyond 1970 and made the obvious point the return of Okinawa would deepen support for the alliance and favorably dispose Japan towards playing a greater security role in the Pacific. To facilitate high level consultation, they agreed to install a "hot line" between the White House and office of the prime minister.

Nixon agreed to return Okinawa to Japan by 1972. Technical negotiations on legal, financial, and military questions to implement the return would begin at once. (The technical agreement was signed on June 17, 1971, the treaty confirmed by the Senate in November, and reversion accomplished on May 15, 1972.) The United States would retain military bases on the Ryukyus "without detriment to the security of the Far East" or interference with the ability of the United States to defend the "countries of the Far East including Japan." Nixon pledged to recognize the "particular sentiment of the Japanese people against nuclear weapons" but reserved the right to consult with Tokyo over their reintroduction in an emergency. According to Wakaizumi Kei, one of the Japanese negotiators, Sato bowed to Nixon's demand that he sign an agreement authorizing the re-introduction of nuclear weapons in an emergency. Richard Sneider, a senior State Department Japan specialist and former NSC staff member then serving as Deputy Chief of Mission in Tokyo, asserted that Nixon linked his offer to remove American nuclear weapons from Okinawa with a broad hint to Sato that the United States would "understand" if Japan decided to "go nuclear." The president's views echoed remarks Kissinger made to his staff the previous spring. The only American present when Nixon broached this with Sato was a State Department interpreter who found the exchange so troubling that he passed his notes to senior colleagues. Recalling the incident, Sneider told Seymour Hersh that Nixon and Kissinger "thought they were being cute" by encouraging a change from American to Japanese nuclear weapons on Okinawa.

Sato, who in 1967 had codified Japan's "Three Non-Nuclear Principles*," claimed that Nixon "confused" him. To "clean up the mess," Sneider reported, career diplomats "quietly sabotaged" the gambit by telling the Japanese "they'd misunderstood what Nixon and Kissinger were saying." Sato had, in fact, understood Nixon's meaning all too well. Soon after their meeting, Sato signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that committed Tokyo not to develop nuclear weapons. The real "misunderstanding" at the summit related to a more mundane issue.19

According to then NSC staff member Roger Morris, as the formal talks concluded, "Nixon asked Sato to meet him and Kissinger alone in an anteroom of the Oval Office." The president submitted to the prime minister a "necessary private agreement" related "informally" to the Okinawa reversion. Nixon explained that the military, Congress, and other interest groups had objected to the nuclear-free return of Okinawa as a "give-away." As payback, the president wanted Sato to implement the synthetic textile restraint deal.

While at least one NSC staff member characterized Sato's response as "a bit Delphic" (something like "I will do my best to solve the problem"), Kissinger and Nixon were certain he agreed to implement export controls. Sato, Kissinger insisted, "took full responsibility, that it was his personal credo and vow to keep his word, that he committed his sincerity and all his efforts" to carry out the export restraint agreement. Nixon "said that was good enough for him," and the two leaders shook hands.20

As agreed, Sato supplemented the official communique with a speech to the National Press Club that pledged Japan to respond "promptly and positively" to American requests to utilize Okinawa bases for the defense of South Korea and Taiwan. The prime minister proclaimed a "New Pacific Age" with the "two great nations across the Pacific," of quite different ethnic and historical backgrounds, on "the verge of starting a great historical experiment in working together for a new order in the world." This fit well with the president's doctrine of Japan assuming greater responsibility for regional security. Few Americans seemed to notice that most Asians cringed whenever a Japanese leader spoke of a "new order" in the Pacific. China even charged that "American imperialists" and "Japanese reactionaries" were "hatching a new war plot".21

Sato expressed "deep gratitude" to Nixon for his "magnanimous" decision to return Okinawa. As the prime minister departed Washington, the president predicted that their agreement heralded "a new era...between the United States and Japan, in our relations not only bilaterally in the Pacific but in the world." The president urged Cabinet members to put out the word that his predecessors could not have resolved the Okinawa issue because they "didn't have the confidence of the people or the world leaders." This would give Democratic "liberals something to think about."

The Okinawa deal proved exceedingly popular in Japan. In December 1969, declaring they had finally ended foreign occupation of the national soil, Sato and the LDP parlayed the results of the agreement into an electoral victory in which Liberal Democrats and their allies won 303 out of 486 seats in a snap election to the Diet's lower house. Commenting on these results in his Foreign Policy Report of February 1970, Nixon cited the Okinawa initiative as "among the most important decisions I have taken as president." In a private discussion with members of Congress, Nixon predicted that Japan had finally shed its reluctance to engage in world affairs and he "wouldn't be surprised if in five years we didn't have to restrain them."22

This "high policy" achievement, however, rested on a "low policy" compromise. Moreover, Nixon found little lasting pleasure in the Okinawa settlement. On April 27, 1970, as controversy swirled over the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, Nixon told Kissinger that looking back on his foreign policy accomplishments of the past year, "we have been praised for all the wrong things." The press and the Democrats applauded the Okinawa agreement, efforts to control nuclear and chemical weapons, and the Nixon Doctrine. But now that he was "finally doing the right thing" (i.e. invading Cambodia), he heard nothing but criticism.23

Continued stalemate over textiles contributed to Nixon's sour tone. Despite months of additional negotiations during 1970, Sato failed to implement the export restraint agreement Nixon and Kissinger believed he had agreed to. His anger was evident when a "high administration official," rumored to be Nixon himself, told journalists that the U.S. - Japan security treat was designed, in part, to "police Japan against turning communist or returning to militarism." In an effort to prevent further erosion of bi-lateral relations, Sato visited Nixon in October 1970.

The president and prime minister, with Kissinger, Foreign Minister Aichi Kichi, and Ambassador Ushiba Nobuhiko present for parts of the discussion, conferred on October 24. They covered a variety of topics, including Southeast Asia, the Nixon Doctrine, Okinawa, environmental pollution, economic relations, and China (Nixon insisting he contemplated no change in policy but would keep Tokyo "fully informed") before turning to textiles. When Sato broached the subject, Nixon replied that the question had been resolved the year before. The agreement only remained to be implemented. Sato apologized and pledged to act immediately. The joint communique implied that a textile agreement was imminent but months later, nothing had been achieved.24

On March 8, 1971, as Nixon muttered about "the Jap betrayal," representatives of the Japanese textile industry announced that they and Wilbur Mills had concluded a voluntary three year export restraint program that precluded the need for a government-to-government agreement. Mills told presidential aide Peter Flanigan that he thought the president would support the private deal as it got both of them off the hook of supporting a quota bill they secretly opposed. But when the Washington Post and The New York Times praised Mills for "an achievement on a grand scale" which no one else had the "mix of talent, outlook, and power" to achieve, and after American textile spokesman ridiculed the deal as too lax, Nixon reacted with fury.

Sato had not only failed to deliver on his promise, his government appeared to colluding with a Democratic rival. On March 11 Nixon denounced the Japanese industry plan as too lenient and lacking "the terms essential to the United States." Japan must either negotiate with the American government or face quota legislation. Determined to retrieve the initiative, Nixon appointed Peter Peterson as adviser on International Economic Affairs and former Secretary of the Treasury David Kennedy as textile negotiator.25

By now, the textile impasse merged with the Okinawa issue and the senate's desire to reassert its treaty power. The draft agreement to return the Ryukyus was nearly complete in February 1971 when Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman J. William Fulbright notified Secretary of State Rogers that any settlement must be "submitted in the form of a treaty" to the Senate. Since the administration had intended to seek some form of congressional approval, Rogers replied positively to Fulbright on March 10.

American journalists and Japanese officials mistook this action as an administration ploy to increase pressure on Tokyo concerning textiles. Senator Strom Thurmond made the linkage explicit in a speech delivered on June 16, 1971, the day before the signing of the Okinawa treaty. Japan, he complained, was "asking a big favor" on Okinawa but offering nothing on textiles. Arguing that the issues were "interrelated," he demanded a quid pro quo. Although not unhappy that Tokyo suspected he encouraged Thurmond, the president kept the issues separate.26

Nixon's rejection of the Japanese industry plan initiated the most difficult period in bi-lateral relations since the end of the Occupation. Hoping he could still deal with Nixon, Sato reshuffled his cabinet early in July 1971. He named two LDP faction leaders who hoped to succeed him, Fukuda Takeo and Tanaka Kakuei, as heads of the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of International Trade and Industry, respectively. But just as they assumed their posts, Nixon delivered twin jolts - his July 15 announcement of a planned visit to China and his August 15 decision to cut the dollar loose from gold, impose an import surcharge, and force the upward valuation of the yen. He then threatened to impose quotas on Japan's textile exports under the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act.

The China Card and Triangular Diplomacy

Asakai Koichiro, Japanese ambassador to the United States during the late-1950s, spoke to colleagues of a recurring dream that troubled his sleep. He imagined that the United States abruptly reversed its policy toward China without bothering to inform Japan. This scenario, dismissed by American officials as a fantasy, became known in diplomatic circles as "Asakai's Nightmare." The events of July 15, 1971 made Asakai seem a visionary. As U. Alexis Johnson remarked, Kissinger's "passion for secrecy, combined with his contempt for the [State] Department and disdain for the Japanese, threw a devastating wrench into our relations with Japan on the question of China."

Nixon's and Kissinger's interest in opening a dialogue with China reflected deeper changes in the Cold War. Upon taking office, both men recognized that the Soviet Union had achieved a rough nuclear parity with the United States. Instead of a costly and probably futile effort to restore American superiority, the administration sought to influence Soviet behavior through a variety of economic and political incentives broadly labeled "detente." These included negotiated limits on strategic weapons, increased trade and technology transfers, and recognition that the Soviet Union, as a great power, had legitimate global interests. This attempt to engage the Soviet Union and give it a stake in world order would replace earlier forms of Containment.

Even as Washington cultivated a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, it found that political and economic policies pursued by the European allies and Japan clashed frequently with American interests. Tensions within the Western alliance were matched by fragmentation of the Sino-Soviet bloc. Beginning in March 1969, the decade-long war of words between China and the Soviet Union escalated into widespread skirmishes along their border. This schism created an opportunity for the United States to play off the communist rivals against each other, assuming Washington had some leverage with the People's Republic of China. Following the border clashes, Nixon and Kissinger concluded that improved ties with China might constrain Soviet behavior and impel both rivals to cooperate with the United States or risk isolation.

Only a few months after taking office, for example, Nixon urged Kissinger to "plant that idea" as a way to prod Moscow. "I think that while Gromyko is in the country would be a very good time to have another move toward China made," he told Kissinger in September 1969. With the United States in a balancing position, Kissinger later commented, "each communist power [had] a stake in better relations with us." The leverage gained through this triangular diplomacy with Moscow and Beijing might also hasten an end to the Vietnam war (through Soviet or Chinese pressure on Hanoi), provide Washington greater influence over Japan, and facilitate an orderly reduction of United States military power in Asia.

Just as fear of Chinese expansion had been one of the prime factors prompting American intervention in Vietnam, a desire to assist Chinese resistance to Soviet pressure increased the administration's determination to speed a settlement in Vietnam. In effect, Nixon began to apply his doctrine of reduced involvement in Asia before, rather than after, "victory" in Vietnam. As Kissinger elaborated, the "China initiative...restored perspective to our national policy." It reduced "Indochina to its proper scale - a small peninsula on a major continent." The "drama" of opening ties with China would "ease for the American people the pain that would inevitably accompany our withdrawal from Southeast Asia."27

Fear of the Soviets and internal weakness moved Chinese leaders, especially Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, to alter their policy toward the United States. Following the August 1968 Soviet invasion which crushed communist reform efforts in Czechoslovakia, the 1969 border Sino-Soviet clashes, and the subsequent redeployment of substantial Soviet forces to the disputed frontier, Chinese leaders feared an assault by their former ally. At the same time, Japan's growing wealth and assertiveness - including Sato's pledge to support the defense of South Korea and Taiwan - raised for China the specter of a rearmed, expansive Japan.

During the 1950s and 1960s, American air, naval, and land deployment in Asia had been designed to contain China. Nixon's gradual withdrawal of ground troops from Vietnam, his decisions to return Okinawa and encourage Japan to play a regional security role, the Nixon doctrine, and Washington's pursuit of detente with the Soviet Union left little doubt about the trend of American military strategy in the Asia/Pacific region. Because the retreat of American power coincided with a growing Soviet threat, Chinese strategists no longer pondered the danger of a United States victory in Vietnam but agonized about the consequences of defeat. American withdrawal would increase China's vulnerability to both the Soviet Union and Japan. As Nixon and Kissinger hoped, Mao's determination to protect China outweighed his disdain for capitalism, solidarity with North Vietnam, mistrust of the United States, and drive to regain Taiwan.28

On June 2, 1971, after more than a year of communicating through intermediaries and low level diplomats, Zhou Enlai invited Kissinger to come to Beijing as a prelude to a presidential visit. Kissinger described the message as "the most important communication that has come to an American president since the end of World War II." Discounting the hyperbole, the invitation confirmed what Nixon told his aides: "fundamental shifts in the world balance of power made it in both [nations'] interest to have relations." Confronted by the Soviets on one border, a Soviet-backed India on another, and Japan to the Northeast which could "develop [military power] fast because of its industrial base," China looked to the United States for relief. Beijing continued to demand that "the U.S. should get out of the Pacific," but Mao and Zhou, Nixon surmised, "don't want that."

As American power in Asia dwindled, the president explained, Japan would "either go with the Soviets or re-arm," two bad alternatives from China's perspective. Nixon predicted that with a little tutoring Mao and Zhou would agree that continued United States military presence in Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia was "China's [best] hope for Jap restraint."29

During Kissinger's secret three day visit to Beijing from July 9 - 11, 1971, he and Zhou Enlai spoke for some 17 hours. Amidst rote posturing, philosophizing, and light repartee on both sides, Kissinger offered Zhou the single thing he believed motivated China - "strategic reassurance, some easing of their nightmare of hostile encirclement." As proof of American good will, he provided communications intercepts and satellite pictures of Soviet facilities along China's border. Zhou recited what Kissinger called the "Chinese Communist liturgy," demands that the Americans abandon Taiwan, pull out of South Vietnam, and oppose a "militaristic Japan." But, over lunch, the Chinese premier assured Kissinger that none of these minor impediments should stand in the way of improved bilateral relations or a presidential visit.30

When Nixon received preliminary confirmation of the Chinese invitation, he mused to H.R. Haldeman that in politics, it seemed, "everything turns around." China "made a deal with us" due to "concern regarding the Soviets," their former ally. He (Nixon) had "fought the battle for Chiang" on Taiwan since the 1950s. How "ironic" that he was the "one to move ... in the other direction." Rapprochement with China, Nixon predicted, would "change the world balance" and "shatter old alignments." The "pressure on Japan" might push it toward an "alliance with the Soviets,"** while Moscow would certainly try to redress the balance of power by "moving to Japan and India." Nixon recognized it might take some effort to "reassure Pacific allies we are not changing our policy" nor selling out friends "behind their backs." They must understand that while there was "validity ten years ago to play the free nations of Asia against China," now "we can play a more effective role with China rather than without."31

On the night of July 14, Gen. Alexander Haig, Kissinger's deputy, summoned U. Alexis Johnson to Nixon's San Clemente, California home. When he arrived the next day, NSC aide, Winston Lord, casually told him that the president planned to make a live television appearance announcing that Kissinger had just returned from China with an invitation for Nixon to visit Beijing. Johnson grew frantic when informed that no one had alerted Japan.*** Just minutes before Nixon's address, Johnson made telephone contact with Japan's ambassador in Washington, Ushiba Nobuhiko. When told the purpose of the call, the flustered envoy cried out: "Alex, the Asakai nightmare has happened."

In Tokyo, three minutes before Nixon speech, Kusuda Minoru, Sato's secretary, encountered the prime minister emerging from a cabinet meeting (which had reaffirmed support for Taiwan) and informed him of the president's action. Just a week before Defense Secretary Melvin Laird had assured Sato Washington contemplated "no basic change" in China policy. Now, in shock, Sato mumbled "is that really so?" Ambassador Armin Meyer failed to get even a three minute warning. He learned of the China initiative over the radio while having a haircut. U. Alexis Johnson noted tartly that while Kissinger and Nixon "embarked on a period of rapturous enchantment with China, they shoved Japan, "our most important ally in Asia by far," rather "obviously to the back burner."32

Although Nixon's China initiative resembled the calls of Japanese leaders since Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru, the president's calculated insult stunned most Japanese. In public, Sato put on a brave face, praising Nixon's policy reversal as "in the interests of world peace." Japan, he noted, had long favored closer ties with China. In private, Amb. Meyer reported, most LDP leaders were "upset as hell" and doubted that "Sato could last" after the humiliation inflicted upon him.

The prime minister's own faith in the United States appeared to be shattered. "I have done everything they [the Americans] have asked," a tearful Sato told visiting Australian Labor Leader Gough Whitlam, but "they have let me down." Neither the president nor his aides expressed much sympathy for the prime minister's plight. Secretary of State Rogers suggested that Nixon play "lots of mood music" to placate the Japanese.33

The shock to LDP leaders and ordinary Japanese stemmed partly from the fact that while Washington and Beijing moved towards cooperation in 1970-71, Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated. Chinese leaders expressed alarm over Japan's expanding economic power and gradually rising military budget.**** They took particular offense at Sato's assertion of Japan's security interest in South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, as expressed in the Nixon-Sato communique of November 1969. The Chinese press denounced "criminal plots" among Japanese and American counter revolutionaries, the "reactionary policies of the Sato Cabinet," and attempts by Tokyo to rebuild the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere."

In April 1970, Zhou Enlai and North Korean strongman Kim Il-sung issued a statement saying that "Japanese militarism has revived and has become a dangerous force of aggression in Asia." They accused Sato's government of "directly serving U.S. imperialism in its war of aggression against Vietnam," of plotting with Washington a new war against North Korea, and of "attempting to include the Chinese sacred territory of Taiwan in their sphere of influence." Zhou then issued strict, new guidelines governing Sino-Japanese trade. Henceforth, China would not trade with Japanese companies assisting or investing in Taiwan and South Korea, manufacturing arms for the American war effort in Southeast Asia, or engaged in joint ventures with American firms.34

Sato urged Japanese business leaders to resist Chinese pressure and cited Nixon's assurance that Washington contemplated no sudden changes in China policy. Nevertheless, demands from business groups anxious to enter the largest market of Asia and from a wide spectrum of political critics persuaded nearly half the members of the Diet to join a non-partisan Parliamentarians League for the Restoration of Ties with China. Despite this, Sato announced his determination to hold the line against Beijing by blocking efforts to seat the it in the United Nations. The prime minister and his allies were so certain that American policy would not change that they ignored all hints to the contrary. Even when Zhou Enlai told a Japanese trade negotiator in the spring of 1971 that China and the United States might soon begin serious diplomatic discussions independently of Japan, Sato paid no heed.35

Ironically, Nixon and Kissinger may have used the specter of a nuclear-armed Japan to put pressure on China to accept U.S. terms for cooperation. During Kissinger's secret visit to Beijing on July 9 - 11, 1971, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird stopped in Tokyo on a tour of Asian allies. Through his own sources, including documents pilfered by Kissinger aide Yeoman Charles Radford and passed on to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Laird learned about the secret approach to China. He told Kissinger biographer Walter Isaacson that he shared this knowledge with a Japanese defense official shortly before Nixon spoke in public. (Laird did not mention that this version contradicts his contemporary account of July 1971 when he assured Sato there would be no approach to China.)36

In public and private talks in Tokyo, the Defense Secretary and his aides berated Japan for demanding the removal of nuclear weapons from Okinawa. Instead of hampering American security efforts, Tokyo should provide greater assistance to Southeast Asia and boost its own military capacity, starting with development of an anti-missile system to counter China. He and his aids hinted that Washington favored a nuclear armed Japan. Kissinger later criticized Laird's remarks as unauthorized and harmful to his efforts in China.37

A deposition given in June 1975 by Richard Nixon appears to contradict Kissinger's charge. In a statement to the Watergate Special Prosecution Force inquiring into White House misconduct, Nixon discussed Yeoman Radford's theft of NSC documents. The former president, one of the prosecutors told Seymour Hersh, became livid. "Radford knew everything," he said, "he was in on all the meetings." Nixon explained that during the initial contacts with China, he and Kissinger warned Zhou that if China did not agree to strategic cooperation against the Soviet Union on American terms, they would encourage Japan to develop nuclear weapons. As Nixon put it, "We had these tough negotiations with China over the Mutual Defense Treaty...with Japan. You have to be tough. And we told them that if they tried to jump Japan then we'll jump them." The prosecutor recalled Nixon saying, "We told them that if you try to keep us from protecting the Japanese, we would let them go nuclear. And the Chinese said, "we don't want that." Nixon boasted "he'd `put it to' the Chinese - like someone out of Hell's Kitchen."38

Laird's remarks in Tokyo add credence to Nixon's account. Possibly, Laird, Kissinger, and Nixon played "good cop/bad cop" to encourage a more cooperative attitude in Beijing. After all, the last thing China needed was a hostile nuclear armed Japan just as Beijing tried to enlist American support against the Soviets.

On July 5, 1971, four days before Kissinger's secret visit to China, Zhou revealed his anxiety about Japan. In an interview with journalist Ross Terrill, Zhou seemed "very agitated indeed about Japan." He accused Washington of conspiring to revive "Japanese militarism" and planning to give Tokyo tactical nuclear weapons. The Chinese prime minister repeated this assertion after Nixon's announcement of July 15. In a discussion with American journalist James Reston in August, Zhou warned that Nixon's promotion of Japanese rearmament, along with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam, encouraged the revival of Japanese militarism. He depicted Japan's civilian nuclear industry as conspiring to build weapons as part of a plan to dominate Asia.39

Japan's ambassador in Washington, Ushiba Nobuhiko, stated publicly that Zhou's complaints about Japanese militarism were cover for a Chinese ploy to "isolate Japan" from the United States and drive it towards neutrality. This would make Washington more dependent upon Beijing for strategic cooperation against the Soviet Union. In an unusually blunt tone, Ushiba distinguished between professional diplomats such as U. Alexis Johnson and Marshall Green who were sensitive to Japan, and amateurs such as Nixon and Kissinger, men easily manipulated by Chinese cunning.40

The tears shed by Prime Minister Sato in July 1971 reflected both a sense of personal betrayal and a belief that Japan, having sailed loyally in the wake of America's China-Vietnam containment policy for two decades, deserved better. Over the next two months Nixon hurled additional lightening bolts in Tokyo's direction. His decisions to end the dollar's convertibility into gold, force an upward valuation of the yen, levy a surcharge on imports, and impose unilateral textile quotas - collectively labeled the New Economic Policy - further startled the Japanese leadership.

By the summer of 1971, the festering textile dispute blended into the larger economic problems dividing the United States from its trading partners. Nixon's chief economic advisers, OMB director George Shultz and Treasury Secretary John Connally (who assumed the post in March 1971), blamed the trade and payments deficit on America's trading partners. Undervalued yen, marks, and francs, they insisted, made foreign goods artificially cheap in the United States and American products unnaturally expensive abroad. Raising the value of the yen and making dollars "cheaper" would, they argued, encourage American exports and end the unfair trade advantages of the Japanese, Germans, and others. Nixon's economic advisers also criticized the nation's allies for imposing a variety of regulatory barriers to American exports and refusing to pay a fair share of defense costs. Influenced by Undersecretary of the Treasury Paul Volcker and his staff, Connally urged the president to force the upward valuation of foreign currencies, impose restrictions on imports, levy an import surcharge, suspend dollar-gold convertibility, and make the allies assume a greater share of the common defense burden.41

Connally, a silver-tongued Texas Democrat flirting with the Republicans, beguiled the president. When asked by a journalist what qualified him for the Treasury post, Connally quipped "I can add." He told former NSC staffer C. Fred Bergsten about his view of international economic policy: "My philosophy is that all foreigners are out to screw us and it's our job to screw them first." This panache impressed Nixon so much that in July 1971 he told his staff to "figure out how the hell we can get [Vice President] Agnew to resign early" so that Connally could assume the job. Nixon called the Texan "my logical successor."42

In the face of a feared European run on the dollar, Nixon hurriedly assembled his domestic political and economic advisers at Camp David on August 13-14. Connally easily bullied Nixon and the others (Kissinger was absent, about to leave for Paris) into following his lead. The country, he warned, "can't cover our liabilities -we're broke; anyone can topple us." Only bold action would mobilize domestic support and force the upward valuation of foreign currencies. It was pointless to discuss alternatives, Connally argued, since "we don't have alternatives." Delay would place the president "in the hands of the money changers." These warnings led Nixon to "close the gold window" (ceasing to exchange dollars for gold), levy a 10 per cent surcharge on imports, impose a temporary wage - price freeze, provide investment incentives to industry, and reduce federal spending.43

On the evening of August 15, 1971 - the anniversary of "V-J" Day the president told a nationwide radio and television audience that "We are going to take action-not timidly, not half-heartedly, and not in piecemeal fashion....The time has come for a new economic policy for the United States. Its targets are unemployment, inflation, and international speculation." Nixon stressed his determination to "protect the dollar from the attacks of international money speculators" and called on America's trading partners to "set straight" the values of their currencies if they wanted him to drop the import surcharge. The United States would no longer "compete with one hand tied behind her back."

These initiatives had a disproportionate impact on Japan, given its dependence on the American market and the fact that over 90% of its exports were subject to the new surcharge. Just as the opening to China overturned the political ground rules of the post-occupation Pacific alliance, the New Economic Policy undermined the basis of the postwar economic relationship. While the China shock had primarily injured Japan's pride, the economic shock, as Nixon put it, was designed to "stick it to Japan."44

In his written directive authorizing the import surcharge, Nixon proclaimed a "national emergency" which empowered him to take action to "strengthen the international economic position of the United States." This authority derived from the Trading with the Enemy Act, passed by Congress in 1917, and last amended shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It allowed the president in time of war or declared emergency to regulate the importation of "any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest." Although White House spokesmen downplayed the statutory basis for the overall import surcharge, Nixon instructed them to publicize the use of the Trading with the Enemy Act "only for textiles - i.e. Japs."45

Nixon encouraged domestic support for his program with thinly veiled attacks on Japan. Addressing the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Dallas on August 19, he warned that "history" was "strewn with he wreckage of nations that were rich and that fell before people that were less rich and considered to be inferior to them intellectually and in every other way, because the rich nations, in their maturity, lost their drive, lost their desire, lost their dynamism, lost their vitality." Nations which the United States assisted after World War II had become "our strong competitors economically" and in "other ways." To make sure everyone got the point, Nixon closed by calling the threat to America "far more serious than the challenge that we confronted even in the dark days of Pearl Harbor."46

When Japanese and American cabinet ministers gathered at Williamsburg, Virginia on September 8-10 for their eighth bi-lateral meeting, monetary and trade issues dominated their discussion. As a Japanese official recalled, each country's delegates "talked along parallel lines and never met."

Secretary of State Rogers insisted that "any country in chronic surplus as Japan is" was obliged to increase imports, eliminate export incentives, and revalue its currency "to bring its global balance of payments into equilibrium." Rogers called on Japan to eliminate all restrictions on imports and foreign investment, increase its foreign assistance, and assure orderly marketing of its exports. Connally demanded that Tokyo increase the value of the yen, settle the textile dispute on American terms, and reduce both tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports. The last was most important.

Foreign Minister Fukuda Takeo and Finance Minister Mizuta Mikio interpreted economic data and trends rather differently. They insisted that Tokyo had already implemented most of Rogers' demands and denied that Japan's "current balance of payments is in basic disequilibrium." Instead of trying to force Japan to increase the value of the yen and limit exports, Fukuda suggested that the United States devalue the dollar and correct its own balance of payments problem "through domestic means such as fiscal and monetary measures." In his own allusion to Pearl Harbor, he warned that Nixon's import surcharge might initiate a wave of global protectionism such as that which preceded the Second World War.

The gulf between the allies showed in other areas as well. Rogers pressed Japan to co-sponsor a "two-Chinas" resolution designed to retain a UN seat for Taiwan when, as expected in October, members states voted to admit China into the world organization. Despite sympathy for Taiwan, the Japanese government doubted the American salvage effort would succeed. Tokyo had no desire to adopt a doomed position certain to enrage China and impede efforts to normalize relations. Fukuda refused to commit Japan and, instead, pressed Rogers to send the Okinawa treaty to the Senate for speedy ratification.47

On September 21, at roughly the same time as he threatened to invoke the Trading with the Enemy Act against Japan unless it accepted American demands to restrain textile exports (an agreement was reached on October 15, only hours before sanctions were to take affect), Nixon finally sent the Okinawa reversion treaty to the Senate. The president discouraged efforts to link a ratification vote to acceptance of American trade demands. The treaty won easy passage (84 yes to 6 no votes) on November 10, 1971. Reversion took place on May 15, 1972.

On September 26, in a sign that he desired to resume a dialogue with Tokyo, the president and first lady flew to Anchorage, Alaska to greet Emperor Hirohito whose plane made a brief refueling stop en route to Europe. Nixon described this first meeting between a sitting president and Japanese emperor as an "historic" event and a "spiritual bridge spanning East and West."


During the autumn of 1971 Nixon, Connally, and Kissinger made gradual progress towards an agreement to revalue world currencies. The process culminated on December 17, 1971 at a conference held in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. among the so-called Group of Ten, the major Western European powers plus Canada, Japan and the United States. Delegates agreed to a devaluation of the dollar by about 9% (by raising the price of gold to $38 per ounce) and upward valuation of the yen by 16.9%, the mark by 13.5% and the and franc by 8.5%. Currency values would be permitted to fluctuate in a range up or down 2.5%. The yen-dollar exchange rate fell from 360 to about 308 to 1, and Washington dropped the import surcharge. Despite Nixon's description of the accord as the "most significant monetary agreement in the history of the world," the effort to manage currency values lasted less than two years and did little to improve the U.S. trade balance with Japan.48

Gyohten Toyoo, a finance ministry official in 1971, recalled that the Nixon shocks and related trade disputes convinced his colleagues that the "Nixon administration was thinking about the possibility of using Communist China as a counterweight to Japan in post-Vietnam Asia." Despite the difference in styles between Henry Kissinger and John Connally, Gyohten believed the two presidential advisers had achieved a "meeting of the minds" and acted as a tag team to "pull the rug out from under Japan." Just as the Nixon administration hoped to utilize triangular (United States-China-Soviet Union) diplomacy to influence Soviet behavior, the Americans seemed to be "playing a kind of China card to Japan." In fact, Nixon had just spoken in these terms to British prime minister Edward Heath. The "Japanese," he complained, "are all over Asia like a bunch of lice" and fitting them into a post-Vietnam framework posed major obstacles.49

Although LDP faction leaders varied in their responses to the Nixon shocks, nearly all recognized that Sato's days as prime minister were numbered along with the "San Francisco" system which had defined Japan's place in the world for two decades. In the scramble to devise a formula for Sino-Japanese rapprochement, LDP stalwarts pushed aside the Japanese Left which had urged such a policy since 1951. Major corporations, determined to claim a piece of the China market, severed ties to Taiwan and accepted Zhou Enlai's "Four Conditions" for trade.

Hori Shigeru, LDP secretary general, spoke for many party elders in December 1971 when he wrote that the Pax Americana had run its course. Japan's strategic and economic ties to the United States remained important but no longer paramount or sufficient. In 1945 the United States supplanted the British Empire as the pre-dominant world power. For a quarter century thereafter,

the world has revolved around an American axis. Japan was able to reemerge from the depths of misery brought on by defeat and achieve her present position by striving earnestly to adjust her policies to those of the American-dominated world order. However the world has ceased to revolve around an American axis. The Americans themselves recognize this fact. The world, it is said, has entered a tri-polar, or a five polar era....For Japan, friendship with the United States remains vital. It will be necessary to consolidate this friendship even further to promote our development and prosperity...At the same will be necessary for us to recognize, once again, that Japan is an Asian nation.50

Strategic and economic cooperation with China seemed imperative to assure Japanese prosperity in the post-Nixon shock environment.

Although Sato probably agreed with much of this assessment, his desire to retain American good will and reluctance to jettison long-established ties to Taiwan constrained his action. For example, despite his initial reluctance to follow the American lead, by the time the UN voted on the China question on October 26, 1971, Sato had Japan vote in favor of the doomed American resolution to preserve a seat for Taiwan as well.

Probably, concern over Okinawa as well as the currency and trade disputes influenced this decision. As the UN vote took place, the Senate was about to take final action on the Okinawa treaty and Nixon continued to push hard on textiles, currency values, and the import surcharge. By allying Japan once more with the United States on Taiwan, Sato hoped to assure ratification of the Okinawa treaty while moderating Washington's economic pressure.51

Anxious for reassurance about where Japan (and he) stood in American strategic thinking, Sato called on Nixon in San Clemente early in January 1972, a month before the presidential visit to China. (Neither Kissinger nor Nixon thought the summit important enough to mention in their memoirs.) His arrival coincided with a newspaper column by Jack Anderson that included a cable to Washington from Amb. Meyer discussing a recent conversation with Foreign Minister Fukuda and his own views on China. Meyer had cautioned Nixon and Kissinger against trying to "persuade the Chinese that the United States-Japan security relationship had a restraining effect on Japanese `militarism.'" The Chinese, he predicted, would report this to Japan in hope of driving a wedge between Tokyo and Washington. Meyer also urged Nixon to refrain from announcing dramatic changes in policy while in Beijing. If the president recognized the PRC or broke ties with Taiwan before consulting with Tokyo, already strained LDP faith in the American alliance might crumble. Without the steadying effect of the security treaty, Meyer warned, Sato's successors might reject strategic cooperation with the West and "decide to develop an autonomous nuclear force de frappe."52

In probing for an indication of future American action, Sato admitted to Nixon that the "shock of the announcement" on China the previous July "ran much deeper than the president could even imagine." Perhaps, following Nixon's upcoming visit to China, Kissinger could "stop off in Japan" providing "he didn't have a stomach ache." Nixon's response offered little comfort to Sato. He reaffirmed the American security commitment to Japan, declared his intent to expand ties to China, and promised not to abandon Taiwan. He hoped the Japanese would not "crawl" or "engage in an obvious race to Peking," meaning, of course, a race to upstage him. Japan, Nixon argued, should play a military as well as economic role in Asia, suggesting, yet again, that it reconsider its attitude toward nuclear weapons. He also pushed for a promise to buy more American-built jets. Sato agreed to assign MITI minister Tanaka to work on aircraft purchases but refused to yield on nuclear weapons. The Diet and the Japanese public overwhelmingly opposed them, while Tokyo had all it could handle refuting Chinese accusations of resurgent militarism. Turning the tables, he requested that Nixon state publicly that "the United States would not provide Japan any nuclear weapons" and that Japan had "no other recourse except the United States nuclear umbrella."53

On February 21, 1971, Nixon rushed down the stairway of his plane at Beijing airport to shake the hand of Zhou Enlai. When ushered into Mao's presence a few hours later, he spoke eloquently of his own journey from anti-Communism to China. What brought the Chinese and American leadership together, he asserted, was the "recognition of a new situation in the world and a recognition on our part that what is important is not a nation's internal political philosophy. What is important is its policy towards the rest of the world and towards us." Both United States and China, Nixon continued, were concerned with the policy of the Soviet Union and the future of Japan. Playing to China's fears, he asking rhetorically why the "Soviets have more forces on the border facing you than they do on the border facing Western Europe?" Sino-American differences over Taiwan, Korea, and Indochina paled in comparison.

Nixon countered criticism of Japanese militarism by asking if China really believed it would be better "for Japan to be neutral and totally defenseless" or would mutual interests be secured by Japan maintaining "defense relations with the United States?" Without the security treaty, he cautioned, America would "have no influence where they are concerned." If the United States's military presence in Asia and Japan disappeared, "our protests" about Japanese or Soviet behavior "no matter how loud, would be like firing an empty cannon. We would have no effect because thousands of miles away is just too far to be heard."54

During his week in China, Nixon stressed the point that America's alliance with Japan was in China's interest, as it "guaranteed that we would be a major factor in the Western Pacific to balance the designs of others, and would keep Japan from pursuing the path of militaristic nationalism." This also held true for American troops and bases in the Philippines and South Korea. In a remarkably nimble reversal of twenty years of cold war rhetoric, Nixon characterized the American security network in Asia as designed to protect China and contain current or potential threats from both the Soviet Union and Japan.55

Mao and Zhou said that although they sought no quarrels with Japan or South Korea, they considered these nations' military posture hostile toward China. In final banquet toasts of February 27, Nixon and Zhou pledged to oppose efforts by any country to establish hegemony in the Asian-Pacific region. Nothing was said about America's past effort to contain China or the Vietnam war.

In the Shanghai Communique of February 28, 1972, the Americans referred only briefly to its chief Asian ally: "The United States places the highest value on its friendly relations with Japan" and would continue to "develop the existing close bonds." The effort to "sell" Beijing on the U.S.- Japan security treaty fell short, as the Chinese inserted in the communique a declaration of opposition to "the revival and outward expansion of Japanese militarism" and their "support for the Japanese people's desire to build an independent, democratic, peaceful and neutral Japan." By allowing himself to be associated with this assertion, in agreeing that Taiwan was a part of China whose future status should be settled by Chinese alone, and by promising to eventually remove the American military presence from the island Nixon came close to endorsing Beijing's basic views.56

Even without knowing the details of the Nixon-Kissinger-Mao-Zhou discussions, the Shanghai Communique shocked Sato. At a press conference he held after the president left China, the prime minister appeared stunned. Nixon "called this a major event of the century," Sato mumbled to reporters and then stalked out of the room. A subsequent briefing in Tokyo by Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Green and a talk between Kissinger and Amb. Ushiba in Washington provided little comfort. The Americans merely reported that Nixon had made no secret deals with China and that the United States would honor its Asian commitments.57

China's view of Japan changed evolved rapidly. During the summer of 1972 Zhou Enlai announced that China no longer objected to the U.S. - Japan security treaty. That fall, a new Japanese Prime Minister, Tanaka Kakuei, normalized relations with the PRC.***** Foreign Minister Ohira Masayoshi told Nixon that the Chinese described the U.S. - Japan security treaty as "not at all" a problem for Beijing. After a February 1973 visit to Beijing, Kissinger noted in a report to Nixon that when the United States and China initiated direct contact in July 1971, Mao and Zhou had urged American "withdrawals from Asia," characterized "Japan-U.S. military ties [as] at a minimum unhelpful," told us to "get out of Korea," worried about Taiwan, cared nothing for Europe, and still considered the United States "capable of colluding with the USSR, Japan, and India to carve up China."

Eighteen months later, Kissinger reported, Mao and Zhou had a completely altered outlook. Like Nixon, they hoped to see the Indochina war end quickly with Vietnam evolving outside the Soviet orbit. The Chinese not only ceased complaining about resurgent militarism in Japan, but praised Tokyo as an incipient ally. Zhou conceded that Japan's treaty with the United States "braked militarist tendencies" and gave Tokyo an "indispensable sense of security." Mao and Zhou actually admonished the United States for appearing to slight the Japanese. During Kissinger's trips to Asia, Mao asserted, he must spend more than a single day in Tokyo. A pro forma stop there after visiting China "isn't very good for their face," he explained. Sounding uncannily like John Foster Dulles, the two old revolutionaries encouraged Kissinger to organize an "axis" that included Japan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Western Europe to restrain Soviet expansion.58

In spite of the admiration for Chinese and Japanese leaders Kissinger professed in his memoirs, his contemporary views were less sympathetic and reflected his belief that realpolitik, not moral sympathy, dictated national behavior. According to Seymour Hersh (who obtained notes taken during a briefing the secretary of state gave to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in March 1974), Kissinger returned from recent trips to Beijing and Tokyo deeply suspicious of both powers. The "Japanese," he asserted, "are mean and treacherous but they are not organically anti-American; they pursue their own interest." The United States must maintain a balance in Asia or "Japan could be a big problem."

In contrast, Kissinger said, the Chinese "would kill us if they got the chance and would pick up Japan if they thought they could get away with it." Fortunately, their fear of the Soviet Union forced them to cooperate with Washington. Kissinger predicted Japan, prodded by the oil crisis, would "go nuclear at some time." The Chinese "would worry if the Japanese began to increase their defense expenditures." That would be all right, he concluded, so long as Japan did so "without [the U.S.] being publicly linked to it." Ultimately, it was in America's interest to keep Japan and China concerned about the other.59

As Kissinger's purported remarks suggest, by the twilight of the Nixon years American views of both China and Japan had altered radically from those prevailing in 1969. A new real-politik had replaced ideological hostility toward Beijing and sympathy toward Tokyo. The logic which underlay the so-called San Francisco system was rapidly giving way to a multi-polar world in which Japan played a part as both ally and competitor of the United States.

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