Wampler: I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me sir. Your memoirs covered a lot which is very useful, which means we don't have to reinvent the wheel of how you got to be called to go there unless there is something new you would like to add to the record, but, as you've indicated, these memoirs are based upon the papers that you had access to so, at least, it is very well documented and can be, hopefully, documented someday.
Meyer: Yes, it was done when I returned from Japan and for three months had no job and I sat in the basement of the State Department going through my Japan file and coming up and writing this book at that time before I got assigned to this job of combating terrorism by Mr. Nixon after the Israeli affair. But, during those three or four months I studied all those documents and on the basis of those documents that book was written, there's quite a bit of authentic material in it. It's not a scholarly work, it's simply a memoir of what happened out there. I liked Ed Reischauer's comment that you know at least what the Ambassador was doing and what he thought during that period.
Wampler: You've indicated that when you were first appointed to the position, you did have a chance also to make the rounds inside Washington of the people who would be involved with Japanese policy, you got to meet with Reischauer, with U. Alexis Johnson, with the military people to get up to speed. What was your sense when you went off to Tokyo of where you felt the administration was going? As you were going there to present U.S. policy and represent it, did you have a good sense of what Nixon was going to want to do with Japan as he came into office?
Meyer: Well, what I remember is that even before leaving Tehran which was my former post, the Japanese ambassador there told me that I could not go to Japan at a worse time, because you had the anpo, the anti-treaty struggle coming to a head. 1970 was the tenth anniversary of its formation and it was a time when it could be denounced or discarded. The result was that there was a great deal of demonstrating going on and so on. He also told me that the Okinawa problem would be an important one and trade problems and so on. Above all he felt that I was not very well qualified to... I had spent 27 years in the Middle East and he said that, "Please don't tell the Japanese that because they have a sense of pride." So I downplayed my Middle East background but I, in all honesty, told them when I got out there that having served in Lebanon twice where they invented money, I think I had a little bit of a background dealing with the Japanese.
Wampler: Given all the things that were going to happen over the next few years, there was no hint, though, that there was going to be the shocks coming? The trade problems were starting to mount somewhat at this point, Okinawa was still there as a problem to be dealt with, Nixon had given some indication that there might be a change in policy regarding China in the article that he published in Foreign Affairs, so some things were in flux; some things might be looking to be solved, some things might be changing , and I guess you were in a fairly difficult position in trying to understand, yourself, what you thought U.S. policy was aiming for in Asia. Did you have a sense of where Japan fit in, or how did your sense of where Japan fit into U.S. policy evolve after you got there? There are these papers that you've seen, the NSC study memorandums which try to review Japanese policy, come up with some main principles, I would assume, I guess, that you were shown this one.
Meyer: I was aware of it, I don't think I actually saw it before I got to Tokyo, NSDM 13, the famous one. But, I was fully aware of it. It dealt with the reversion of Okinawa which was the key to the larger relationship with Japan, including, particularly, the security treaty problem.
Wampler: I would be curious to see if the copy you have is missing what I have missing in mine, there is one section missing in my copy... no yours is missing it also. They took out one paragraph, I'm not quite sure what that's dealing with at this point. And, then the next review comes in 1971, but, it seems from going through your memoirs that a big item on your agenda is Okinawa and the whole related issue of the U.S. military presence in Japan, and trying to change the basis of that somewhat so that Japan could have more control over the bases. That, at least, was one of the items on your outline, the main issues that you were facing when you got there.
Wampler: One of the things that we are interested in learning, is who the key people that you dealt with were, you mentioned before we started taping here some of the key people in the embassy that you relied upon. Just in terms of understanding how the embassy worked and the people who helped you, who would you outline as the key people as you sailed into this post who were important to you as you worked through the different aspects of the relationship?
Meyer: When I arrived there, the embassy was staffed with some very excellent people, most of them Japan hands, and as you know, in the diplomatic service we all sort of get stuck in areas... I had been stuck in the Middle East for 27 years and tried to get out and to my surprise Nixon sent me to Tokyo... but, those Japan hands were extremely knowledgeable and we had our morning staff meetings and could always depend on them for the best of advice. A fellow named David Osborne was the Deputy Chief of Mission when I got there, a very bright young man. He handled the getting rid of some C.V. data, chemical weapons in Okinawa that had caused quite a furor. Following him, Dick Snyder came and Dick had been with Kissinger on the NSC staff, he and Mort Halpern had worked out this National Security memorandum which said that we ought to do something, go forward with Okinawa. So, that was all pretty well handled by those people, but, I had a very excellent staff. Dick Snyder really had many years in Japan and much experience including with the Nixon White House so he was indispensable. He ran the whole Okinawa negotiation, he was the head of the OKNEG as we called the Okinawa Negotiation. We had others, of course who worked, there was a military man, Vice-Admiral of Curtis who was on the negotiation team who worried about bases. We had a political military man named Howard Meyers who worked with the military all the time and sat in on a lot of our Okinawa things because there was a question about what the base situation would be. Dick Erickson was also very good, he was my Chief of the Political Section, he was extremely good and with him, Bill Sherman who followed him, and who had been our Consul General in Osaka. He was also very talented. Meantime, down in Okinawa we had some wonderful people, starting with General Lampert. General Lampert was the High Commissioner down there, an absolutely fabulous person. He was a wonderful soldier. He, like most of the military, didn't want to see anything happen to Okinawa, but he was a soldier all the way and what had to be done, you could be sure got done. And did it in a very friendly way, he had excellent relations with the Okinawa people, it helped us over a lot of these problems that we see today about crimes of people so he knew how to handle those people. Bob Fury was down there with him as Advisory Commissioner. A fellow named Bill Clark, who later became Ambassador to India, and then was just a junior man was on the staff down there. There are quite a number of people I could name. On the Japanese side, there were some very fine people but, as you know, in the Gaimusho the American department is pretty much its own entity. The key people there... I think Yasukawa was at the top of it, but a man named Togo was the chief one with whom we dealt. He was sort of the counterpart for Snyder. And Chiba was with him, he's also still around but Togo, unfortunately, died. Togo and I got along nicely, we even composed a song during all of these Okinawa negotiations, we'd sing it at cocktail parties just to take the pressure off. "Okinawa here we come, to the land of Yara-san, we want reversion without any nukes, and Hondaname without any flukes, contemplate no B-52s, after 1972, Okinawa we love you, Okinawa here we come." Anyway, that was fun, we got a little sort of friendship involved in the negotiations, Togo and I would get up and sing that with our terrible voices. Anyhow, that word contemplate, if I may take one slight digression, that word was a famous word because at one point when we were debating how American forces should be capable of handling other things, how do we say this in the communiqué of November, 1959, and Secretary Rogers in one of our negotiations here in Washington, "We would contemplate the use of our forces in the case of trouble in Korea and so forth." That word contemplate stunned the Japanese for two days they worried about it and finally they came up with the words shall not hinder, but the word contemplate became famous in the negotiations, that's a side note.
Wampler: Yes, there was an existing agreement going back to 1960 which stipulated that in case something happened in Korea, the U.S. would be able to use its forces immediately without any consultation with he Japanese government and the Japanese government saw this as being within their own interests, they had no problem agreeing to that although it was kept as a secret side agreement. Supposedly Reischauer has talked about another agreement relating to nuclear weapons. Were you briefed in any way on this sensitive subject before you went over there as to just what the situation was that you were stepping into, all of these cross-currents, supposedly secret agreements on nuclear weapons, and another issue I can come to in a moment here about a possible violation of the agreement that happened right before you got there?
Meyer: I was not aware of any secret agreement on nuclear weapons. In fact, that was sort of on the edge of my thinking, I used the line that we've always used as a government, that is, "We do neither confirm nor deny where there are nuclear weapons," that was usually my song almost any time the subject came up.
Wampler: Reischauer had indicated later in the 70s that there was this whole agreement where the Japanese government had agreed in advance on the reintroduction of the weapons in certain confined situations which everyone went to great pains to deny. Sort of like the Wakaizumi agreement or revelations which have been debated and which the Japanese government is now denying exist.
Meyer: In all honesty, I felt that that was involved, really, in the Okinawa negotiations, what we're doing was making everything on the homeland level. And on the homeland level, everything we had was subject to prior consultation, and by applying homeland level to Okinawa, the same thing would be true there. And it was a little murky whether it was only conventional weapons or whether it would include nuclear, but it was left murky, but frankly, we came and went very far as you know, we did withdraw nuclear weapons from Okinawa at the time, but, the idea was, if a real emergency came where both Japan and the United States saw the reasons for doing it, prior consultations would not be ruled out.
Wampler: Would not be ruled out... Wakaizumi seems to suggest that the Japanese government almost gave a yes in advance, saying if the U.S. thought it was necessary, the Japanese government would not hinder the reintroduction of the weapons in Okinawa.
Meyer: On that one, Wakaizumi says there was actually a secret agreement signed to that effect. That I am not aware of. It may or may not have happened, I find it difficult because when we met in Washington on that famous November 1969 conference, only Sato, Nixon, and their two interpreters, and Kissenger were in the room. All the rest of us were in the cabinet room, Secretary Rogers, myself, the Undersecretary Alex Johnson, Ambassador Shimoda, Foreign Minister Aichi, we cooled our heels in the cabinet room and later on they came and joined us and gave sort of a summary of how things had gone. So, his story about going off into a side room, I don't know if it happened or not. First of all, Sato doesn't speak English and Nixon doesn't speak Japanese so how they could have communicated in showing off these artifacts, or whatever it was that they were supposed to have been doing, I don't know but, it could have happened.
Wampler: But, so far we've found no documents on the U.S. side to confirm this?
Meyer: No, I'm concerned about this because, at the very beginning of the negotiations, the Japanese suggested that we might have a secret understanding about something or other, and Rogers was strong and said, "there will be no secret understandings in this agreement." When the reversion of the Bonin's and the other islands, Ryukyus, took place, it was by direct executive agreement. "This is going to go to our Senate and we are not going to go there without a clear... everything above board. And there will be no secret agreements," he felt strongly about that so that sort of surprised me a little bit that one came out. Of course, there was a difference between the White House and the State Department as we know and farther down the line they may have thought they needed that sort of thing, but, the language that we composed for that communiqué about nuclear weapons was hammered out very well. And that's where I think Wakaizumi and Kissinger probably did it, because we were fighting about what kind of language we could put in about nuclear without confirming or denying and all that sort of thing. And, about five days before they met in Washington, I was leaving Tokyo and I met with Aichi and Aichi... we had been struggling even then with what kind of language might be acceptable, although we had hardly talked about the subject until the last meeting or two that we had, and he gave me a piece of paper with some language on it that they thought they could live with in the communiqué. I took that back with me to Washington and I saw Henry when I came back. I showed it to him and said that Aichi feels that this paper, if we can accept it, would be good. Henry took one quick look at it, "Oh, yeah, that's fine." Now I think there was a Kabuki, I think that particular text might have been worked out between Wakaizumi and Kissinger beforehand and it was then put through the formal channels to make it look... so that part I can see where they played a game, and I still think maybe the whole thing was reduced, the whole Wakaizumi story was that, although some contend that it went all the way and there was an actual secret agreement signed and a scenario besides that.
Wampler: From some of the documents I sent you, which are briefing papers on Okinawa for the November meeting, it's clear even with some of the deletions involved that the U.S. is looking to get an agreement that will cover our needs for nuclear weapons.
Wampler: And, you put that together with what Kissinger and others have said, Kissinger's memoirs saying, the agreement we got was satisfactory, you can start trying to fill in some of the gaps to realize that something was agreed to, which at least, perhaps, might go beyond the official communiqué. That at least spells out, somewhat more to the satisfaction of the individuals involved, that, OK if push comes to shove and we have to do something with our nuclear weapons in the Pacific, Japan is going to be cooperative, not recalcitrant.
Meyer: Well, on that score, one little exercise that we did do, and we were all aware of it, is that the language was muffly, as you may remember this was something to the effect that Sato explain Japan's policy of no nuclear weapons... the three nos. And the President responded by saying that we understood Japan's... I don't have the text before me... we understood their policies and, in effect, we would respect them... or something, I don't know what it was. But, we also had a little exercise where we had Sato go to the National Press Club to give a speech, and the whole point of that speech was, in that speech he would say, "if prior consultations are to take place in a major emergency out there, the response can be expected to be positive... to be prompt and positive." That was a part of the exercise. Now whether that applies to nuclear weapons, again, or not, gets into a much bigger study.
Wampler: Yeah, because it's the whole question of what went on when Nixon and Sato were sitting down just talking to each other. There are memorandum of conversation of their one on one meetings which I am trying to get declassified, for all we know there might be tapes of them. I can't remember exactly when Nixon started taping things but, conceivably, there might be tapes of the Nixon meetings. And whether there were some sort of personal assurances which round out the fuzzy language, so that Nixon could come away from this and say, "OK, I'm convinced that, fuzziness aside, Japan is not going to anything that would hinder our operations in a crunch, but of course, he may have felt somewhat less assured given what happened on another track, which was the textiles. I mean the analogy which you've seen is that this whole Okinawa-textile thing was rolled together, in which we gave a little bit on Okinawa in anticipation of Japan being forthcoming on the textile issue. When Sato did not come through, Nixon, by some accounts, felt betrayed. How do you evaluate that story line?
Meyer: Well, I evaluate that rather simply. Before I went to Japan and being a novice, I read a book called Chrysanthemum and the Sword, written by Ruth Benedict, which was the bible for anybody who worked in Japan after World War II. And, she talks about what motivates Japanese people, and all through is this sense of obligation. And, Sato's big dream was getting Okinawa back, his whole career was staked on that. To get that back, he really worked hard and that's why he came to see Nixon. He also realized that Nixon had this textile problem, I realized the U.S., well I knew before I went over there, I knew this was a big problem because he had made this commitment, he had to do the southern strategy, it was called. And so the first trip back that I made from Tokyo, I went down to visit the Carolina's to find out how much they were suffering because of Japanese imports. I found that they were prospering very well down there but the Japanese imports were coming in and giving them trouble price-wise and competition and so on, but I went back and was able to talk about it. But Nixon had this commitment, Art Burns came over one time and really chewed out Sato, "don't you get the message, Nixon's got a political problem, he's got to do something about textiles. Kennedy did do something, if he doesn't do something, there's trouble." But, my own feeling was that Sato, out of a sense of obligation, when Nixon finally agreed in that famous communiqué for Okinawa reversion, that he ought to do something but he didn't dare link it publicly to a deal for textiles and he didn't want to do that and, as a matter of fact, they pushed it off, even the communiqué doesn't get into that hardly at all, as I recall it. But, because he had an election coming up in a couple of months, and he had to go back and if it had been a deal for textiles, all those textile people, who elected him, incidentally, from his districts, would be... well I dealt with them myself, I had regular meetings with all three of those textile unions, regular meetings with those guys, and they were very, very tough and this gets us back into the whole question of consensus making and decision making procedure in Japan. Sato wanted to do something of this kind, he wanted to do it but not tie it up with the other thing, when he came in a second time, after the communiqué, I remember again the subject was still alive, you know it went on for some time, the subject was still there and he met with Nixon for a second time, I think it was the 25th anniversary of the United Nations, or whatever it was, and at that time again he said, "I'm going to do something about these textiles." And Henry and the rest of us went to Henry's office after the interview was over, we're sitting in Henry's office and who walks in but Sato? He had supposed to have been departed but he came around to Henry's office to talk to him and then Henry really gave him a hard time and said, "now don't you dare again tell us that you're going to get this problem solved unless you're going to get it done." "Oh, I'm going to do it." I rode with him on his way out to the airport on his way to the airplane on the bus at Dulles, and he said, "I'm going really going to try to get this done." The idea was maybe within a week or two. He got back and he ran into the same problem there's always going to be in Japan, and that is you've got a consensus you've got to build, you just don't make a dictatorial decision, and he thought he'd get Miyazawa and the MITI people together and they'd be able to do it, but they weren't able to pull it off.
Wampler: The way you're describing it, you're giving support to the idea that the consensus you had to build was not really among the politicians, but among the bureaucrats, the vice-ministers, not the ministers.
Meyer: Oh, absolutely.
Wampler: And given the other studies that have been done, at this time, the lines are drawn so tightly and trying to figure out what alliances there were among the various ministries is so difficult, Sato was facing a very difficult task.
Meyer: They're all sovereign bureaucracies and the Prime Minister cannot overrule them.
Wampler: So, that raises the question, for you as an ambassador, primarily you would be dealing a lot with political people, but to really know what was going on you had to deal with the bureaucrats.
Meyer: And the textile people, I met with them time and time again, with the key ones, Taniguchi, and the fellow, bless his heart, he wouldn't even come to the embassy. He said, "well, I'll meet over at the Okura Hotel which is neutral ground. But I'd meet with these people and they'd explain how they could accept this and they couldn't accept that and so on. But that textile problem, as you know, had about six stages to it and so many chefs in the kitchen that it went on and on.
Wampler: Yes, part of the problem in trying to understand how the U.S. was making policy and pushing policy is just trying to figure out all the players who were involved and the textile issue is a good one. You have the STR involved in this but then Nixon had these own special emissaries who get thrown into that.
Meyer: He had Pete Flanagan, he had Pete Peterson, he had...
Meyer: ...David Kennedy eventually came along and he was really tough and threatened them with the trading with the enemy act if they didn't sign up. But then he had Don Kendall, his famous supporter who came out with his one year moratorium idea. We had our State Department Phil Krizise would come out. The lawyer that was the lawyer for the textile manufacturers of Japan, an American lawyer living here. Wilbert Mills was charging around on Capitol Hill, going to put a big bill through that was going to really punish the Japanese because of their textiles and so on. I went down to see Wilbert Mills and I was amused because he said, "I'm not going to do it because if I start putting textiles on, it'll be a Christmas tree, everybody else will put things on there and there'll be no end to things so I can't do it. This lawyer was aware of that, the Japanese were aware of that and they knew very well the Mills bill would probably not go through and it didn't.
Wampler: If they were aware of this, if Kissenger or somebody else comes in, charging around and saying that Nixon's got a political problem, they're going to discount that. They're going to say, well, he doesn't have a political problem because Mills isn't going to do anything in the final analysis. He's got a political problem but it only goes so far.
Meyer: Yeah, right, right.
Wampler: And that, in the end, this problem won't come down on us, it'll come down on Nixon, You know, that takes away some of your negotiating leverage.
Meyer: Right, exactly. And they all the time had that feeling, that all these threats are being issued and all these nasty words but, in the end, they won't do it.
Wampler: Between '69 and '71, a lot of things start evolving ,and the overall foreign policy...
Meyer: May I make one point at this juncture? While I'm thinking of it, one thing that always affected me, was on that very first November day, when we, when Nixon and Sato, concluded that treaty, that statement that was issued, communiqué, which we had spent three months drafting, because that was the heart of the whole Okinawa negotiations, Nixon and I walked Sato back to his car and on the way back Nixon told me... I mean he never saw ambassadors the way earlier presidents had, he just didn't have time for them, but there was one brief period there when he and I were chatting and he said... "You know our job is to keep the LDP in power, that's your job, to keep the LDP in power." And that was really what was moving him on going ahead with Okinawa, on going ahead... because he realized that the election was coming up, that the treaty arrangement was up in another year, and so on. Well, as I mentioned, I went down to Okinawa three days after I presented my credentials, looked around, came back, and wrote a telegram that said, "as Okinawa goes, so goes Japan." It was preaching to the converted, obviously, because Nixon was way ahead of me on it, but it helped a lot. In that connection, I might say, that among the non-converted, usually, were the military. One time when I came back, one early time, I remember Henry saying, "now Armin, don't you dare talk to the military, they're my people, I don't want you talking to them." Because he was keeping them in line on this whole Japan policy.
Wampler: Well, regarding Nixon's comment, that our job is to keep the LDP in power, did you ever have any sense about this issue that arose about a year and a half ago or so about the CIA providing help for the LDP throughout Eisenhower, Kennedy, perhaps Johnson, that we had been not only politically, but perhaps covertly, trying to help keep...
Meyer: I was not aware of it. It may have happened, I don't know off the top of my head.
Wampler: Some of your predecessors said they weren't surprised, Alexis Johnson and Douglas MacArthur said that they didn't know it but they were aware of it. Before we move away, I guess, from the '69 meeting, some of the documents I gave you were the briefing papers, some cables, memorandum... you said that some of things I gave you you might want to comment on. I was wondering if before we move on if you wanted to take a look at those and see if there was any in those that you did want to say anything about.
Meyer: I'll tell you, they've got one here, right here on this confidential thing which Chuck Schmitz wrote which I found very interesting, I hadn't read it before last night, he did a sort of a history of our negotiations towards the communiqué, or towards the actual reversion. Chuck was our lawyer, as you know, I didn't mention his name earlier, he is very important, you ought to see him if you haven't seen him yet because he's very good at this, he was the lawyer on our negotiating team and he did a very good sort of summary here. I wrote down here, there was virtually no debate over the reversion agreement, in the Diet in December, the regular Diet season which opened in early December was dissolved almost thereafter by the Prime Minister in order to hold elections for the Lower House. Therefore there was virtually no debate over the reversion agreement issue, the overwhelming victory achieved by the LDP, winning 288 of 486, LDP's largest margin of victory in a year, was interpreted by the GOJ as an endorsement of Okinawa policy, and I say that was Nixon's goal. Obviously I don't think it would have been forever, Incidentally, I do hope, as I indicated earlier, that you can get some of these things that are not sent in that we sent in by the embassy. Quite a few of the telegrams I sent in on critical situations are not mentioned.
Wampler: Interestingly enough, these State Department or Embassy cables, as you can see, actually came through on Department of Defense traffic, so they were actually found in Defense Department records.
Meyer: Well, Defense, obviously, is more apt to release things that the State department.
Wampler: In some cases, yes.
Meyer: Here's one on Nakasone, the mischief maker in those days, before he became Prime Minister. He went out and made a statement, right at a very critical time, he was a member of the LDP and he said, "maybe the time has come to revise the security agreement with the United States." Well, you know, if you sent it in for revision, it's dead. I was not very happy about it and somehow he got the word that I was not very happy about it and he made the next public statement that he understands that the American Ambassador is not sleeping at night because he made it. But, he was quite a character. I liked him very much, frankly, he invited me to come to his university and I spoke to his university students, you might know he runs a university. I got along with him very well but he was a bit of a, in those early days, a bit of a mischief maker. And, in his own right, a delightful Prime Minister when he came into that position.
Wampler: Most of those look like the reporting cables on Okinawa.
Meyer: Yes. The Okinawa negotiating team, with Togo and Schnieder being the two chiefs (and their other colleagues), would work hard on the myriads of issues... this is what irks me about this Wakaizumi thing, that's just a tail wagging the dog. The main thing is that reversion was accomplished and all those things like the interests of American businessmen, the voice of America, who's paying for what, all the road systems, all the power plants in Okinawa, military integration, self-defense of Okinawa for the Japanese, all those myraids of problems took an enormous amount of time. And the total picture get forgotten about because somebody comes up with a little point that maybe a secret agreement was made on something, which, really, is irrelevant in the long run.
Wampler: I think some people see it, though, as an understanding that had to be reached before anything else could happen. The U.S. had to be secure that they could let reversion go ahead, and it would in no way harm U.S. security interests in the Pacific if it did. Once you got that out of the way, then you got to tackle all of these very difficult problems of how you actually go about doing it.
Meyer: That's a perfectly good argument, but at the same time it, right now, is being used to make Sato a devil of some sort... demonizing him for having done it. But, these are mostly about various... I remember one time when I met with Aichi he said, "you know it's like we're climbing mount Fuji, we're up to station seven out of nine," or nine out of eleven or whatever it was. He was a great man and I enjoyed working with him. About,... oh, there's something in here... the Japanese were having trouble with their Diet and they wanted to go and say, "we got this, we won this from the Americans," and I made the point in one of my things, and I think quite rightly, that, "be careful how you praise it because a success for one diplomat is a defeat for somebody else." It's been my creed all of my life, I mean, whatever you succeed in doing, don't go out and advertise, "I won a victory over Aichi here," or whatever it may be, you just don't do that and I went to the point of saying that the successes of the mainland Japanese side would be read as failures for the United States causing confusion and resentment on both sides. That's my basic diplomatic creed. "Don't ever advertise your successes, keep them to yourself and let Washington know about them," but, throughout my career that was my basic creed. Another little item here reminded me of another thing that I discovered in my dealing with the Japanese. They love to set target dates, and then the closer you get, the more pressure there is on them to make a compromise. It was a system that I learned fairly soon. Anyhow, I didn't have too many comments here... Johnson making a point...they wanted to put nuclear verification down in Okinawa and Secretary Johnson pointed out that, nuclear verification, and or inspection would undermine trust in the solemn inference by the United States repeatedly, regarding nuclear weapons on Okinawa. It would also lead to further requests for inspection of all U.S. facilities and set a most unfortunate global precedent, which could only be of assistance to a potential enemy. I mean this was our whole problem with nuclear weapons, we neither confirmed nor denied, and if we do it for Japan, we'll have to do it all over the place. Anyhow, that was a very good point to be made. The one I love was that nuclear storage problem we had when I was there at Iwakuni, it became a sensational press story. "Some goats were found out in the yard in Iwakuni. These goats were there to detect any contamination that might come from any leaking nuclear or biological, either one." And some Diet member made a major issue of this thing. We looked into it and it was simply that the goats were cheaper than lawn mowers.
Wampler: There was a prior incident which involved Iwakuni, though, I believe, involving a Marine boat which had nuclear weapons on it, and...
Meyer: That might have been, I don't remember it.
Wampler: It was certainly in violation of the treaty agreements and Daniel Elsberg turned this up in the 60s and it dragged out into the late-60s before they ever resolved it.
Meyer: It's interesting, one of my telegrams that you have in here, getting back to this nuclear and communiqué thing, this was done on November 10, just ten days before we met, and I had met Aichi and Aichi... and I told you about that story. I wrote that a "problem awaits the Sato/Nixon discussion. Aichi been appealing to us to accept GOJ's proposed communiqué language renews, noting it keeps door open for prior consultation for reentry of nukes should contingency require." And then somebody underlined this, "Aichi's language plus private assurances from Sato to President that emergency reentry may be possible is probably the optimum result that we can or should hope for on our nuclear issue." So we were coming very close even before we came to this conference, but, I think that language he gave me was probably worked out between Wakaizumi and Kissinger.
Wampler: I'm trying to think about some of the other lines of policy making here but I guess we should finish going through these unless you don't have any other comments on these at the moment. As a matter or course, would all of these briefing papers be sent to you before the summit meeting?
Meyer: These, no.
Wampler: So, you would arrive there, and...
Meyer: It's the first time I've seen some of these.
Wampler: Really, so, in essence, you're coming into this game without knowing what some of the play books are, although you've had your chance to...
Meyer: But, looking at them, I mean, they were certainly rehash of stuff we had sent in.
Wampler: And, they come off...
Meyer: They even quote me as to what they expect of the...
Wampler: So they would, at least, circulate through you to get your input as to...
Meyer: I'll take that back, I've forgotten whether I saw them or not. I may have seen them when I came back.
Wampler: When did it become, not only apparent to you, but sort of affecting your work, this division between Kissinger and Rogers. How soon did that start impinging upon and complicating your life?
Meyer: Well, I think practically everybody understood it, in all the embassies and in the State Department that there was a tension, and that Henry and Nixon were cloistered and would come up and do things and the State Department might hear about it or it might not. The State Department left with the Middle East because I think, by reading reports, that Nixon thought that Henry should not be dealing with the Middle East at that juncture, he was later on and did a great job and had a great confidence. But, what were you talking about?
Wampler: At what point did this division between them start impinging upon your...
Meyer: I wanted to tell you a story about that because this is a fact. When I went out, as we mentioned earlier, I visited practically everybody who had anything to do with Japan. Of course Henry and, I spent a whole day with Reischauer up in Boston, I spent a whole day at his knees having read his books and so on. I visited the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Commerce, Maurie Stanz, and everybody. But I was squeezed because I had to go back to Teheran for a central meeting and I had only about ten days in Washington before I had to come back and get sworn in and go right on out to Japan. Actually, Aichi was here when I came back from Japan and we were talking about the communiqué and doing this in November, trying to get a communiqué drafted by November. So I left Iran and... when you get old your mind slips... I was starting to talk about this good story. I told Kissinger on one of my trips here... or he told me, he said, "Armin, now when you go out there, you'll be writing your normal State Department reports, I wish, once in a while, you'd write something to me sort of personally, give me a more personal flavor of what's going on." Well, being a career diplomat, I didn't think too much about it and didn't do much about it. At the end of one year, I remembered what he had told me... at the end of each year, I would do a review of the year that had past and what it had meant to our relationship, and another telegram on the prognosis of what I expected for the year to come, that was my standard operating procedure. This one I thought was particularly good so I took the occasion to write Henry a letter that said, "Henry, you mentioned that you would like to have a letter from me, I haven't been writing because I think I've been reporting things fairly accurately and I don't have anything special this time but I'd like to call your attention to that review and that prognosis because they say everything that I could have said in any other way." But, it being personal, I though I ought to stick something personal in it so I added a paragraph saying, "you know, there has never been an American president visiting Japan, and I think it would be great if President Nixon could visit here, but, lets get the Okinawa reversion thing over with first, and after that's over, have him come." That letter went to Henry and then all hell broke loose, I didn't know what was happening, didn't realize it or know anything about it. Somebody stole a copy of that letter and put it on Rogers desk, and I am told that Secretary Rogers got very angry and decided then and there that I had had enough time in Japan. Marshall Green, was the East Asian hand that served with Joseph Bruin, and always had wanted to go to Japan, and there were rumors that he was coming out and on July the 4th of 1971, the papers were saying that Marshall Green was going to replace Armin Meyer in Japan. I had a talk to the American group at that time and I sort of passed it off and joked about it, but I went to a meeting later on, a couple months later, down at Baggio, a chiefs of mission meeting. There, Jack Irwin, who was deputy Secretary of State, called me aside and said, "You should know, we're making some administrative changes. Bill Porter, who was our Ambassador to Korea, is going to come back and replace Marshall Green as Assistant Secretary and Marshall will replace you here in Tokyo. We're not sure where you'll be going as of now." It sort of shook me. Bill Porter was at that meeting, but Bill, then, went down to Washington and on his way back to Korea called me up and said, "Forget it Armin, this went to Nixon and you're staying on." But, it was all done because... it was an unfortunate situation, you can't blame Rogers at all, I mean, things were being done and he was supposed to be secretary of foreign affairs.
Wampler: Well, by that point, the timing is such that all of these things are going on about China, so he was probably very suspicious of that.
Meyer: Well that one particularly, yes. Because that was, you know, a major shock. I don't know how much of that he knew, and when.
Wampler: And I assume, you describe it very well, the famous haircut... when the news comes over Armed Forces Radio and you thinking, "Oh my god, I've got to run and warn the Japanese government." You had absolutely no sense that this was coming?
Meyer: No sense. But then I called up Washington and I think I got Alex Johnson and he said, "All I know is that we're not supposed to comment on anything...," so I got Marshall Green or Jack Irwin, one of them. "No one is to make any comment whatsoever." I said, "Well I'm in Japan, have we told the Japanese? We've got to tell them, they've been following us dutifully." Our political section and their political section would count every nose at the United Nations to find out how many votes there were to keep the Chinese out. They were dutifully following our... and they keep saying, "Please, if you change your policy, let us know." And we would say, "no, no changes." July 14, 1971 the very day that Henry Kissinger was in... or, July the 4th... Henry Kissinger was in China talking with Mao, Secretary Laird was in Tokyo, and that's when the "ping-pong diplomacy" had started worrying the Japanese. He was asked by every government official, "What about your China policy?" "Oh, no change in our China policy."
Wampler: Well, I think one of the studies in 1971 mentions assessing the effect on Japan of the change in U.S. policy towards China, but one of the interesting things is how much the administration itself even gave thought to the fact that it would have an impact on Japan.
Meyer: Well, if you've read Henry's book on this, Henry said that he made a mistake. He likes to quote from my book, where I said that I thought it over and I was very angry, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it couldn't have been done much otherwise... because in those days, the Japanese were leaking everything. Secretary Rogers was visiting Aichi in Paris and I sent some message about what should be said, and that showed up in Mainichi or Asahi newspaper two days later, and this was going on all of the time. Later on they found out that the girl who was the secretary in the American section had a boyfriend who was a newspaper man and they fired her and fired him and fired the American section chief and so on. That was one of many reasons, but, another one was that if you told the Japanese you'd have to tell other people including Taiwan probably, or the British, or somebody. There were many reasons and any of them... Kissinger cites them in his book because I come to his rescue. He agrees with me but he doesn't give me credit for it... he should have sent somebody about a day before to let Sato know, because Sato was discreet, you could always trust him. If you were going through the regular foreign office bureaucracy, you could expect leakage, but Sato should have been informed first thing. As it was, they did try to reach Sato an hour or two beforehand, I'm sure you've heard that story. They couldn't get through and they called me and his interpreter wasn't there and I got the Foreign Ministry interpreter to go over there and that took time and by the time they were talking, Nixon was giving his speech.
Wampler: So, much of what you were doing was damage control, cleaning up after the parade?
Meyer: Right, but what I recommended when I called I said, "I've got to say something, I'm ambassador, I'd like to say that we've long felt that one quarter of the world's population cannot be ignored, Rogers had made a speech in Australia where there were sort of hints that we were trying something, and in the meantime, the Japanese themselves had been doing business over there in a big way, when we had not been doing business so, this is just a move forward. The bitter thing is that we didn't tell them.
Wampler: There has been some suggestion that, beyond the fact that there were real reasons for secrecy (that you didn't want the whole reel to unravel), that Nixon was feeling somewhat betrayed by Sato on the Textile issue so he wouldn't have been inclined to tell him anyway. That he wasn't all that concerned at this point with Sato's political feelings.
Meyer: I haven't heard that. I agree with Henry. Henry said that it was just a mistake, that they should have thought of it and sent somebody one day before to brief him.
Wampler: Now this is all part of the changes going on with détente, trying their diplomacy, I would assume you had many discussions with your Japanese counterparts trying to explain just what Nixon is doing here, and how Japan fit into this, and what this means for Asia and Japan and the whole relationship; especially when you get something like the Nixon Doctrine proposed which looks to Japan to be a major ally in the region with some shifting of the burdens. How did they react to these changes as they were unfolding? Not just China, but this whole idea that there's a real change going on that is going to affect the security and the economic relations in Asia.
Meyer: Well I like to think the Nixon Doctrine was born when I was in Teheran. Nixon spent three days there and lived with me. That's how I happened to become ambassador. I was told he was coming out on a visit and I said, "what do I do with him?" As a former vice-president, I asked him to stay with me, he stayed in my house for a couple of days and we had long discussions, and not much of his subject matter was on the presence of Americans in Iran. At that time we were holding back, we wouldn't allow any "blue-suiters" to come in, and so on. And then he had lunch with the Shah and I didn't go with him and the Shah told him the same... what I think is the essence of the Nixon Doctrine. "Look, if the Russians come across my northern border it's World War III, I want your help, but if I get into a fight with Iraq, I want to handle it myself, because if you come and help me and the Russians get on the other side you'll have another Vietnam, and eventually there'll have to be negotiations and I'll lose some oilfields. But, I need the equipment to handle myself, the MiG's are coming for $700,000 a piece to the Iraqi's and I can't even buy any equipment." (At that time Congress was shutting off all military sales, I got one of my congressmen to get a joint session agreement that they would sell some equipment to them.) So, I think on the Nixon Doctrine, it was really, I'm sure it wasn't just that thing but, he was getting that around that world. As far as how you handle China, first of all, I had a good China hand named... it's in my book... anyhow he was my China expert of the political section, and he came in one day and said, "hey, there's a ping-pong tournament going on down in Nagoya and the head of the ping-pong tournament has called and said that they've been invited to China, what should they do?" So we talked about it and said, "Tell them to go." Then we reported the whole thing to Washington, so when I go to China now, they call me the father of "ping-pong diplomacy." To try to explain things to the Japanese was not easy because basically, there has been a cultural gap between China and Japan even though Japanese culture is an off-shoot of Chinese culture. My basic conclusion is that the Japanese were very, and this was in some of your papers I saw last night, very concerned that America was starting to deal with China, and they have an inferiority complex with respect to China... the big mainland, and all that sort of thing, and the ability of the Chinese to get along with the Americans better than they do. You see a Chinese person and he's always smiling and happy and making you feel good, the Japanese want to feel happy and they want to smile but it's usually inward looking, you know what I mean? My theory was that they felt that they were being jilted by America and our affection would be shifted to China instead of Japan. I think that was the main concern that I had at that time, but I was very, very much impressed by Sato who, when I talked with him about this said, "look, whenever you made relations with China it would have been a shock to us," so he was very serene about it.
Wampler: Well, in terms of the Nixon Doctrine and this idea that Japan, perhaps, should be taking a larger role as a regional power, to help uphold stability, how did they react to that idea, that they should be more forthcoming in...
Meyer: In one of my papers I mentioned that they liked the idea, and this would be something that, when Sato and Nixon talked, would be useful to talk about because they liked the idea of showing more regional responsibility, although they still had their nuclear concern.. They didn't want their own military to go nuclear and so the nuclear thing is always there, and even going more military, they were doing lots of business all over East Asia and they didn't want to scare away their East Asian economic partners by developing a big military machine as that would have easily scared those East Asians who experienced that before.
Wampler: Although there is, entrenched in this idea of the Nixon Doctrine, the possibility of a stronger military presence as well as an economic presence.
Meyer: Very definitely . . .they should play more of a role, whether it's military or more economic, (in my days, the emphasis was on the economic), but military, yes, and self-defense and lanes through Malaysia and all that.
Wampler: Did you take part in some of the Security Consultative Meetings?
Meyer: Oh, every one of them.
Wampler: What do you recall of those, how useful they were as a forum for trying to get, or for one way to put it, educate the Japanese about U.S. military policy/security policy and the way we saw the situation?
Meyer: I think they were very useful for all of us. For our military out there to get a little bit of a feeling of what the political side was thinking, and for the Japanese, the same way. To me the most dramatic case was when they were really putting the heat on to reduce the size of our bases out there. At that time, Admiral McCain, who was the commander in chief of the CINCPAC, came through and he was a glum as he could possibly be. He had just received word, confidentially/secretly, from Melvin Laird that there was going to be a 35 percent reduction, or some percentage reduction, in all military, all over. And he was glum because we maintained that every darn soldier and every base that we had in Japan, we had to have it and we had to keep it and so on. So I went to work on that one with the idea of saying, "hey, look, if they want us to reduce we'll have to reduce so let's say we've listened to you and we're going to reduce, instead of going in saying that we won't reduce but, damn it, we're ordered to reduce." Through the consulting committee, we worked out a much better base realignment situation, a big job.
Wampler: I've seen some early reports from the first meetings of these committees under Kennedy, and they seem to pretty much cover the waterfront of security defense issues. Not just in terms of the presence of U.S. forces, but also exchanging views on what sort of security threat does China pose, or what kind of security threat does North Korea pose, and the sharing of assessments of just what the threats are to stability. Did that sort of exchange continue to go on? Were you trying to cover the big picture as well as just the daily workings of how you keep this many American military personnel in Japan without it upsetting the apple cart, these larger policy issues? Do you recall that being part of the dialogue?
Meyer: I suppose, my recollection of those meetings is not as good as it should be, but I'm sure that we worried about what the situation was in Korea, and built that up as something that the Japanese and we were both concerned about and certainly we talked about things like that. But, basically, my main recollection was base realignment as the main issues we had. They came up every six months didn't they, something like that?
Wampler: They did, and then they got down to yearly, and then they sort of fell into disuse and then they got revived under Reagan. They came out in 1963 trying to create a forum where you would keep a constant dialogue going, try to get ministers in if possible. There was also...
Meyer: That's when you got Nakasone in the ballgame because he was the JDA man while we were there.
Wampler: And there were also a series of yearly, cabinet-level, economic meetings, would you be involved?
Meyer: That meeting involved Secretary Rogers and, I think Commerce Secretary. I know the Secretary of Agriculture was there. It was a good meeting. As I recall, something happened, I don't remember the details, where Rogers went a little too far with him, farther than he should, on what we were going to do in Okinawa because we were playing hard to get, you know what I mean, in order to get as much as we could. Rogers sort of...
Wampler: Well there was the famous leak in the New York Times, from, I think, NSDM-13, which indicated that, in the final analysis that we would compromise.
Meyer: Exactly, that we would cave in.
Wampler: And that drove Nixon and Kissinger crazy.
Wampler: They didn't want to do anything that would give away their negotiating position. We talked briefly about the lack of warning you had about the China shock, well, not much later you had the economic shock. Were there any warning signs of that one, that that was going to hit in August of '71, that they were just going to stop convertibility, slap on the tariffs and try to force, not just the Japanese, but Europeans...
Meyer: You read my book, I mean I was... this was one month later, and I hear again on my radio - I had an amateur radio out there, a short-wave radio, I listened every night to the radio before I went to bed - and I heard that the President was going to make an economic statement the next day, a major economic statement. Well, "Uh-oh", so I called Washington immediately and said, "Is this going to affect Japan?" And somebody said, "Yeah, it probably will." I said "Well for god's sake, are we going to tell the Japanese about it or not?, this time let's do something and not screw up again." I forget who it was but I think they did get something through, but, it was a... we knew nothing about it. We knew absolutely nothing about it. That day, (as I indicated in my book, I went to a lot of trouble to have sessions with opinion leaders, economic, scholastic, newspapers and so on, at least once a week I'd have a little pow-wow in the residence, sort of an informal affair. I'd say, "If you were the American ambassador here, what would you be doing that I'm not doing? What are we doing wrong?" I'd just start the conversation and after a couple of drinks the Japanese can really loosen up, otherwise, they hold back quite a bit, I found those extremely useful, they did a lot of good missionary work on China issues, on all these issues in that one) That day, that very Monday morning, this came out on a Monday, we had scheduled a meeting with the six top zaibatsu leaders, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, and the rest of them. And first, we debated whether to have them come in or not. But Les Headman was my economic minister, a very good man, so he checked with them and they said that they'd come, so they came, they came drooping in. I never will forget that, in that lovely room where the MacArthur's met the Emperor at the end of World War II in the residence, I forget who the speaker was, Fujina-san I think it was, or Mitsui, I think. He spoke for them and he said, "You know, we came here with the idea of talking about some of our economic problems but this morning we got some news that really shocks us." The dollar being freed and so on, plus the ten percent surcharge, and then he told how, just for those companies in that room, that ten percent surcharge was going to cost them 300 million dollars or something. they were very, very, very concerned about the whole thing and you had to do a lot of missionary work, but, of course, the economic thing was a lot tougher I mean, like Okinawa, that was a classic diplomatic act, in my judgment. Economics is something that you just can't tidy up the way we did the Okinawa thing. It's going to go on for a long, long time because we do have these problems. A UAW man came to see me one time and he said, "You know, these Japanese are guilty of unfair labor practices. They like to work."
Wampler: For a while there, between August and September, there was a lot of scrambling, particularly on the Japanese side trying to figure out what does this mean and how do we react to it? Whereas your embassy becomes sort of a way-station for the people who come from Washington, Philip Krisize comes through and meets with them and later Connally comes in looking to put the fear of God into them. They didn't know what this guy was going to do when he came over.
Meyer: They advertised his coming as, "The typhoon Connally is coming."
Wampler: I would imagine that you...
Meyer: Governor Reagan came.
Wampler: Really, I didn't know about that.
Meyer: Oh, definitely.
Wampler: So, you were trying to prepare the way for these visits and, were you trying to play catch-up as well yourself and decide, "Ok, what's happened here? How can I keep the Japanese from panicking but then also, how can I make sure that I'm getting them to move in the direction that we want them to move in?" How did you understand the goal at this point?
Meyer: Well, maintain contact with them and try to explain our problems and try to explain their problems to Washington. Keidanren, the head of it, I forget his name, a wonderful person, we saw him very frequently and when somebody like Connally would come through, for example, I had a lunch for Connally and I brought the key people, the Keidanren man and a fellow by the name of, I forget the names of the people, but, the key people that I though he should talk to. He opened the conversation, "I keep reading that I'm Typhoon Connally. I want you to know that I'm not a typhoon, I'm just a gentle breeze." And then, the one Japanese started making the usual speech about how its a lack of... poor understanding--Americans don't understand the situation. Connally said, "Well, now wait a minute. The fact that two Japanese banks in California have more money invested there than all American banks in Japan, I can understand that. The fact that you took off a rate of charge for Oklahoma calves but still have a surcharge... I can understand that." A whole list of things like that. But it all went off very friendly and nice and they got the message that, there's no question about it, they did have trade barriers and trying to get those trade barriers down was a big problem. And all these economic people would come over, Phil Krisize's idea was that the whole problem was the exchange rate, 360 to 1, they're going to win. Now it's down to 87 to 1 and we still have a tremendous exchange problem. I got into trouble because I had a chart that showed our trade imbalances and it had crossed over about 1969, the year I got there, and had gone up to one, three, and then back down to two, I believe it was. And I would show that to anyone who came in. Asahi got ahold of it and showed me on the front page and did a blistering editorial, "This character, this ambassador," they didn't bother how they said it, "thinks we can be convinced by those statistics that he's throwing at us, and so on." And they really lit into me, I didn't know how to operate in Japan. But then a fellow who wrote a book about Japan had a counter-editorial sometime, a week or two, later and it was, "look, we Japanese have to grow up. We've been used to having ambassadors here from America who favor Japan but we have to realize that this is a professional ambassador and we have some economic problems and we've got to deal with our problems and not just expect favors from the Americans all the time." It was a very, very happy situation so... I must say that that chart did cause me a lot of trouble but, what interested me later, then, was that after that, this was before the shock, before the shock, I was getting criticized even before because, unlike Alex, as a career man, I represent both countries, Mike Mansfield is one of my greatest heroes, believe me, but he was always telling Americans that we have got to do better, you know what I mean. My idea was to tell the Japanese, and tell our home office, you could probably write a whole chapter about the thing, but, the idea was to get communication going on this subject but I tried my best to use these various sessions of economic affairs and so on to do the missionary work. I felt that my job was to be the missionary all the time on these things. The economic situation now, of course, is 60 billion in those days it was 2 or 3. I'd get these noises of people coming through, "if we had a decent ambassador out here these things wouldn't happen!" But there were fabulous stories. I remember Senator Jacob Javis came out one time we visited Miyazawa in the MITI ministry. Miyazawa was delighted that he would be able to announce that they had opened up American investment in Japan, they were going to open it up to $600,000 a year. Senator Javis said, "That wouldn't pay for two hamburgers stands in California."
Wampler: In terms of the second shock, it seems that that's almost the same problem that Sato faced on the textile issue in that way. You could not get a consensus on what had to be done, and there was an existing consensus on what couldn't be done: shift the yen. There was a study by Robert Angel who did a lot of interviews with different people in Japan in the different ministries and, again, the division between the ministries and the control that the bureaucracy had over policy meant that it took those three or four months just to get the machinery to move. No matter how hard you're banging on it and hitting it, it just takes that long.
Meyer: Consensus decision making. You cannot get out in front, I mean the whole body had to move in Japan. It's basic, and we Americans have to understand that. Sato, bless his heart, he wanted to solve a problem and, boy, he hit MITI and... he did send me a, I was starting to tell you, before the Nixon shock he sent over to me Fukuda to tell me that the economic problems were getting very bad and something had to be done and he was going to do it. He was going to reshuffle the whole Cabinet and put people in there that could handle an economic situation. Sure enough, about two weeks later he reshuffled the whole Cabinet. Fukuda, Tanaka, and I forget the others, but four former economic ministers were in the Cabinet. Now, was this before or after the shock, I'm not sure when it was. In any rate, the interesting... four of them... I think it was after the shock. I, as usual an ambassador makes courtesy calls on new officials and I went where I made my rounds and visited all of them. These four ministers all used the same line at me. "You know when Japan was in trouble after the war, you Americans were good friends and helped us out. Now some economic problems are coming up on your side and we're going to do some things on this side to help your economic situation." Each one had the same line. It gets back to this Ruth Benedict concept. They'll do things if they can pose it as a sense of obligation. They don't like to do it if its pressure by somebody else. But, the other end of that is, if the pressure persists, they sometimes welcome it because it's force majure. When we finally got that darn textiles problem settled, I was there that day when David Kennedy and Jurik and I were on one side of the table and Tanaka had been made MITI minister. Tanaka came bubbling in and said, "I'm going to solve this problem, I'll never get another political job in my life, but I'm finished with this thing." He did, and then he became Prime Minister. But, the force majure concept, every politician would wash his hands, "we're sorry, we had no choice but to do this." Now that's one other way that they can move, but basically, the normal thing is a consensus problem.
Wampler: Well ,and the thing that you're referring to as a force majeur, they refer to as gaiatsu, they need this outside pressure to try to get the bureaucracy to move, but then they have to somehow package it in a way that makes it politically acceptable over there, which can be either the outside pressure or the sense of obligation perhaps, as a way to package it. You mentioned Tanaka, now he comes in and overlaps with your last year there, given all the controversies that he later got into, how did you first evaluate him as a Prime Minister?
Meyer: He was the "bulldozer" ... A bit of fresh air. A big money man, he got things done. He believed in getting things done. He sort of balked against the consensus thing, " Ah, let's get things settled, I'll sign it, I'm in. I'll be dead politically, but..." And he rebounded beautifully, but then he ran into his problems.
Wampler: Well, it seems like part of the problem was that in trying to build a position independent of the bureaucracy, he was having to rely upon, perhaps, corruption to give him that position, and the leverage that he needed to take them on is part of the whole problem of trying to change the whole Japanese political system. How do you do it? What is your point of leverage?
Meyer: Well, Nakasone, in his way, tried to do the same thing.
Wampler: Were you, I'm trying to remember, there was a meeting between Nixon and Tanaka in Hawaii which happened later in '72. Were you able to make it to that or not?
Meyer: I think that was after my time.
Wampler: I thought you didn't leave until '73.
Meyer: I left in '72, March of 1972.
Wampler: So that is after your time. I thought for some reason that you made it through until after the second inauguration.
Meyer: No, Ingersoll, where he stands is, when they stirred up this thing about getting rid of me, unfortunately that stirred up something... well David Kennedy came up to me and said, "I'll tell you something, Marshall Green will never be ambassador to Tokyo." I don't know where he got that but it was when the papers were reporting that Marshall Green... He didn't say what was going on, but he was a great business man and he and Maury Stanz knew how to raise money for the Nixon campaign. They felt that the problems in Japan were heavily economic and what they needed was a good corporate-type guy out there. It made sense so Maury Stanz was very much involved in that, although he was always very nice to me too. The idea was that maybe the time had come to get somebody who was a corporate-type guy so they brought in Bob Ingersoll, my successor, that's understandable.
Wampler: And you came back for your three month before you went to take on terrorism?
Meyer: I got back and they said that there would be a job for me and I took advantage of the time and went downstairs and we sure had all these things collected and I went through the Japan book three months with this book, and I'm kind of glad I had the chance because, as Reischauer said, "when it's fresh in your mind is the time to do it." And I had all the documents in front of me.
Wampler: One thing I'm checking with the people I'm interviewing is whether the idea behind the meeting we're doing in March makes sense. We decided to start with meetings and conferences with the Nixon shocks because it struck us as being a real turning point in the relationship. Not just because of the shocks, but because of other related issues, in terms of trying to put the economic relationship on a different basis. Once the trade tensions come to a prominence under Nixon they stay there, and they don't really ever go off the radar screen again. The changes that occur between the U.S. and Russia and the U.S. and China change the strategic map from that point forward and Japan has to navigate the new waters. The Nixon doctrine can be seen as the start of an ongoing effort to try to get Japan to take more of the burden. (Burden sharing, that whole issue which grows in prominence in the '70s and into the '80s.) It seems like from that point on, you've really got a whole new direction and a totally new environment in which the relationship has to exist. Does that make sense?
Meyer: It certainly does. I wanted to call my book the 'Post-Postwar World' because I was there when not only the postwar world but the aftermath of it came to an end and now we have to look at each other at the same rung on the ladder because you know the Japanese idea of rungs on a ladder, as long as they were down they looked up to us and it was, "yes, yes, yes," but when they started climbing up there, now they figured that, the way I look at it, we're on the same rung of the ladder, we ought to treat each other like we're on the same rung of the ladder, not one inferior to the other or one superior to the other. I think you're absolutely right, this is a new chapter in the history between our two countries, and it started at that time. The Nixon shocks were sort of the instigator of them.
Wampler: They mark, both in the geo-strategic and in the economic realm, they mark the shift, part of which is decreasing in both realms as part of the shifting roles of relation of the United States with the rest of the world. I mean as Europe recovers, as China is coming on the scene, and it looks at that point like Russia is here to stay for a while and we've got to deal with this problem of the nuclear weapons. We have to realize that the U.S. position, that was there for the first decade or decade and a half after the end of World War II, no longer in a position to be able to be the one major power, that things are really shifting here and you have to deal more with other countries as equals and try to share some of the burden. In a sense, this is an idea that goes back to Eisenhower and I've always wondered if Nixon brought some of this from his experience as being vice-president. Eisenhower was always very interested in trying to shift some of this burden off of the U.S. to the allies so that the whole weight of the free world's defense and security needs is not being borne by the U.S., and to get the weight off of the U.S. economy.
Meyer: That seems to be a subject of debate these days.
Wampler: Yeah, there's a lot of recurring aspects of this and a lot of recurring aspects to the debate over the U.S.-Japan relationship, and in many ways, what's going on now seems similar to what was going on then with détente. I mean people seeing that maybe this will be the end of the Cold War. So, what's going to be the basis for the U.S.-Japan security relationship if détente evolves and starts factoring in China and you have arms control, what is the role for Japan now.? They're going through the same thing now.
Meyer: That's a very good point, because it came up in our Chicago meeting, this whole idea that Mike Mansfield would love to say, "it's the most important relationship in the world bar none." The plain fact is that China's out there and pretty damn big and coming along in a big way. I don't know what kind of a trilateral relationship or something, but we've got to do something, it's a new world entirely.
Wampler: How do you feel about the criticisms that some people have made that throughout the Cold War period, and up to, say, around Reagan, the desire to maintain the security relationship had resulted in a decision, explicit or implicit, to give way to the Japanese on the economic issues. That you don't want to upset the security apple cart by pushing the economic issues too far? And that after Nixon, you really don't start pushing it again until you start getting people who are challenging that under Reagan, and that there's actually a trade-off or a bargain in place here: to preserve the security relationship, you will give way on the economic relationship?
Meyer: I can't speak for recently, but I never felt that they were tied that much. I think that they were sort of ballgames of their own , but obviously not without some interaction.
Wampler: Well, given the fondness of Kissinger for linkage, you've got to keep it in mind that somewhere there's a linkage in U.S.-Japanese relations.
Meyer: Yes, oh Kissinger with his linkage was really... Of course, he was always... the Japanese always felt that he hated them and that one of his reasons for going to China was to shaft the Japanese.
Wampler: I'm trying to remember if he made any sort of a trip to Japan during your time, I don't think he did, it must have been after he became Secretary of State..
Meyer: No. Well he did come off when the Emperor went to Europe. He wanted to come to America but the JSP and others were criticizing it, they don't like to besmirch the Emperor any time, but a trip to Europe was perfectly safe. But, he was stopping at, to fuel, at Alaska. When I heard about it I sent a letter to State and said, "Now wait a minute, the first time a Japanese emperor will ever set foot on foreign soil will be American soil in Alaska. I think it would be very nice if some VIP went up there, maybe even the vice-president. No answer. A week later I get a telegram from Alex Johnson to inform the Ambassador here that Nixon would be going to Anchorage. So I went early and then Nixon came and then the Emperor's plane came. They had an hour chat there, and it was a very useful thing and Henry was there also, and Herb Stein, incidentally. So there were some very quick discussions that went on at that time, but it was an attempt, I think, to sort of bring them around and do some missionary work on a high level, because they... Nixon felt badly after that China shock I think, because he knew that we had really punched the Japanese in the nose and that they had been so dutiful in trying to work with us all the time, and what hurt the hell out of me is that even after we went, we pushed the Japanese to vote against China's going into the UN, Are you aware of that? Oh, I thought that was horrible.
Wampler: Oh, yes. I know there was still a lot of politics going on over Taiwan.
Meyer: And you knew very well that it wasn't going to go and here we were shoving the Japanese to work with us to try to prevent it from happening.
Wampler: One other question just came to mind which reverts back to part of our earlier discussion...
Meyer: Incidentally, I told Henry in Anchorage about that story about the letter that I had sent and he said, "It'll never happen again."
Wampler: When, following the August shock, this is part of a bigger game in terms of trying to get the Europeans to move, and some of the studies indicate that there was some concern in the U.S. that the Japanese might align with the Europeans to fight the U.S. on this. There's a lot of diplomacy going on in Europe as well as in Japan leading up to the Smithsonian Agreement. Were you drawn into a lot of contacts with your fellow ambassadors as you were trying to work through this situation to try to see if international economic policy could be coordinated?
Meyer: I'm afraid I'm a little hazy on that one, did that happen in my time or in the end on my time?.
Wampler: That's '71, that was August through December of '71. I mean the August shock, in '71, then we went off the gold standard but applied the tariff surcharge, and then, there was a lot of diplomacy going on between the U.S. and the European capitols as well as the U.S. and Japan and this all results in the meeting here in Washington in December of '71 at the Smithsonian where they agreed on a new rate mechanism. It was seen as the beginning of the end of Bretton-Woods fixed rates and it did result in a revaluation of the yen to make it stronger.
Meyer: I wouldn't say that I did very much of that. I was in frequent contact with British ambassador and with the Canadian ambassador, they were close allies and we'd meet and discuss and confer from time to time. I'm not sure who the German ambassador was at the time but I saw the Russian ambassador quite frequently, Igor... his father was the first Russian ambassador here, he was Kruschev's interpreter and he was a great guy, I've seen him in Moscow, a year or two ago I went over there, but he was a great guy.
Wampler: Did you get pulled into the Northern Territories issues at all, or was that just like a disagreement...
Meyer: Well, that's been a road block as you know, and I think Gromyko may have come to Japan but it was a lost cause. They're not about to give up the territories and, in that connection, one of the things that (?**Kryanovski**?) mentioned to me one time when I was having lunch with him, he and his wife and I had lunch once a month, was, "look, why are you doing this thing about giving up Okinawa? After you give it back, what leverage will you have over the Japanese?" It's an interesting concept, isn't it?
Wampler: Yeah, I guess they were seeing the Northern Territories as...
Meyer: the Kurile islands, is that what they keep them for, to keep some leverage over the Japanese?
Wampler: I can see where they could see it that way. It's interesting also that during this time, the Chinese came to change their view of the U.S.-Japanese security relationship. They had been attacking it and attacking it.
Meyer: I think Henry had a lot to do with that.
Wampler: Some of the documents have come to light, some of them are in that packet I gave you, the bound volume, they're saying, "well, we see this as now a way to keep the Japanese down or controlled." So now the Chinese can see the value in this, because now the U.S. is not so much rebuilding and remilitarizing Japan, but keeping a cap on Japan through this process, keeping them under control. And Mao is even telling Kissinger, this is in 1973, after your time, to make sure you go to Tokyo after coming to Beijing because you don't want them to feel like they're being slighted. Go there, talk to them.
Meyer: It makes sense, it makes sense. And, I mean we've got to use the same policy of that kind with respect to both countries, one country against another.
Wampler: Well, again, you mentioned that recurring motif which is again becoming much important, most of the meetings I've gone to here in the past year looking at Asia and talking about what we are going to do about China...
Meyer: Oh, absolutely.
Wampler: And what role Japan can play in that, or how the U.S.-Japanese relationship can try to help manage the emergence of China and the changes that are going on there.
Meyer: What worries me is that if we get to cocky over here we're going to drive all those booming Pacific Rim countries into one coagulated group headed by China and that's going to be pretty powerful competition, pretty powerful reason to go for engagement rather than competition.
Wampler: Did you have a meeting with Ingbersoll, sort of a passing of the reins, where you briefed him, you know, "here's what you're getting"?
Meyer: Very brief, when I came back, I met him for about an hour.
Wampler: Ok, so you weren't really involved in any sort of briefing process?
Meyer: It reminds me of when I was there and General Ridgeway came through one time. You remember General Ridgeway?
Wampler: Oh, yes.
Meyer: We were sitting in the library in the residence and he was telling some wonderful stories of the days when MacArthur was living in that residence as the chief boss of Japan. One time Ridgeway was up on the northern... on the Yalu river with Frank Pace and some message came up, there was a lot of static and he didn't get it but it was something about going to Tokyo and something about MacArthur. They thought what they had heard was wrong so they went down to Seoul and sure enough, "you are ordered to go to Tokyo to replace, change of command with General MacArthur," who Truman had just fired. So he came over and he tells the story that they came and sat in that library for exactly one hour. In one hour he went back to Korea. MacArthur kept it all military, one hour briefing and get out.
Wampler: Well, I think we've covered pretty much everything we can on the basis of the documents that we've got so far, and as I said I would hope to stay in touch with you as new things come along and...
Meyer: Still I don't want to get into all of these two-bit things about Okinawa... unless you want to...
Wampler: No, no, I mean, there may be other people who want to talk to you about that. In many cases we're interested in trying to see how the main lines of policy... because that, you're working out the details they're important, but the decision's been made, "we're going to do this, and..."
Meyer: The sad thing is that people don't realize how much detail was involved. All they hear about is the nuclear issue and all these other things have been done, it was a tremendous historic achievement and a classic bit of diplomacy in my judgment.