Forty years ago, on 19 November 1969, RN welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato to the White House at the beginning of what would be a significant few days in the history of US-Japanese relations. Typically, the meeting was the result of long planning and negotiations; and, while there was room for spontaneity in the dealings between the two leaders and the two delegations, the general outline of the trip’s results were known before the Prime Minister’s limousine pulled up to the South Portico.

    POTUS and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato review an honor guard during the arrival ceremony at the White House on 19 November 1969.

    The twenty-seven year occupation of the island of Okinawa, and the presence of American nuclear weapons on it,  had been an issue bedeviling relations between the two nations for some time.  As the Japanese economy began to revive and flourish, the desire to shake off American what was increasingly seen as an American yoke became focused on the island.  Such sentiment was easily provoked by left-wing parties and politicians, and Sato’s Liberal Democratic Party increasingly felt that its survival could depend on some kind of Okinawa settlement.

    But the LBJ White House, State Department, and Defense Department, while turning over the Bonin Islands as a token of bona fides, were unable to do more than promise to study the reversion of the Ruyuku Islands of which Okinawa was a part.

    “Moving from one’s position now is filled with difficulties”: A Christian Science Monitor cartoon depicted the US-Okinawa negotiations during the Johnson Administration.

    In his seminal “Asia After Vietnam,” article in the Fall ’67 edition of Foreign Affairs, RN mentioned Okinawa as a problem that would have to be addressed.  From his first days in the White House, in order to clear the diplomatic decks in order to prepare for an approach to China, he moved the resolution of the Okinawa issue to a front burner.  By the end of April, he had decided that Okinawa would be returned if the Japanese government guaranteed approval for US forces to remain based there and would undertake to carry out regional defense.

    19 November 1969: RN in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Sato.  RN said that these three days of White House meetings “will probably be the most successful talks that have been held between our two governments.”

    In one of the most egregious leaks of national security documents that plagued the administration’s first year, on 5 June, Hedrick Smith of The New York Times reported on a leaked Top Secret NSC document — NSDM-13: Policy Toward Japanthat gave away the ultimate US negotiating positions for the upcoming talks with Japan:

    With respect to Okinawa, the President has directed that a strategy paper be prepared by the East Asia Interdepartmental Group under the supervision of the Under Secretaries Committee for negotiations with the Japanese Government over the next few months on the basis of the following elements:

    1. Our willingness to agree to reversion in 1972 provided there is agreement in 1969 on essential elements governing U.S. military use and provided detailed negotiations are completed at that time.

    2. Our desire for maximum free conventional use of the mlitary bases, particularly with respect to Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

    3. Our desire to retain nuclear weapons on Okinawa but indicating that the President is prepared to consider, at the final stages of negotiation, the withdrawal of the weapons while retaining emergency storage and transit rights, if other elements of the Okinawan agreement are satisfactory.

    Two career diplomats —U. Alexis Johnson at  the State Department and Ambassador Armin Meyer in Tokyo— played important parts in working out the details of the agreement that would be signed at the White House in November.


    Foreign Minister Kiichi Aichi had sworn off smoking as long as Okinawa wasn’t under Japanese control.  As Secretary of State Bill Rogers and Prime Minister Sato watched, RN gave the Foreign Minister a pack of Japanese cigarettes to celebrate the agreement.

    A fifteen-point joint communique covering the matters of mutual interest discussed during Prime Minister Sato’s visit was issued on 21 November at the conclusion of the visit (Points 6-15 dealt with Okinawa).

    In the Rose Garden: On Prime Minister Sato’s last day in Washington —21 November 1969— RN announced plans for the return of the Ryukyu Islands —including Okinawa— to Japan.  The reversion took place on 15 May 1972.

    In an extensive and fascinating 1996 oral history interview, US Ambassador to Japan Armin Meyer described a conversation with RN shortly after the above photo was taken:

    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.

    At the Rose Garden farewell ceremony on the last day of the Prime Minister’s visit —21 November— the President said:

    There have been many meetings between the heads of government of Japan and the United States over the past 25 years. I am confident that history will record that this is the most significant meeting that has occurred since the end of World War II.

    It is customary on such occasions to say that a new era begins in the relations between the two countries involved. I believe today, however, that there is no question that this is a statement of the fact that a new era begins between the United States and Japan, in our relations not only bilaterally in the Pacific but in the world.

    As the joint communiquй which will be issued at 11:30 indicates, we have resolved the last major issue which came out of World War II, the Okinawa problem. And further, we have made significant progress in the resolution of other bilateral issues in the economic field, as well as in the field of investment and trade, not only between our two countries, but in the Asian area.

      RN & Manson, Obama & Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

        From AP:

        President Barack Obama appeared to be taking a page from Richard Nixon’s playbook Wednesday when he seemed to declare the suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed guilty and deserving of the death penalty.  In Nixon’s case, he pronounced cult leader Charles Manson guilty of several murders while Manson was being tried in a California state court for killing actress Sharon Tate and others.

        Here’s what happened.  In an interview, the president had this exchange with Chuck Todd of NBC:

        TODD: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – can you understand why it is offensive to some for this terrorist to get all the legal privileges of any American citizen?

        OBAMA: I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.

        TODD: But having that kind of confidence of a conviction – I mean one of the purposes of doing – going to the Justice Department and not military court is to show of the the world our fairness in our court system.

        OBAMA: Well –

        TODD: But you also just said that he was going to be convicted and given the death penalty.

        OBAMA: Look – what I said was people will not be offended if that’s the outcome. I’m not pre-judging; I’m not going to be in that courtroom, that’s the job of prosecutors, the judge and the jury.

        The RN remark came on August 3, 1970.  He was criticizing the media for glamorizing criminals, and used Manson as an example:

        I noted, for example, the coverage of the Charles Manson case when I was in Los Angeles, front page every day in the papers. It usually got a couple of minutes in the evening news. Here is a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.

        Ron Ziegler immediately retracted the remark, noting that RN had intended to say “alleged.”  But the comment caused big problems for the prosecution — as Obama’s remark probably will.

        There are a couple of differences.  Nixon admitted error. At a press conference several months later, a reporter asked him about the Manson trial and other cases in which he suggested that criminal defendants were guilty. “I think sometimes we lawyers, even like doctors who try to prescribe for themselves, may make mistakes. And I think that kind of comment probably is unjustified. ”  Obama, by contrast, insisted that “when” really means “if.”

        Also, the text of Nixon’s original comment was (and is) available on the public record.  But the Obama White House, unlike its immediate predecessors, does not routinely post interview transcripts.  To find them, one must search online in other places.  And as any Googler knows, things often disappear from the web.

          Worth 2000 Words

            37: February 1972


            44: November 2009.
            The White House ID for downloading this photo is “hero_greatwall_LJ-01-60″

              RN, China, and Bowing

                The Politico has a clip of RN appearing to bow to Mao.  Jim Pinkerton comments: “This footage, at 1:24, of Nixon’s bow was not at all a bow, as Obama bowed. Nixon clearly just shook his hand, and then bowed as someone was obviously paying him a compliment. Much different. And I am not being ironic. Much different.” 

                 On RN’s death, John Gardner wrote in the Harvard Crimson:  “The trip to China was a strategic gambit of vast importance. At the depth of the Cold War, Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai saw how china and America could work together. America’s involvement with China strengthened the hand of those who sought to turn away from the excesses of Maoism, including Zhou’s heir, Deng Xiaoping.”  And in an email, John adds:  “Look at :24 of the clip:  he stuck out his hand to greet Zhou Enlai very quickly, even before leaving the steps of Air Force One – widely seen and interpreted as a gesture to make up for Dulles’s refusal to shake hands with Zhou at the Geneva Conference in 1954 (when, of course, Nixon was VP).”

                  Communicating In Shanghai


                    On the shoulders of giants: President Obama at his town meeting in Shanghai.*

                    In his speech today, at his town meeting at Shanghai’s Fudan University, President Obama acknowledged the role —if not the name— of his Pacific Rim presidential predecessor who, after twenty-five years of non-communication and angry isolation, opened the door to relations between the U.S. and  China.

                    It was here, 37 years ago, that the Shanghai Communiqué opened the door to a new chapter of engagement between our governments and among our people.

                    The Shanghai Communiqué was issued on the final day of RN’s seven days in China —”the week that changed the world”— and, as he described it in RN, it represented something new and straightforward:

                    Our joint statement, issued from Shanghai at the end of the trip, has become known as the Shanghai Communiqué.

                    Following the formula Kissinger had worked out during Polo II, the communiqué broke diplomatic ground by stating frankly the significant differences between the two dies on major issues rather than smoothing them over.  Thus the text is surprisingly lively for a diplomatic document.

                    The first substantive section begins: “The U.S. side stated” and then details our positions on each of the major issues discussed.  This is folowed by a section that begins: “The Chinese side stated” and then covers the same ground in counterpoint.

                    February 1971: RN and Chou En Lai meet in Shanghai.

                    Here is the surprisingly lively text in full:

                    Joint Statement Following Discussions With Leaders of the People’s Republic of China.

                    February 27, 1972

                    (Two versions of the Shanghai Communiqué were signed, one in English and one in Chinese. The American version had the US position first, whereas the Chinese version had the Chinese position at top.  The following is the US version.)

                    PRESIDENT Richard Nixon of the United States of America visited the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of Premier Chou En-lai of the People’s Republic of China from February 21 to February 28, 1972. Accompanying the President were Mrs. Nixon, U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers, Assistant to the President Dr. Henry Kissinger, and other American officials.

                    President Nixon met with Chairman Mao Tse-tung of the Communist Party of China on February 21. The two leaders had a serious and frank exchange of views on Sino-U.S. relations and world affairs.

                    During the visit, extensive, earnest, and frank discussions were held between President Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai on the normalization of relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, as well as on other matters of interest to both sides. In addition, Secretary of State William Rogers and Foreign Minister Chi P’engfei held talks in the same spirit.

                    President Nixon and his party visited Peking and viewed cultural, industrial and agricultural sites, and they also toured Hangchow and Shanghai where, continuing discussions with Chinese leaders, they viewed similar places of interest.

                    The leaders of the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America found it beneficial to have this opportunity, after so many years without contact, to present candidly to one another their views on a variety of issues. They reviewed the international situation in which important changes and great upheavals are taking place and expounded their respective positions and attitudes.

                    The U.S. side stated: Peace in Asia and peace in the world requires efforts both to reduce immediate tensions and to eliminate the basic causes of conflict. The United States will work for a just and secure peace: just, because it fulfills the aspirations of peoples and nations for freedom and progress; secure, because it removes the danger of foreign aggression. The United States supports individual freedom and social progress for all the peoples of the world, free of outside pressure or intervention. The United States believes that the effort to reduce tensions is served by improving communication between countries that have different ideologies so as to lessen the risks of confrontation through accident, miscalculation or misunderstanding. Countries should treat each other with mutual respect and be willing to compete peacefully, letting performance be the ultimate judge. No country should claim infallibility and each country should be prepared to re-examine its own attitudes for the common good. The United States stressed that the peoples of Indochina should be allowed to determine their destiny without outside intervention; its constant primary objective has been a negotiated solution; the eight-point proposal put forward by the Republic of Vietnam and the United States on January 27, 1972 represents a basis for the attainment of that objective; in the absence of a negotiated settlement the United States envisages the ultimate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the region consistent with the aim of self-determination for each country of Indochina. The United States will maintain its close ties with and support for the Republic of Korea; the United States will support efforts of the Republic of Korea to seek a relaxation of tension and increased communication in the Korean peninsula. The United States places the highest value on its friendly relations with Japan; it will continue to develop the existing close bonds. Consistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution of December 21, 1971, the United States favors the continuation of the cease-fire between India and Pakistan and the withdrawal of all military forces to within their own territories and to their own sides of the cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir; the United States supports the right of the peoples of South Asia to shape their own future in peace, free of military threat, and without having the area become the subject of great power rivalry.

                    The Chinese side stated: Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance. Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution this has become the irresistible trend of history. All nations, big or small, should be equal; big nations should not bully the small and strong nations should not bully the weak. China will never be a superpower and it opposes hegemony and power politics of any kind. The Chinese side stated that it firmly supports the struggles of all the oppressed people and nations for freedom and liberation and that the people of all countries have the right to choose their social systems according to their own wishes and the right to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of their own countries and oppose foreign aggression, interference, control and subversion. All foreign troops should be withdrawn to their own countries.

                    The Chinese side expressed its firm support to the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in their efforts for the attainment of their goal and its firm support to the seven-point proposal of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the elaboration of February this year on the two key problems in the proposal, and to the Joint Declaration of the Summit Conference of the Indo-Chinese Peoples. It firmly supports the eight-point program for the peaceful unification of Korea put forward by the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on April 12, 1971, and the stand for the abolition of the “U.N. Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea.” It firmly opposes the revival and outward expansion of Japanese militarism and firmly supports the Japanese people’s desire to build an independent, democratic, peaceful and neutral Japan. It firmly maintains that India and Pakistan should, in accordance with the United Nations resolutions on the India-Pakistan question, immediately withdraw all their forces to their respective territories and to their own sides of the cease fire line in Jammu and Kashmir and firmly supports the Pakistan Government and people in their struggle to preserve their independence and sovereignty and the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for the right of self-determination.

                    There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies. However, the two sides agreed that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, nonaggression against other states, noninterference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. International disputes should be settled on this basis, without resorting to the use or threat of force. The United States and the People’s Republic of China are prepared to apply these principles to their mutual relations.

                    With these principles of international relations in mind the two sides stated that:
–progress toward the normalization of relations between China and the United States is in the interests of all countries;
–both wish to reduce the danger of international military conflict;
–neither should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony; and
–neither is prepared to negotiate on behalf of any third party or to enter into agreements or understandings with the other directed at other states.

                    Both sides are of the view that it would be against the interests of the peoples of the world for any major country to collude with another against other countries, or for major countries to divide up the world into spheres of interest.

                    The two sides reviewed the long-standing serious disputes between China and the United States. The Chinese side reaffirmed its position: The Taiwan question is the crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations between China and the United States; the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China; Taiwan is a province of China which has long been returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China’s internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere; and all U.S. forces and military installations must be withdrawn from Taiwan. The Chinese Government firmly opposes any activities which aim at the creation of “one China, one Taiwan, …. one China, two governments,” “two Chinas,” and “independent Taiwan” or advocate that “the status of Taiwan remains to be determined.”

                    The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.

                    The two sides agreed that it is desirable to broaden the understanding between the two peoples. To this end, they discussed specific areas in such fields as science, technology, culture, sports and journalism, in which people-to-people contacts and exchanges would be mutually beneficial. Each side undertakes to facilitate the further development of such contacts and exchanges.

                    Both sides view bilateral trade as another area from which mutual benefit can be derived, and agreed that economic relations based on equality and mutual benefit are in the interest of the people of the two countries. They agree to facilitate the progressive development of trade between their two countries.

                    The two sides agreed that they will stay in contact through various channels, including the sending of a senior U.S. representative to Peking from time to time for concrete consultations to further the normalization of relations between the two countries and continue to exchange views on issues of common interest.

                    The two sides expressed the hope that the gains achieved during this visit would open up new prospects for the relations between the two countries. They believe that the normalization of relations between the two countries is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples but also contributes to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world.

                    President Nixon, Mrs. Nixon and the American party expressed their appreciation for the gracious hospitality shown them by the Government and people of the People’s Republic of China.

                    *If you download this photo from the White House website, the desktop file is “heroshanghaiATH-PS-0421″


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