WASHINGTON – President Richard Nixon described his counterpart, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, in 1973 as “nationalist” and a “new boy” on the Western bloc, according to a tape recording recently made public.
Nixon, who was said to have differences with Tanaka over policies on China, made the remarks in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti on April 18, 1973, at the White House, according to the recording.
“He (Tanaka) is more nationalistic than the old regimes that ran through Yoshida, Ikeda, Kishi and Sato,” Nixon said in referring to Tanaka’s predecessors in postwar Japan — Shigeru Yoshida, Hayato Ikeda, Nobusuke Kishi and Eisaku Sato. Nixon had met with Tanaka the previous year.
“This poses a problem because beneath the surface of Japan in my view, among younger people particularly, is a growing nationalism,” Nixon told Andreotti, according to the recording released Wednesday by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.
“As far as Tanaka is concerned, he is what we would call ‘the new boy in town,’ ” Nixon said.
Nixon played down the view that even if Japan upped trade with China it would become a threat to the U.S. and European economies.
“Japan does not really have an option at this time with regard to trading with communist China as a substitute for trading with Europe and the United States,” Nixon said. “The Chinese just don’t have enough to sell that they want, and so . . . it will be many years before communist China will be a major trading partner for Japan.”
Bilateral ties between Japan and the United States soured following Nixon’s surprise announcements in 1971 that he would visit China, with which Japan did not have diplomatic ties at that time, and take the dollar off the gold standard.
Tanaka visited China the following year and signed a statement with then Premier Zhou Enlai on the normalization of bilateral ties.