Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with John H. Holdridge
HOLDRIDGE: Japan was also an interesting problem for us, that Kissinger almost overlooked Japan for a long time. This is something he figured, I guess, let the Foreign Service professionals play around with. There wasn't anything that seemed to be too impossible or too difficult. Dick Sneider went off, as I mentioned before, to become a minister in charge of working out the reversion of Okinawa, then went on to become DCM. I guess Kissinger had enough respect for Dick to figure he could handle things. The ambassador, who in the dickens was the ambassador at the time, gosh, it couldn't have been Mike Mansfield, oh, yes, Bob Ingersoll was the ambassador. Anyway, Bob Ingersoll was a good Republican who had been appointed by the President, and I guess they figured it was all right. There didn't seem to be any problems except two things. One, the Nixon “shockus.” The first was the fact that the Japanese had not been given any hint whatsoever about the Kissinger visit, and that came as a real shock. The Japanese had always wanted to be the first of the western powers identified with the United States to establish a relationship with China. The fact that Kissinger had made an end run, that came as a bitter blow to then Prime Minister Sato. Then there was a big fight with Alex Johnson about how we should play this. The thought was, after the trip was over, to send Alex Johnson out to Japan to give a private briefing to Sato about what had transpired. But that never took place. I guess they thought that Sato still would have been obliged to go public with something.
Q: My understanding was that Johnson had been called to San Clemente to go out to tell it almost at the time the United States...
HOLDRIDGE: The idea was to be almost coincident with the time of the announcement, which came in the World Affairs Council speech the fifteenth of July, 1971, in which Nixon announced he would be going to China and that Kissinger had been there and so on. The idea was to send Alex Johnson out to give at least some degree of face to Sato, but I don't know who said nay to it. Alex never went. He did have the job of calling the Japanese ambassador from San Clemente to tell him about it and also spoke to the Chinese ambassador, the Republic of China ambassador.
Q: You were saying they had the job of telling them.
HOLDRIDGE: Yes, well that's about all the warning they got. About three or four hours ahead of time, actually I think the speech came off at 9:30 in the evening. That afternoon Alex and I were on the telephone. I remember talking to the Korean ambassador and the Philippine ambassador and so on. But Alex took upon himself as an old Japan hand to talk to the Japanese ambassador and also to James Shen, the Republic of China ambassador. It was the best we could have done under the circumstance I guess, but it was Henry, I believe, who had this great clamp down on any information coming out, so fearful of leaks.