Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

Mike Mansfield: In His Own Voice

Cooperation and Understanding U.S.-Japan Relations U.S.-Asia Relations | U.S.-China Relations | U.S.-Korea | Cross-Strait Relations | The Role of the President in Foreign Policy | Message to Future Generations

Cooperation and Understanding

… knowledge is essential for acceptance and understanding. By examining
the political heritage, the economic experience and even the national myths that
tie people together; by exploring the cultural, religious, and social forces
that have molded a nation, we can begin to better understand each other and contribute
to the knowledge and understanding that will strengthen our ties of friendship
and lead to a better world.

Mike Mansfield

Our country has always taken too much for granted; and
let other countries come to learn about us and our diversities,
but we haven’t been too keen on learning about others….
And one of the best ways to bring about better understanding is
through exchanges of all kinds.

Mike Mansfield, 1984

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U.S.-Japan Relations

The U.S.-Japan relationship is the most important bilateral
relationship in the world, bar none.’ I started using this
description in the early 1980’s….In fact, my remark
was inspired by my experience with the U.S.-Japan relationship
that dates back before World War II….At that time, the importance
of Japan was linked, in a sense to the fact that Japan was a barrier
against communism in Asia.

In the 1970’s, the U.S. understanding of Japan’s importance
evolved to some extent. The change was triggered by the new approach
toward Asia adopted by the Nixon administration as a result of
the end of the Vietnam War and the normalization of U.S.-China
relations…In May 1981, after the U.S.-Japan summit meeting,
President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki announced
that their relationship was changed to that of allies. But, the
use of the word ‘allies’ met with some criticism because
it seemed to emphasize the security component of the U.S.-Japan
relationship during the Cold War.

Especially in Japan, people were concerned by such an evolution
toward greater emphasis on military aspects of the U.S.-Japan relationship.
As the U.S. ambassador to Japan, I was very much aware of the Japanese people’s concern.
I began using the phrase ‘the most important bilateral relationship in the world’
because it combined economic interdependence and security cooperation….
The fact that both countries were superpowers, economically speaking,
and the fact that both nations had a security agreement showed
us that the U.S.-Japan relationship was the cornerstone of stability
in the Far East and in the world, bar none….

I don’t know how long it’s going to last, though,
because you have China on the horizon….China will become
more powerful in the decades to come. So far, China has held its
head above water better than Japan has and, in doing so, China
has become something of a stabilizing factor in East Asia and in
the rest of the world….China could be in a position to threaten
Japan’s supremacy in Asia. That is the major reason for me
to emphasize that it is essential for Japan to rebuild its economy

Mike Mansfield: My Recollections. Interviews
with Mike Mansfield, published by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc., 1999,
pp. 89-92.

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U.S.-Asia Relations

A people, whether in Asia or in the Americas, can preserve their
independence only if they have it in the first place and if they
are willing to fight to keep it. Beyond this initial responsibility,
which every nation must accept, nations can combine among themselves
for a joint defense of freedom….I make the following suggestions
without in any sense regarding them as immutable. I make them with
a full awareness of their imperfections and their inadequacies.
I hope they will be challenged, debated, discussed, and improved,
but I make them now in the hope that they will help to put up the
guideposts that are so urgently needed.

First. Colonialism – Chinese Communist of any other – has
no place in Asia, and the policies of the United States should
in no way perpetuate it.

Second. The United States should look with favor on
governments in Asia which are representative of their people
and responsive to their needs, but this nation should not intervene
in the internal affairs of any peaceful country.

Third. The defense of freedom in Asia must rest in the
first instance on the will and determination of the free peoples
of that region.

Fourth. Systems of alliances for the defense of free
nations in Asia against aggression must draw their primary and
preponderant strength from the Asian Countries; the association
of the United States, if any at all, with such alliances should
be indirect, through the machinery of ANZUS [Australia, New Zealand,
U.S. security treaty] or similar combinations of non-Asian countries.

Fifth. The United Nations should serve as the only worldwide
marshalling center for resistance, in the event of aggression
or threat of aggression in Asia.

Sixth. The economic development of the nations of Asia
is preponderantly the responsibility of the peoples of that region,
to be pursued in accord with their individual national genius
and objectives; any assistance rendered by this country, whether
directly or through the United Nations or other agencies, should
be peripheral and should be rendered only when genuinely desired.

Mike Mansfield, July 8, 1954, in a speech to
the U.S. Senate. This speech followed the Geneva Conference in
1954 during which 19 nations met to settle affairs in Southeast
Asia. Mansfield and many other Senators opposed U.S. participation
in the conference until some common-front position could be established
among non-Communist nations.

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U.S.-China Relations

We must awaken from our lethargy about the Orient and put the
manifest sympathy of the American people to a practical use. We
must realize just how much we need China, not how much China needs
us….We must not forget our future lies, in large part, in
the Pacific. A friendly and strong China will be a safeguard for
us in that area. Let us recognize the situation as it really exists
and do our share to keep China going so that American lives will
be spared and the war shortened considerably.

Mike Mansfield, October 20, 1943, in a speech
during his first year in Congress while World War II was being
fought in Asia. From his ten years of teaching at the University
of Montana, Mansfield brought to Congress his expertise and
interest in Asia, as well as an affectionate regard for the
Asian people.

There is immense potential danger in China; but there is also
an immense potential danger in every other powerful nation in a
world which has not yet learned how to maintain civilized survival
in a nuclear age except on the razor’s edge. …The fundamental
question for us is not whether it is a danger, real or potential.
The fundamental question is whether our present policies act to
alleviate or to exacerbate the danger. Do we forestall the danger
by jousting with the shadows and suspicions of the past? Do we
help by a continuance in policies which do little if anything to
lift the heavy curtain of mutual ignorance and hostility?

Like it or not, the present Chinese government is here to stay.
Like it or not, China is a major power in Asia….Is it, therefore,
in this nation’s interest and in the interest of world peace
to put aside, once and for all, what have been the persistent but
futile attempts to isolate China? Is it, therefore, in this nation’s
interest and in the interest of world peace to try conscientiously
and consistently to do whatever we can do – and, admittedly,
it is not much – to reshape the relationship with the Chinese
along more constructive and stable lines?…

I must say that the deepening of the conflict in Vietnam makes
more difficult adjustments in policies respecting China….It
is not easy to contemplate an alleviation with any nation which
cheers on those who are engaged in inflicting casualties on Americans.
Yet, it may well be that this alleviation is an essential aspect
of ending the war and, hence, American casualties. That consideration
alone, it seems to me, makes desirable initiatives toward China
at this time.

Mike Mansfield, quote from the inaugural lecture
of the Mansfield Lectures in International Relations, March
29, 1968. Mansfield chose China as the subject for this lecture,
which called for a major new direction in American foreign
policy in Asia. This call was ultimately heeded by the U.S.
State Department and White House, and in 1972, Mansfield visited
the People’s Republic of China on the invitation of Premier

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American diplomatic relations with Korea from 1866…to 1910,
when Korea was annexed to Japan, can be said to have been influenced
very little by political or commercial considerations. Our main
reason for seeking relations with Korea was primarily to secure
a treaty dealing with the relief of shipwrecked vessels on the
coast of that country….In 1904, Roosevelt showed more interest
in China than in Korea although Korea was the country most vitally
affected by the Russo-Japanese War. The American State Department,
from 1882 to 1907, consistently refused to be bothered when called
upon by Korea under the treaty of 1882. Furthermore, the withdrawal
of the American Minister-Resident to Korea in 1905 showed that
the American Government was content to let Japan go ahead with
her projected annexation without a protest of any sort. The policy
of the United States has been to ignore the obligations incurred
by treaty and a desire to avoid any complications which might grow
our of said obligations. After all, we had no imperialistic designs
in Korea; we had no class clamoring for a commercial or political
foothold; we had no real and vital interests in that country; therefore,
the treaty of 1882 notwithstanding, we had no business there. Thus,
we departed and left Korea to her fate.

Mike Mansfield, 1934, from his master’s
thesis, University of Montana

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Cross-Strait Relations

Perhaps the most important element in the rebuilding of stable
relations with China is to be found in a solution of the problem
of Taiwan. It may help to come to grips with this issue if it is
understood at the outset that the island of Taiwan is Chinese.
That is the position of the National Government of the Republic
of China. That is the position of the People’s Republic of
China. For a quarter of a century, this common Chinese position
has been reinforced by the policies and actions of the United States
government. Since that is the case, I do not believe that a solution
to the Taiwan question is facilitated by its statement in terms
of a two-China policy….The fact is that there is one China
which happens to have been divided into two parts by events which
occurred a long time ago.

Is there not, then some better way to confront his problem than
threat-and-counter-threat between island Chinese and mainland Chinese?
Is there not some better way to live with this situation than by
the armed truce which depends, in the last analysis, on the continued
presence of the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Taiwan straits

The questions cannot be answered until all involved are prepared
to take a fresh look at the situation. It seems to me that it might
be helpful if there could be, among the Chinese themselves, an
examination of the possibilities of improving the climate. As I
have already indicated, the proper framework for any such consideration
would be an acceptance of the contention of both Chinese groups – that
there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of it.

Mike Mansfield, quote from the inaugural lecture
of the Mansfield Lectures in International Relations, March
29, 1968. Mansfield chose China as the subject for this lecture,
which called for a major new direction in American foreign
policy in Asia. This call was ultimately heeded by the U.S.
State Department and White House, and in 1972, Mansfield visited
the People’s Republic of China on the invitation of Premier

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The Role of the President in Foreign Policy

Let me…clarify one point: the conflict in Vietnam cannot
be settled from the Congress or from the campus. In the end, if
it is to be settled honorably, there is only one Constitutional
officer who can speak for you and for the entire nation in its
foreign affairs. Whether we agree with him or not, whether we like
him or not, whether we abhor him or love him, that man is the President
of the United States. In a government such as ours, a Senator lives
with a Constitution, a constituency, and a conscience. All three
considerations underlie the suggestions respecting Vietnam which
have been made here today and which have been expressed on other
occasions. President Johnson and all the Presidents who have gone
before him have listened to advice from many sources, including
the Senate.

It is the President who makes the fundamental decisions of foreign
policy. These decisions are of an immensity which enjoins upon
us all a high respect for the burdens which a President must bear,
and a responsibility to tender to him every support which can be
given in good conscience.

Mike Mansfield, from an address to the University
of North Carolina Forum, March 13, 1967, during which Mansfield
pointed out that U.S. policies toward Europe and China were some
20 years out of date and that U.S. failure to explore every possible
avenue with the United Nations towards peace in Vietnam might be
responsible for the war there.

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Message to Future Generations

We are living in a fast changing world. You are young enough to
keep up with it. You are living in a world that is shrinking, the
globe is becoming a neighborhood. It’s going to shrink further
still. We’re going to become closer neighbors still. We are
going to have to understand each other better. And we’ll
have to recognize that regardless of where we come from, no matter
what our color or background, we all initially sprang from the
same source.

We’ll have to learn to get along with one another. We’ll
have to be more aware of responsibilities which go with this rapidly
speeding up world. We’ll have to set examples for those who
will follow us and recognize that we don’t know it all. So
we should listen to the other person, and that other person sometimes
is right and sometimes we are wrong. It will be a matter of accommodation
and compromise, knowledge and understanding.

I have no doubt that future generations will be able to cope with
events as they occur no matter how rapidly, if for no other reason
than they have no choice. And as we could cope and our predecessors
could, you can cope too. And I wish you well. I hope you’ll
devote your efforts to preserving the environment, preserving the
rights guaranteed to all under the First Amendment, Freedom of
Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of
the Press. I hope you will not violate any of those rights because
there are limitations.

You haven’t been given much of a legacy, but you have been
given a great challenge and what you do will determine what your
successors will be. So I wish you all good luck and, as the Asians
usually say, good health, good fortune, much happiness, and a long

Mike Mansfield, in a message to American Youth,
November 1989.

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