Iron Triangles and Revolving Doors: Cases in U.S. Foreign Economic Policymaking

By Raymond Vernon; Debora L. Spar et al. | Go to book overview

5
U.S. Trade Policy and Security Export Controls: The Toshiba-Kongsberg Affair

In April 1987, sources in the U.S. government revealed that Toshiba Machine Co., a subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, together with a Norwegian firm, Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik, had sold submarine-quieting technology to the Soviet Union. A top secret investigation had led naval technology and export control experts in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Navy, and the Department of Defense to link the sale to recent reductions in sound emitted by Soviet nuclear submarines. According to these sources, the Toshiba-Kongsberg sale had seriously damaged western security by eliminating the United States' ability to detect enemy submarines until they were dangerously close to the U.S. coastline. For many in Washington already troubled by the economic and technological rise of Japan, the sale confirmed a spreading perception that those in the Land of the Rising Sun would willingly sacrifice the military strength of their protector and most important ally in order to increase commercial sales revenues.

Almost at once, numerous bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives banning the sale of all Toshiba products in the United States and on foreign U.S. military bases for up to five years. The U.S. press also jumped into the fray, strongly criticizing the Japanese corporate world for its lax adherence to export control regulations and its irresponsible attitude toward political relations between the United States and Japan. Meanwhile, behind closed doors in Washington, an intensive and far-reaching lobbying effort to avoid sanctions was being undertaken by Toshiba Corporation and its many allies within the U.S. business community.

This flurry of activity occurred even amidst confusion about the actual

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