PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Japan”

No. 651
Memorandum by the Executive Secretary (Lay) to the National Security Council1

top secret


  • The Japanese Treaty Islands


  • NSC 125/2 and NSC 125/5

The enclosed report by the NSC Planning Board on the subject is submitted herewith for consideration by the National Security [Page 1429] Council of the Recommendations contained in pages 10–11 thereof at its meeting on Thursday, June 18. Also enclosed for Council information as Annexes A and B2 to the report are statements of the respective positions of the Departments of Defense and State on this subject.

James S. Lay, Jr.


[Here follows a table of contents.]

Report by the NSC Planning Board on the Japanese Treaty Islands

[Here follows a section entitled “Background”.]

alternatives and problems

11. Decision by the U.S. Government on its long-term policy with respect to the Japanese Treaty Islands is urgently needed. Effective action on virtually all major problems now facing the United States in its administration of the islands, particularly the Ryukyus, is hampered—in some cases seriously—by the lack of a settled policy. Moreover, delay by the United States in defining and making public its intentions tends to permit the development in Japan and in the islands of political pressures and issues which are made to order for political exploitation inimical to U.S. interests.


12. Four possible courses of action are open to the United States with respect to the islands. These alternatives are briefly discussed in the following paragraphs.

13. Application to the United Nations for a Strategic Trusteeship. This is the course of action which was envisaged at the time of the Peace Treaty, and various public statements at that time indicated that the United States intended to retain only temporarily its exercise of all powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction. However, it has become increasingly apparent that there are serious disadvantages to this course of action. The application for a strategic trusteeship would be subject to a possible Soviet Union veto in the Security Council, and we might, therefore, have to accept an ordinary trusteeship. Our subsequent administration would be subject to harassment in the United Nations by the Soviet Union and its satellites. In addition, the Japanese would [Page 1430] regard trusteeship as a step away from the eventual relinquishing of powers of civil administration to them, and would therefore resent it. For these reasons, State and Defense agree that it is not desirable to request a United Nations trusteeship over these islands.

14. Relinquishing Authority Over All the Islands to Japan. Under the present conditions of international tension in the Far East, it is important for the maintenance of our defense system in the Pacific that we retain an assured control over at least the major base areas in these islands. State and Defense therefore agree that for the present we should not relinquish to Japan powers of civil administration over the Ryukyu Islands south of the Amami group, Nanpo Shoto (including the Bonins, Rosario and the Volcanos), and Parece Vela and Marcus Islands.

15. Maintenance of Existing Degree of United States Control Over All the Islands. It is the view of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commander in Chief, Far East, and the Commander in Chief, Pacific, that the Ryukyus and Bonin–Volcano Islands are of such vital importance to the security of the United States that there should be no relaxation in the degree of present United States control until the Pacific area is no longer threatened by Communist aggression. The reasons for this position follow:*

The security and effective control of military bases on these islands would be jeopardized by relinquishing of any degree of full administrative control granted to the United States over the islands by article 3 of the Japanese Peace Treaty.
The strategic importance of these islands was recognized by the Secretaries of State and Defense in a memorandum dated September 8, 1950 forwarded jointly to the President (NSC 60/1),3 which expressed agreement that certain security requirements should be considered vital and that the negotiations concerning the Japanese Peace Treaty must take them into account. These requirements included “its terms must secure to the United States exclusive strategic control of the Ryukyu Islands south of latitude 29 degrees north, Marcus Island, and the Nanpo Shoto south of Sofu Gan”. Since the date of the aforementioned memorandum, security conditions have considerably worsened in the Pacific area and United States security requirements in these islands has (have) increased rather than diminished.
Return of the Amami group to Japan would unquestionably intensify Japanese efforts to gain control of the rest of the Ryukyus. Prime Minister Yoshida, in a letter of a few weeks ago to the United States Ambassador in Japan, stated that Japan’s desire for [Page 1431] return of Amami is “a first step” toward return of full control of all of the Ryukyus to Japan.
No predictable political benefit to the United States resulting from the granting of any concession to Japan could outweigh the certain jeopardy to the integrity of the U.S. strategic position in the Far East which would result from any modification of the status quo of the subject islands. By “status quo” is meant continuing full authority of the United States to exercise any and all powers over these areas as granted by Article 3 of the Peace Treaty.
Japanese desire for return of the Ryukyus does not spring from concern on their part of alleged shortcomings of the U.S. administration of the islands.
Return of all the islands to Japan during present international tensions in the Far East is considered undesirable by State as well as by Defense. Return of Amami alone, unless accompanied by an indication of additional U.S. concessions, would be at most a minor gain for the Japanese, and even undesirable for them in some respects. It would therefore appear erroneous to suppose that returning the Amami group would have any significantly favorable results for the United States in solving serious problems in US-Japanese relations.
A public statement of the United States intention to retain these full powers until conditions of peace and stability prevail in the Far East is essential in order (1) to eliminate reversion pressure as a political problem in the Ryukyu Islands, (2) to permit effective action on major problems now facing the United States in its administration of the area, and (3) to forestall the development in Japan of political issues made to order for political exploitation.

16. Relinquishing Authority Over Amami Group to Japan: No Revision in Status of Other Islands. The Department of State believes that authority over the Amami group should be relinquished to Japan at an early date, after agreement with Japan on the necessary rights there for military purposes, the precise timing to be determined with a view to obtaining the greatest possible political advantage in our relations with Japan, and the maximum bargaining leverage in other matters pending with Japan. There should be no revision of the status of the other islands during the present conditions of international tension in the Far East, but ultimately civil administration in all the islands should be relinquished to Japan after agreement has been reached with the Japanese assuring us of the necessary military rights. This recommendation has the following advantages:

Political and military factors are adequately balanced. All necessary military rights are secured in the context of a political situation which gives them meaning. Retention of our political control [Page 1432] over all islands except the Amami group protects our essential strategic interests. The relinquishing of our powers of civil administration in the Amami group will be of minimal strategic significance, but will allay the most acute of the political difficulties with Japan. If steps are taken at the same time to improve civil administration in the Ryukyus and to give added responsibility to the Japanese, other sources of continuing friction between the United States and Japan will be removed.
Restoration of their administrative control over the Amami group will relieve the Japanese Government of a major source of opposition pressure. At the same time our continued political control over our major bases in the area will keep the Japanese Government technically free from responsibility for operations which may have to be conducted from these bases.
While there is no doubt that the Japanese will continue to express their desire to regain administrative control over all of the islands, effective implementation of the recommendations for improving administration over them, together with public announcement of our intentions, will greatly decrease present agitation and friction.
By taking steps to meet the increasing Japanese desire to regain powers of civil administration over at least some of these islands, the United States gains bargaining leverage which should help us in other matters on which we must deal with the Japanese.
United States financial and administrative responsibility in the Ryukyus will decrease as Japanese responsibility is gradually increased; nevertheless the United States will retain the necessary measure of control over these islands.
The recommended course of action will eliminate most of the basis for one of the major propaganda weapons the Communists and other anti-American elements have used in trying to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States. It will also diminish the effectiveness of the appeal of similar groups to the Ryukyuan population. Thus the United States has in this situation an opportunity for a positive step which will seize the psychological initiative from the Soviets in the efforts to capture Japanese public opinion.
This course of action will materially strengthen the willingness of the Japanese Government and people to cooperate with the United States, and will thus strengthen the security of the offshore island chain in the Pacific.

Problem of Improved Civil Administration in the Ryukyus

17. Whatever decision is taken as to the status of the islands—whether the status quo is maintained as recommended by Defense or the Amamis are returned to Japan as recommended by State—numerous urgent problems will face the U.S. administration in the Ryukyus. Among the more pressing and difficult are those associated with improving relationships between the local government and the civil administration, assuring adequate sources of revenue for the native government, creating a workable and acceptable system [Page 1433] for compensating and resettling the Ryukyuans whose land is required by the United States, and rebuilding a school system fast enough to meet the needs of the population. A revised directive for the U.S. administration, implementing solutions and approaches to these problems, is now in draft form. Issuance of the new directive has, of necessity, been held up pending final decision on the longrange disposition of the Ryukyus. There is also an immediate need to define the basic authority for civil administration over any islands to be retained. Accordingly, it would be desirable for the Department of Defense to expedite issuance of the revised civil affairs directive for the Ryukyus and to prepare any other necessary instrument defining the basic authority for administration of these islands.


18. It is recommended that the National Security Council:

Decide whether the United States should:

As recommended by the Department of Defense, maintain the degree of control and authority now exercised, pursuant to Article 3 of the Peace Treaty with Japan, over all the islands mentioned in Article 3, until conditions of peace and stability prevail in the Far East.


As recommended by the Department of State, relinquish civil administration over the Amami group to Japan, subject to agreement with Japan on U.S. military rights in this group, but maintain the degree of control and authority now exercised pursuant to Article 3 of the Peace Treaty with Japan, over all the other islands mentioned in Article 3, during the present international tensions in the Far East.
Decide that the United States should, at an appropriate time to be determined in the light of the international situation, make a public announcement of its intentions with respect to the Japanese Treaty Islands, as determined under a above.
Direct the Department of Defense, in coordination with other interested agencies to (1) expedite revision of the present civil affairs directive providing for continued improvement of the civil administration of those Ryukyu Islands under U.S. jurisdiction, and (2) prepare any other necessary instrument defining the basic authority for administration of these islands.

[Here follow a map, not reproduced, and Annexes A and B.]

  1. Filed as an attachment to the memorandum by Robertson, infra. In addition to the members of the National Security Council, this memorandum was circulated to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. For detailed statement, see Annex A. [Footnote in the source text. Annex A is not printed.]
  4. For text, see the enclosure to the letter from Secretary Acheson to Secretary Johnson, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. vi, p. 1293.
  5. For detailed statement, see Annex B. [Footnote in the source text. Annex B is not printed.]