PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Japan”

No. 653
Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Secretary of State

top secret


  • NSC Consideration of the Japanese Treaty Islands.

On Thursday, June 18, the National Security Council is scheduled to consider the difference of opinion between the Departments of State and Defense concerning the disposition of the Ryukyu, Bonin and other islands mentioned in Article III of the Japanese Peace Treaty.1 The report by the NSC Planning Board to the Council2 contains a statement of the background and various possible courses of action and then summarizes the conflicting recommendations of the two Departments. Attached as Annex A (pages 12 to 21) is a brief for the Department of Defense position; attached as Annex B (pages 22 to 30) is a brief for the Department of State positions.3

The Defense position is that there should be no revision in the status of any of these Treaty islands for the indefinite future. As the result of our conversation on June 11, you approved a Department of State position which agrees that we should retain all of the islands except the Amami group in their present status while present international tensions in the Far East continue.4 However, [Page 1436] we recommend that the NSC determine that we should relinquish control over the Amami group to Japan at an early date, the precise timing to be determined in relation to other matters which we have pending with Japan.

In the annexes, the NSC is presented with a basic difference in political judgment. Nothing in the Defense paper indicates that the Amami group has any strategic importance which could not be adequately protected by securing appropriate base rights from the Japanese. The Defense case is therefore predicated upon the theory that relinquishing control over the Amami group would whet the enthusiasm of the Japanese to regain control over the rest of the islands and would increase irredentist sentiment among the islanders. Our own judgment is that we can ease a serious and increasing source of friction by relinquishing control over the Amami group. The Japanese Government desires reversion of the islands and has formally told us so. They know that the strategic case for our retention of Amami is weak, whereas the strategic case for the retention of the other islands is strong. In order to enable us, without alienating the Japanese, to retain control over the islands where we need it for our strategic interest, we should relinquish the control we do not need.


That you support the Department of State position as set forth in Paragraph 18a(2) and also the recommendations in 18b and c of the paper on the Japanese Treaty Islands.

  1. The Council did not take up this question until June 25; see Document 655.
  2. Document 651.
  3. Neither annex is printed.
  4. No memorandum of this conversation has been found in Department of State files. On June 2 Robertson had sent to the Secretary a memorandum containing a proposed Department of State position for submission to the NSC Planning Board, and had commented on the proposal in part as follows: “In all but one respect this [position] is consistent with the position you approved as the result of a memorandum of March 18 to you from Mr. Allison. This one respect is the implicit recommendation that the Bonin Islands should be retained and that the islanders should not be permitted to return during present international tensions in the Far East. At the conference in Honolulu with Admiral Radford and Frank Nash, Mr. Allison agreed that he would be willing to present this position to the Japanese Government and to recommend it to you. FE concurs.” (794C.0221/5–2953) For the memorandum dated Mar. 18, see Document 638.