207. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Sprague) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)1

Dear Mr. Robertson: This refers to Mr. Jones’ letter of July 16, 1957,2 commenting on Prime Minister Kishi’s interest in the land situation on Okinawa and requesting some general statistics which can be used in a statement to the Japanese on land utilization in the Ryukyus.

The appreciation expressed by the Department of State for both the review and reassessment of land needs in the Ryukyus by the Governor, General Lemnitzer, and his careful supervision of this problem is a matter of satisfaction to the Department of Defense. As a result of this review, the estimate of total U.S. requirements was reduced from upwards of 56,000 acres to within the 52,088 previously authorized by the U.S. Congress. More than 300 acres of land previously acquired were returned to the local economy between 1 July and 31 December 1956.

The United States has been following and will continue to follow the policy of outgranting, for no cash compensation, all land included in its holdings to the extent that this is compatible with U.S. utilization and security requirements. On 31 December 1956, U.S. holdings of acreage remaining arable were calculated at 7,505 acres. Farming was permitted on 6,389 acres; this constitutes 85 per cent of the acreage held which remains arable.

On 27 February 1957, the Deputy Governor announced the decision that the Yonabaru airfield site will be utilized as a Marine helicopter installation instead of a Naval airfield, thus obviating any necessity for additional land acquistion at Yonabaru. In accordance with the most conservative policy and economy in U.S. land utilization, a requirement for additional land to build an airstrip on Miyako Island was cancelled.

Reappraisal of the land situation resulted in greater land values as well as lesser acreage needs. Based on these reappraisals, landowners are being given, in lieu of annual rentals, a cash payment a great many times more than the annual rent for the full use of their property. In Fiscal Year 1957, funds in the amount of $2 million for resettlement expenses incident to displacement of landowners, and $10 million for long-term land acquisition were made available to the field commanders. [Page 443] Funds, in addition to the amount previously authorized by the U.S. Congress, will be requested for land acquisition previously authorized.

The keystone of U.S. land policy in the Ryukyus is to keep U.S. holdings to an absolute minimum consistent with U.S. military missions in the area. In the furtherance of this policy every effort is being made to minimize requirements. Such efforts include joint service utilization of facilities, multi-story construction, and location of facilities on non-arable land. General Lemnitzer, earlier this year, told the Ryukyuans that this program is working “to the mutual benefit not only of the landowners, but of the Ryukyuan people in general, as well as the United States, and should usher in a period of greater prosperity and increasing well being in the Ryukyu Islands.”

The Department of Defense would hope that such of the above information as may be provided to Prime Minister Kishi would be given in such a manner as to avoid any connotation of obligation on the part of the United States to provide the Government of Japan with reports on the activities of the U.S. administration of the Ryukyus.

Sincerely yours,

Mansfield D. Sprague
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.9411/8–1557.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.,033.9411/7–1657)