17. Letter From CINCPAC’s Political Adviser (Steeves) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)0

Dear Walter: I desire to pass on to you and to certain others in the FE Area some advance information on current thinking in this head-quarters with respect to revision or renegotiation of the United States-Japan Security Treaty. Ever since it has been known that the possibility exists that treaty revision may be a subject of discussion, either on the initiation of the Japanese or us, there has naturally been a great deal of interest exhibited here. While there is by no means unaminity of opinion, interest naturally centers around the purely security or military aspects as opposed to the political. The appreciation of the political implications (even possible advantages) of a new treaty is not absent. This is especially true in Admiral Stump’s own thinking and in minds of others on the staff whose minds range more widely over the entire spectrum of United States-Japanese relations.

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A staff study originating in Plans has been prepared and submitted to CNO1 which I think will never see the light of day. It was, as its authors described it, the military community talking in the family. It sets forth the maximum position which the United States should hold for in any possible renegotiation of the Security Treaty. In its present form it is unrealistic beyond description. In terms of United States privileges it goes far beyond what we now enjoy under the Security Treaty and the Administrative Agreement. In view of its unrealistic tenor I raised the question as to whether or not it should even be submitted. While agreeing, it was felt that it deserved a place in the basic studies of this problem but should be followed rather rapidly with a more reasonable paper describing the position which, in the viewpoint of this headquarters, should be the minimum position for which we should negotiate if indeed these negotiations ever come to pass. I should like to pass on to you the position which I have taken with respect to this somewhat delicate and obviously controversial subject. In so doing I have naturally tried to keep my advice within the bounds of the studied opinion reflected from the Embassy and the Department. This letter therefore at once becomes not only an interim report on opinion here but a request for continuing guidance in order that I may be as effective as possible in guiding opinion here to an eventual unified position.

Procedurally I have pointed out that all that is being contemplated at the moment is that exploratory informal talks at the highest level in Japan may take place. We may discover, when and if these are initiated, that the Japanese do not really desire to negotiate a new treaty at all. We may discover that what Kishi and his cohorts of like mind want is a liberal interpretation of the existing treaty to govern our relationships in the security field for some years to come rather than to forge a new one.

I may interpose here to say that in my mind there is considerable unjustified suspicion of Kishi’s basic motives. I do not think that this is any disappreciation of Kishi as a person but rather an expression of some rather long-standing, ill-defined prejudices. There exists some suspicion that the Japanese are wanting to drive a shrewd bargain, renege on present obligations and free themselves from close identification with the United States and its Asian policy. I have tried to counter this by all of the solid reasoning that has come out of the Embassy at Tokyo which of course recognizes Kishi as a Japanese nationalist and undoubtedly a shrewd one (we would not respect him if he were not) but that on balance it is our considered opinion that we have never had the favorable atmosphere since the war in Japan-United States relations [Page 40] which Kishi has been instrumental in creating. Further, Japanese leaders may be very “Japanese” without being anti-American wanting to deal with us on a basis of complete equality. I have pointed out that it is the considered opinion of the Ambassador that if it should transpire that it is to our advantage to express willingness to discuss treaty revision or renegotiation we may be taking advantage of a favorable atmosphere in the Kishi period which might not be duplicated for some time to come. I have argued that in years to come, looking at this period in retrospect, we might have been much better off to have been willing to discuss treaty revision in an atmosphere where a desire to cooperate exists rather than to have the issue forced upon us by a subsequent more “right” or “left” government in Japan. I hope in saying these things that I have reasonably well reflected the consensus and the philosophy which exists in the Department and in the Embassy at Tokyo.

Moving into the substantive aspects, I have tried to prepare this Command to recognize that we are just not going to get all that we might desire. The continuation of some of the privileges described in the Administrative Agreement would not be obtainable in a renegotiated treaty; that it may not express the full mutuality with respect to area defense which we would like, and that we should therefore give very careful study to the minimum requirements that the military feel essential in order not to damage our vital security interests in that area of the world. Here are a few comments on some substantive aspects of the question:

Operational Area. Perhaps most important for the military, apart from having a treaty at all, is the question of the area within which we would be permitted to operate from Japanese bases. Obviously, any restriction against use of Japanese bases for “hot” defense of Korea, Formosa and other areas beyond Japanese territory would change our entire strategic defensive position in Asia and would place severe limitations on the value of Japanese bases. We might well lose a war in Asia before it would reach Japanese territory. An arrangement permitting defense of Japan only will be of strictly limited value until methods of warfare change more drastically.

Treaty Area. This is related to, but distinct from, the question of the Operational Area. Ideally, there would be no restriction on either the Treaty Area or the areas within which we could operate from Japanese bases. It should be clear to us all, however, that we are not likely to get such freedom of action or recognition of such wide identity of interest in a revised treaty.

Knowing the sensitivity of the Japanese public on both these issues, perhaps we could aim for language which deals with attacks on United States and Japanese “interests” (or “posing a threat to their security”) in the Western Pacific without being too specific. This would permit each side to interpret the language broadly for public purposes (a favorite [Page 41] Japanese device) without binding the Japanese Government to restrictions which it would not want when the chips are down. Although this would not give the military guaranteed use of Japanese bases for all defensive purposes, it would be better than a firm restriction against their use for such purposes and probably could be sold to them on that basis.


Nuclears. The military will, of course, want no restriction on their freedom to place nuclears as and where their strategic and tactical needs require. [8-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

[3 lines of source text not declassified] This points up, I think, the real basis for military reluctance to disturb present arrangements. They ask how it will be possible to insist upon retention of rights which stem from the very document which would be opened for renegotiation. They fear that one of the possibilities inherent in opening the question for negotiation is the danger that the Japanese will prefer no treaty to one which gives them less than they want. In short, they tend to feel, Japan has everything to gain and nothing to lose by any change in the present arrangements. We, on the other hand, they feel, have little to gain and much to lose. I need hardly add that we in POLAD continually stress that the present treaty is uniquely one-sided and will be worth little to us if it alienates Japan and the Japanese. We need to remind ourselves rather frequently that a treaty is not worth much more than the actual mutuality to which the agreement only gives expression.

Access to Bases. There is much concern here that the Japanese will seek to restrict our freedom to re-enter any bases or areas in Japan which we might now give up. While the staff here are not sanguine about their chances of getting uninhibited entry rights in the future, they will undoubtedly press for just that.
Jurisdiction. Although not a part of the Security Treaty, arrangements governing jurisdiction are very much related. Our general impression is that the military here have no serious quarrel with the present arrangements. Any attempt by the Japanese to increase their jurisdiction over our forces would very likely be resisted.
Customs, Immigration and Taxation. Immigration and customs treatment relate directly to the question of personnel and goods. On the official level, for personnel and equipment, the military will insist that any future arrangements be entirely consistent with their operational and strategic requirements. With regard to taxation and customs treatment for personal effects we can expect opposition to any arrangements likely to render military duty in Japan more costly, or more unpleasant from this point of view, than other foreign assignments.
Japanese Forces. The size and composition of Japanese forces, their disposition in event of threatened or actual hostilities and command relationships will all be matters of intense interest.

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Just how far our military advisers will go in pressing for the view that a renegotiation of the treaty must be made contingent upon the Japanese willingness to take unilateral steps, I am not sure. They feel initially that we should ask for Japanese constitutional amendment, assurance that they will meet certain force goals in their own defense buildup, strengthen security legislation within Japan, etc. As desirable as these may be, in private conversation I have pointed out that we are not likely to get any such far-reaching commitments from the Japanese in what to them appear to be purely domestic matters with which we have no concern.

In discussing this whole matter of possible United States-Japan discussions of treaty renegotiation, I recognize that we are talking about two possible documents; first, the broadly-worded Mutual Security Treaty and secondly, something to take the place of the Administrative Agreement which would undoubtedly grow out of the second treaty much as the current Administrative Agreement grew out of the first. Undoubtedly detailed military interest will be much greater in the provisions of the new Administrative Agreement than in the treaty itself.

I hope that this discussion of this question will be helpful to Washington and Tokyo in assessing some of the views here.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Source: Department of State, FE/NA Files: Lot 61 D 68, U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, 1958. Secret; Official–Informal; No Distribution Outside Department. Copies were sent to MacArthur, Howard Parsons, and Marshall Green.
  2. Dated July 1 and enclosed with JSC 2180/117, August 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, CCS. 092 Japan (12–12–50)) See Supplement.