338. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • The Ryukyu Islands


  • Japan
    • Mr. Hayato Ikeda—Prime Minister
    • Mr. Zentaro Kosaka—Foreign Minister
    • Mr. Koichiro Asakai—Japanese Ambassador to the United States
    • Mr. Kiichi Miyazawa—Member of the Upper House of the Japanese Diet
    • Mr. Shigenobu Shima—Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Mr. Toshiro Shimanouchi—Counselor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • United States
    • The President
    • Mr. Dean Rusk—Secretary of State
    • Mr. George W. Ball—Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
    • Mr. Walter W. Rostow—Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Mr. Walter P. McConaughy—Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
    • Mr. Edwin O. Reischauer—U.S. Ambassador to Japan
    • Mr. Paul Nitze—Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs
    • Mr. Richard L. Sneider—Officer in Charge, Japanese Affairs

The Secretary reviewed for the President and the Prime Minister his discussions with the Foreign Minister on the flying of the Japanese flag over public buildings in the Ryukyus on the New Year’s holiday.1 He said it was agreed that the High Commissioner would announce this action since this would support the High Commissioner’s position in the area. The Foreign Minister asked whether permission could be granted to fly the Japanese flag on other national holidays as well as the New Year’s holiday. He thought this would not be contrary to U.S. administration over the area and would have a good psychological effect on the Ryukyuans, demonstrating that their interests were considered in the meetings with the President. The President said that he would speak to the Secretary of Defense on this matter and reply on the following day to the Prime Minister’s suggestion.2

The Prime Minister explained the Japanese Government’s position on the Ryukyus. He said that he had no intention of seeking restoration to Japan of civil administration over the Islands or interfering in any way with U.S. administration. He felt, however, that within the framework of continued U.S. administration it was important to minister to the economic needs of the people and give them treatment at least equivalent to that accorded Japanese nationals in the poorer prefectures of Japan. He pointed out that the tax burden of the Okinawa citizens was far higher than that borne by the people of the poorer Japanese prefectures. He mentioned that in Tottori prefecture grants by the central government [Page 700]provide 90 per cent of the prefectural revenues, with only ten per cent derived from local taxes. In contrast, 80 to 90 per cent of the Ryukyuan expenditures are paid for by local taxes, with the remainder coming from U.S. assistance. This situation creates pressures in the Ryukyus for return of Japanese administration. The Prime Minister concluded that the best way to diminish reversionist desires is to provide the Ryukyuans with treatment comparable to that which they would receive if residing in a Japanese prefecture.

The President said that the only interest of the U.S. in the Ryukyus is to support our security position in Southeast Asia and Korea. Okinawa, for example, was the main staging base for possible operations in Laos. It is a key military base in the Far East and the U.S. and Japan have a common interest in maintaining this base as a powerful center for possible military operations, both in Southeast Asia and Korea. If the U.S. were forced to give up Okinawa as a military base, quite possibly we might have to deploy all the way back to Hawaii. The President said that we agree fully with the need to better living conditions in the area and recognize the sensitivity of this issue for Japan. The Japanese suggestions for improving conditions there and Japanese assistance in the area were much appreciated. The President said we ought to make the maximum effort to raise the standards in the Ryukyus. He reiterated that our interest in the area is not colonial, but flows purely from security considerations. He suggested that Ambassador Reischauer discuss further with the Japanese Government steps to improve the livelihood of the Ryukyuans and report these views back.

Prime Minister Ikeda raised the possibility of setting up a round table group consisting of the U.S., Japan, and the GRI to provide the Ryukyuans with an avenue of expression. The President said he would review this with the Department of Defense and the High Commissioner, and following this review have Ambassador Reischauer discuss the problem further with the Japanese Government. The President concluded that he felt the U.S. and Japan shared a common interest in the Ryukyus, both in improving the livelihood of the Ryukyuan people and in avoiding pressures for reversion. He was certain the Communist powers wished to push the U.S. out of Okinawa, and if this occurred it would be very difficult to maintain the Free World position in Asia.

The Prime Minister said he fully appreciated and understood the very important security requirements of the U.S. in Okinawa. He recognized that [there] was considerable opposition in Japan to bringing nuclear weapons into his country, so that he fully understood the need to maintain the U.S. position on Okinawa as a base for such weapons.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.94/6-2161. Confidential. Drafted by Sneider. Approved in S and B on July 14 and by the White House on July 20. This is one of five memoranda of the discussion between Ikeda and Kennedy aboard the Honey Fitz with a larger group of officials after their private meeting at 3:15 p.m. The discussion of U.S.-Japanese consultation is cited in footnote 2, Document 335; the talk on trade and textiles is summarized in footnote 2, Document 336; the memorandum on the Japanese relationship to the OECD is a report of the discussion of that subject at the private meeting, see Document 336. The fifth topic was an inconclusive discussion of the timing of the projected first meeting of the Joint U.S.-Japan Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs.
  2. Rusk and Kosaka met earlier aboard the Honey Fitz during the President’s private meeting with the Prime Minister. Rusk stated that although the United States wanted “to leave no doubt as to the clarity” of its “administrative control” over the Ryukyus, it was prepared to do everything possible to improve its administration of them and economic and educational standards in them. (Memorandum of conversation by Sneider; ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330)
  3. On the morning of June 22 Rusk informed Kosaka that the United States was agreeable to his suggestion that the Japanese flag fly over public buildings on all Ryukyuan holidays. Rusk cautioned that this action would solely serve to confirm Japan’s residual sovereignty over the Ryukyus and meant no change in U.S. responsibilities in them. Kosaka “expressed complete agreement.” Rusk then stated that Kennedy had agreed to flying the Japanese flag on the Prime Minister’s assurance at their final meeting on June 21 that it would help stabilize the situation in the Ryukyus. (Memorandum of conversation by Sneider; ibid.)