356. Editorial Note

In CINCPAC message 200410Z September 20, 1962, JCS Chairman-designate Maxwell Taylor, during an inspection tour of East Asia, commented on U.S. military policy in a number of Asian countries. The section on Japan reads:

“I looked at Japan primarily from the point of view of the military asset which it represents for the U.S. Its principal value lies in the military facilities which are made available to the U.S. forces, rather than in the possible participation of its forces in combined operations. In peace, these bases make in important contribution to the efficiency and economy of operation of all U.S. Services. In war, the continuing value of these bases is uncertain. In limited war, it is likely that the Japanese would permit the U.S. to continue to use these facilities provided the U.S. moves no nuclear weapons into or out of Japan. Since our primary enemy in the Far East is Red China and it would probably be necessary to use atomic weapons in an all-out war with that enemy, the foregoing is a serious limitation on the usefulness of Japanese bases. In case of general nuclear war of the kind envisaged in the SIOP, the contribution of the Japanese bases would have little significance on the world-wide situation.

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“If the foregoing evaluation is correct, there is no justification for the U.S. to pay any great price for U.S. bases in Japan. This fact, plus the continued apathy of the Japanese toward the requirements of their own self defense makes Japan a poor bet as a military ally, and causes one to conclude that military considerations need not shape U.S. relations with Japan.”

After reading this cable, President Kennedy sent NSAM No. 188 to Secretary McNamara: “General Taylor’s summary about the limited benefit of bases in Japan reinforces, I believe, the necessity for tightening dollar expenditures there where, I understand, we spend $350 million per year. I know this is a matter the Department of Defense is looking into. Does it appear that a saving can be made?”

On October 1 McNamara replied that he was convinced savings could be made, although while studies were underway, it was too early to be precise about the amounts. Regarding “the basic issue” raised by Taylor, McNamara was asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their views. (All in Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 188)