100. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
This is a supplementary note to give you more clearly the position in the government on the reversion of the Bonins to Japan.2
The attached proposal is agreed by Secretaries Rusk and McNamara. General Wheeler was personally willing to go along; but the Joint Chiefs did not agree.
Essentially, the Joint Chiefs believe that we should retain the option to base nuclear weapons at our installations on Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima without the consent of Japan, should this be necessary, and they would not return administrative rights to these islands until Japan [Page 218]permitted nuclear storage.3 The Joint Chiefs fear that by yielding our rights to nuclear storage in the Bonins we would set a precedent which would make it more likely that the Japanese would refuse nuclear storage in Okinawa. Additionally, the JCS are reluctant to accept at this time the Japanese offer to assume major defense responsibilities in and around the Bonins area.
We do not now store any nuclear weapons in the Bonins and do not have any plans to do so. Secretaries Rusk and McNamara believe that agreeing to a return of the Bonins without rights for nuclear storage would not in any way prejudice our case for insisting on nuclear storage in the Ryukyus. A request for nuclear storage rights on islands where we now maintain very small bases and only 77 military personnel would hardly be understandable to the Japanese.
Secretaries Rusk and McNamara believe, and I concur, that acceptance of the Joint Chiefs’ position would risk serious strains in our relations with Japan, and decrease the prospects of Japan’s responsiveness for support on Viet Nam, balance of payments, and other issues. At Tab A is a memorandum to you from Secretary Rusk, in whose recommendation Secretary McNamara has concurred.
As for procedure, I recommend that you have a meeting with Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and General Wheeler. At that meeting you let General Wheeler present the argument of his military colleagues. And then, if you agree with Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, you could make your decision and let Buzz Wheeler report to the JCS that their argument had been heard, before you made a final decision.
What lies behind the JCS holding to what is, in fact, a marginal position, is an old view deep in the Pentagon; namely, that to make any concession to the Japanese with respect to the Ryukyus and Bonins is to put us on a slippery slope. The fact is that the old, immediately pre-war relationship is changing and must change. Our objective can only now be a gradual and judicious transition into a new relationship in which the Japanese take increased responsibility as a partner as we alter the essentially occupation status on the islands. At the moment they are assuming more partnership responsibility in aid and monetary affairs; and they should do more. The transition to military partnership will take longer.[Page 219]
That, if you approve the State–Defense language in the attached draft (Tab B), you call a meeting to hear argument as suggested.
- Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, November 4, 1967, Meeting with Foreign Policy Advisers. Secret.↩
- According to an October 30 memorandum from Bundy to Rusk negotiations between U. Alexis Johnson and Miki on October 28 confirmed that the Japanese were willing to provide increased economic aid to Southeast Asia and balance-of-payments assistance to the United States. In addition, they intended to assume an expanded defense role over the Bonins and Western Pacific area, if the Bonins reverted back to Japan. Bundy concluded that the Japanese proposals met U.S. objectives for Japan to play a larger role in Southeast Asia and to expand their own defense efforts. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS)↩
- According to a November 2 memorandum from Bundy to Rusk, the Joint Chiefs advocated complete retention of Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima by the United States. Berger, who signed the memorandum, noted in the margin that JCS resistance to reversion of the Bonins centered in the Navy, whose contingency plans foresaw using the Bonins as an “alternate base if Guam is destroyed by Chicom nuclear subs!” (Ibid.)↩
- The memorandum shows that President Johnson approved the recommendation.↩
- Both options were left blank on the memorandum. The Department of State copy indicates that the recommendation was approved. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 BONIN IS) On November 5 Rusk and McNamara instructed U. Alexis Johnson to present to the Japanese the U.S. position, including reserving “the right to discuss potential nuclear weapons storage in the Bonins” during consultations on reversion of those islands. (Telegrams 65117 and 65118 to Tokyo, both November 5; ibid., POL JAPAN–US; and telegram 65120 to Tokyo, November 5; ibid., POL 19 BONIN IS) Also on that day the President approved the start of Congressional consultations on the reversion issues. (Memorandum to the President, November 5; ibid., POL 19 RYU IS) Documentation regarding consultations with Members of Congress is ibid.; Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 71 A 4546, 333 Bonin Islands; and Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File— Addendum, Japan.↩
- The matter was discussed at the Tuesday Luncheon Meeting attended by Rusk, McNamara, Helms, Wheeler, Tom Johnson, Christian, and Rostow. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of this meeting has been found.↩
- This copy of Tab B is ibid., National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, July to December, 1967.↩