102. Memorandum of Conversation Between the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) and Kei Wakaizumi 1

Mr. Wakaizumi began by handing me the attached letter from Prime Minister Sato formally introducing him as a “confidential personal representative.”2

Wakaizumi reported that he had spent several hours with the Prime Minister after his previous talk with me.3 He had put it to the Prime Minister as strongly as he could that President Johnson was bearing on behalf of Asia enormous burdens. He urged that the Prime Minister approach President Johnson with a fundamental understanding of those burdens and the need for Japan to act in the following ways:

  • —with the most candid statement of support for our position in Viet Nam;
  • —with a readiness to assist in our balance-of-payments problem;
  • —with a readiness to expand generously assistance in aid to Asia, notably by increasing Japan’s contribution to the soft-loan window of the Asian Development Bank up to $200 million.

He said that he thought the Prime Minister would come in this spirit with that intent.

He then turned to the central purpose of his visit, which was the language on the Ryukyus. He said that Prime Minister Sato appreciated our movement on the Bonins, but he needed some greater sense of movement on the Ryukyus, notably with respect to timing.
I then stated to Wakaizumi the three factors which made us reserved with respect to any indication of timing on the Ryukyus:
  • —We could not predict the length of the war in Viet Nam;
  • —We could not predict what problems we might confront with the Chinese Communists;
  • —[2½ lines of source text not declassified]
Therefore, we felt there was danger in raising the expectations of the Japanese people excessively with respect to the timing of the return on the Ryukyus, since Japanese political life was focused less on the security problems of Japan and Asia than they were on the simple nationalist issue of administrative return.
Wakaizumi said that he understood these three points fully. He had, indeed, argued with Prime Minister Sato that this was a very bad time to raise the issue of the Ryukyus. He said that Prime Minister Sato also understood these three points; but he was faced with a rising and passionate political pressure for movement on the Ryukyus even from pro-Americans in Japan.
He then laid before me the following proposed language, which is a modification of the previously proposed Japanese text.

“As a result of their discussion, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that the two governments, guided by the aim of returning the administrative right over the Ryukyu Islands to Japan [at an earliest possible date]4 should hold consultations through diplomatic channels to examine matters pertaining to the reversion with a view to reaching within a few years, an agreement on a date satisfactory to the two governments for the reversion of these islands.” (proposed new language underlined)5

He then said these things:
  • —Prime Minister Sato does not want in fact an early return of the Ryukyus. He thinks that this would be bad for the security of Japan and Asia.
  • —He believes that by promising to set a date within a few years, the time of actual reversion could be pushed ahead to 1975 or even 1980.6
  • —The actual time, in Sato’s judgment, would depend on when Japan would accept arrangements for the Ryukyus “fully compatible [Page 224]with its remaining an effective military base” for the U.S., Japan, and Asia. [2½ lines of source text not declassified]
I said that I would transmit this formula to the President.7
Wakaizumi then added the following:
  • Sato would wish to discuss this particular issue alone with the President without his two Ministers being present.
  • —He would be grateful if I could let him know tomorrow or Monday what our reaction was to this formula. He is staying at the Washington Hilton, but he is not in touch with the Japanese Embassy. He will see Sato on his arrival Monday8 evening at Blair House.
  • —He inquired whether we thought there was anything in the distinction between “offensive” and “defensive” nuclear weapons—a distinction which certain Japanese commentators were developing with respect to the future of Japan’s relation to nuclear weapons. I said that I would consult my colleagues, but my view was that all nuclear weapons were essentially defensive since they were designed to deter nuclear blackmail and nuclear war.
Incidentally, Wakaizumi said that in his press club speech on November 15, he believes Prime Minister Sato will be forthcoming, in general, on Viet Nam; back strongly the San Antonio formula and reciprocity in connection with the bombing cessation;9 and hit hard against the “yellow menace” argument.10 Wakaizumi had furnished to Sato USIA translations of both the San Antonio speech and President Johnson’s remarks about the “yellow menace,” to both of which Prime Minister Sato is reported to have reacted most positively.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Vol. VII. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed. In advance of this meeting, Rostow was informed by the Department of State that Wakaizumi was “the latest of a number of unofficial Sato emissaries to Washington sent to sound out our views before Sato arrives. This is typical of Sato’s operation. He likes to get advice from a number of quarters before deciding how to play his hand.” (Memorandum from Read, November 10; ibid.)
  3. The meeting was held on October 27 and focused on the reversion of the Ryukyus and the Bonins. Rostow sent an account of the meeting to President Johnson, who read it. (Memorandum of Conversation; ibid., Vol. VI)
  4. Brackets in the source text and text struck through.
  5. Printed here as italics.
  6. The thrust of Sato’s proposal was accepted and his desire to reach an agreement “within a few years” was reflected in paragraph VII of the joint communiqué issued on November 15 at the conclusion of the Sato visit. (Department of State Bulletin, December 4, 1967, p. 745)
  7. When passing the information to President Johnson, Rostow commented that Sato was willing to make major concessions on aid and balance-of-payments assistance for help on the reversion question and that he should be asked to pay “a high price for our political help to him.” (Memorandum to the President, November 11; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Vol. VII)
  8. November 13. On Sunday evening, November 12, Wakaizumi dined at Rostow’s home, where they had a short, private meeting at Wakaizumi’s request “to assure that his message was absolutely clear.” Wakaizumi then read an abbreviated version of his previous comments to Rostow. (Memorandum for the record, November 13; ibid.)
  9. President Johnson addressed the National Legislative Conference at San Antonio, Texas, on September 19. In that speech, the President expressed his willingness to stop all bombing of North Vietnam if and when the North Vietnamese agreed to cease hostilities and begin negotiations toward a peaceful settlement of the war. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, pp. 876–881)
  10. President Johnson spoke out against suggestions of a “yellow peril” in Asia by repudiating racism of any sort and stating that the U.S. mission in Vietnam was to end totalitarianism and ensure freedom for all without regard to race. His comments were included in remarks made when presenting the Medal of Honor on October 25 to Major Howard V. Lee, who served in Vietnam. (Ibid., pp. 943–944)