107. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Circular 175:2 Request for Authorization to Negotiate and Sign an Executive
  • Agreement with Japan Returning the Bonin Islands to Japanese Administration
The Joint Communiqué issued by President Johnson and Prime Minister Sato on November 15, 1967 states in part: “The President and the Prime Minister also reviewed the status of the Bonin Islands and agreed that the mutual security interests of Japan and the United States could be accommodated within arrangements for the return of administration of these islands to Japan. They therefore agreed that the two Governments will enter immediately into consultations regarding the specific arrangements for accomplishing the early restoration of these islands to Japan without detriment to the security of the area.”
You agreed with Prime Minister Sato, at your meeting on November 15, 1967,3 that discussions would begin shortly after Ambassador Johnson’s return to Japan, and you expressed the hope that the negotiations could be concluded quickly. It was agreed that the two Governments would publicly state their hope to conclude the negotiations within a year, and sooner if possible.
The islands in question have been administered by the United States (Navy) since the close of World War II, first as an occupying power, and since 1952, under the terms of Article III of the Treaty of Peace with Japan.4 [Omitted here is a brief excerpt of Article III.]
The islands to be returned to Japan at this time consist of the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-Gunto), including the Chichishima-Retto, Hahajima-Retto and Mukojima-Retto; the Volcano Islands (Kazan-Retto), which include Iwo Jima; Rosario Island (Nishi-no-shima); Marcus Island (Minami-Tori-shima); and Parece Vela (Okino-Tori-shima). A group of islands administered under Article III, known as the Amami Islands, were returned to Japan in 1953. The Ryukyu Islands and the [Page 246]Daito Islands (Nansei-Shoto south of 29° north latitude) are to remain under U.S. administration for the present.
The principal U.S. installations in the islands now to be returned are navigation aids on Iwo Jima (Loran A and C) and Marcus Island (Loran C), harbor and munitions storage facilities at Chichi-jima, an USAF emergency recovery airstrip and U.S. Marine Corps Memorial on Iwo-Jima, and a Coast Guard airfield and U.S. Weather Bureau Station on Marcus Island, manned by a total of 147 U.S. personnel. (See Fact Sheet Telegram at Tab A.)5 The indigenous population consists of 205 persons, descendents of European and Yankee mariners, who reside on Chichi-jima. The majority of the working population are employed by the U.S. Navy Administration.
During the war the Japanese evacuated the civilian population of about 7,000 persons to the home islands. 135 residents of partial occidental ancestry were allowed to return, but the others were barred by the Navy on security grounds. In 1961 the United States paid six million dollars ($6,000,000.00) to the Government of Japan to settle the claims of the former inhabitants for the inability to enjoy the use of their property over an indefinite period. The agreement specified that the payment did not constitute a transfer of property rights to the U.S. Government. (TIAS—Tab B)6
Ambassador Johnson has been sent a package of three telegrams outlining the views of the interested U.S. agencies in regard to matters of civil administration (Tab C), military facilities and areas (Tab D), and the Iwo Jima Memorial (Tab E).7 If you approve the recommendations set forth below, these messages will constitute the Ambassador’s initial instructions for the negotiations. The substance of the messages were concurred in as appropriate by the Departments of Defense and Treasury.
The basic guidelines in these messages are the following:
The arrangements for the reversion of the Bonin Islands shall be patterned after those employed in connection with the return of the Amami Islands in 1953, to the extent appropriate. The principal instrument in the Amami case is a formal executive agreement (Tab F)8 in which “the United States of America relinquishes in favor of Japan all rights and interests under Article III of the Treaty of Peace” in respect of the Amamis, and Japan “assumes full responsibility and authority [Page 247]for the exercise of all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of the Amami Islands.” Specific understandings concerning such matters as claims, application of treaties, conversion of currency, and defense cooperation are set out in the Agreement and a related exchange of notes and agreed official minutes, plus an unpublished record of a meeting of representatives of the two governments and draft minutes for adoption by the Joint Committee under the SOFA.
There should be a clear understanding that the Bonin arrangements do not constitute a precedent for the Ryukyu Islands, as we wish to maintain freedom of action on such issues as dollar conversion and base use.
The reversion of the Bonins should not create a balance of payments windfall for Japan.
Japan will waive its claims and those of its nationals in connection with the war and U.S. administration.
We will ask Japan to assume responsibility for public services such as utilities, education, and postal services, and we hope to work out with the Japanese joint and unilateral arrangements to help the current residents of the islands adjust to the transfer of administration and to provide some assurance of equitable treatment in the future. The United States will have no legal responsibility for these people after the reversion, and Japan will have no legal obligation to accord them treatment preferential to the other Japanese nationals. Nonetheless, this community will need some assistance because its economy has been subsidized and is entirely dependent upon the United States Navy. Although these persons are of Japanese nationality, they have been educated in English and no steps have been taken to prepare them for reversion. We hope to arrange an equitable distribution of community assets and to persuade the Japanese Government to recognize certain collective economic activities (e.g. a Bonin Trading Company) and to establish clear titles to residential land plots. The USG will be considering alternative measures including the possibility of providing employment opportunities in certain U.S. territories.
The United States wishes to retain the Loran A and C stations in Iwo Jima and the Loran C station on Marcus Island for its use under the Mutual Security Treaty, the SOFA and other applicable base arrangements with Japan, supplemented as necessary to facilitate operation of these facilities. Other U.S. facilities in the islands will be transferred to the Japanese Government as soon as it can assume responsibility for their maintenance and operation. We welcome the intention of the Government of Japan, expressed in the Joint Communiqué, “gradually to assume much of the responsibility for defense of the area” and we hope to accelerate the fulfillment of that intention.
U.S. military facilities will be transferred to Japan without compensation for fixed improvements, and without obligation to restore areas to their original condition, as provided in Article IV of the Japan SOFA. We will ask the Government of Japan to maintain and operate certain facilities transferred to it and will seek to preserve the United States’ right of access to and use of these facilities. We will also seek certain specific understandings in the area of mutual security, such as the right to utilize munitions storage facilities for non-nuclear weapons.
We would prefer to have the right to store and use nuclear weapons in these islands. However, in view of Japanese sensitivities concerning these matters, and the absence at this time of specific military contingency plans requiring use of these islands for storage of nuclear weapons, we recognize it is not in our overall interest to seek agreement now from Japan on nuclear storage rights in these islands.9 At the same time, we hope the political restraints on the storage of such weapons in Japan would not apply to the same degree in the Bonin and Volcano Islands. Therefore, we propose to advise the Government of Japan that, in the event of a contingency requiring use of these islands for nuclear weapons storage, the United States would wish to raise this matter, and would hope that such a request would be regarded in a different light than it would in relation to the Japanese home islands. The United States would anticipate a favorable reaction since such a request would not be made unless it was essential for the security of the area. We believe such a statement should be made an official part of the record of negotiations in some form but do not intend to seek a reply from the Japanese. We will also seek to have included in the official record the United States’ view that the Bonin pattern, including particularly the decision not to obtain formal agreement concerning nuclear storage rights, does not establish a precedent for possible negotiations in respect of the return of the Ryukyu Islands to the Japanese administration.
Appropriate arrangements will be made for the maintenance of and the access to the Memorial on Iwo Jima. These arrangements will permit the United States flag to be flown on top of Mount Suribachi.
L advises that the Bonin Islands may be returned to Japanese administration by executive agreement without an amendment of the Treaty of Peace or other formal Congressional action. We will keep the Congress informed by appropriate consultations. Memorandum of law at Tab G.10


That you authorize our Ambassador at Tokyo to negotiate an executive agreement with the Government of Japan providing for the return of the Bonin Islands, Volcano Islands, Rosario Island, Marcus Island and Parece Vela to Japan on conditions generally within the terms of reference indicated in this memorandum.11
That you authorize me, with the concurrence of the Office of the Legal Adviser, the Department of Defense, and the Treasury Department,
to approve a settlement generally within these terms of reference and the text(s) of the agreement, and
to authorize our Ambassador at Tokyo to conclude and sign the agreement.12
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 19 BONIN IS. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Feldman; cleared by Steadman, Halperin, and Barringer at the Department of Defense and by G/PM, Sneider, and Bevans at the Department of State.
  2. Circular 175 set forth the procedures for acquiring authorization to negotiate agreements and treaties.
  3. See Document 105.
  4. The text of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, September 8, 1951, is in 3 UST 3169.
  5. Telegram 83547 to Tokyo, December 13, attached but not printed.
  6. Not attached, but see 12 UST 830.
  7. Telegrams 85704, 85715, and 85697 to Tokyo respectively, all December 16, attached but not printed.
  8. Not attached, but the agreement is published in 4 UST 2912.
  9. Earlier in the month, CINCPAC recommended to the JCS that the United States acquire unconditional rights to store and use nuclear weapons on the Bonins. After reviewing the matter, the JCS again split on the issue, with the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force adopting the CINCPAC position and the other branches willing to accept a Japanese agreement to discuss the issue, if and when future circumstances warranted consideration of nuclear weapons. McNamara adopted the latter position. (Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, December 9, and memorandum for the Chairman, JCS, December 19; Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 71 A 4546, Box 24, 680.1 Bonin Islands) Like McNamara, U. Alexis Johnson also held that to demand such rights would halt the negotiations on the Bonins and adversely affect U.S.-Japan relations. (Memorandum to Bundy, December 5; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 BONIN IS)
  10. Attached but not printed.
  11. Rusk initialed his approval of the recommendation on December 23. In telegram 89684 to Tokyo, December 27, the Embassy was authorized to begin formal negotiations on reversion of the Bonins to Japan. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 BONIN IS)
  12. Rusk approved the recommendation and added by hand: “subject to a last clear look at the final text in Washington. DR”