116. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State1

5692. Eyes Only for the Secretary. Ref: State 116921.2

It was with exactly the same sentiments as expressed in your message that I sent my 56383 suggesting that Bundy or a more senior officer in the Department have an informal talk with Shimoda in a manner that he can report back here and will get circulation to the Prime Minister and other higher levels in the GOJ.4 Although I did not say so in that message, I was thinking that it would also be especially helpful for Miki to read. It was also so as not to give any impression that we were prepared to give Japan any voice in how we use our bases on Okinawa, particularly in time of stress such as this, that I did not use the authorization that was given me to inform the GOJ that were going to use the B–52’s at Kadena for strikes against targets in Vietnam. I have not been so concerned over attitude here on B–52’s in Okinawa, which is more understandable as an inescapable reflection of attitudes in Okinawa itself, as I have been over their failure to give us more support on Korea and the Pueblo. However, they are all part of the same [Page 265] package and, if you yourself find it possible to say something to Shimoda, I feel it would be very helpful.
As I said in my 5638, I, of course, seek every opportunity to make the same points here in one way or another but they are much more effective if they can come from Washington. Fortuitously when Min Osborn was seeing Togo (Director North American Bureau) today on another matter, Togo mentioned to him a report that had just been received from Shimoda on way New York Times had played story of Togo’s approach to Osborn on B–52’s at Kadena.5 This gave Osborn an excellent opportunity to make some of the points we had previously been discussing reinforced by your message, substance of which it happened I had been discussing with Osborn just before he saw Togo. Osborn, of course, also pointed out that way GOJ had handled their press here on subject made New York Times reaction inevitable.
Without in any way alibiing for my clients, in justice to them I have to point out that primary problem with respect to B–52’s on Okinawa arises from problem in Okinawa itself. The hue and the cry in Okinawa which General Unger very comprehensively covered in his HICOMRY 804607,6 as well as in his other reporting, is of course aided, abetted and encouraged by elements in Japan hostile to and bent on destroying whole US-Japan relationship. Sato cannot exercise any control over them, in fact, he is their victim and prime target. When these hostile elements hit upon what is or appears to be a popular issue and normally friendly elements in Okinawa plead that they have no choice but to climb on band wagon or lose further support, political realities here and relations between conservatives here and Okinawa are such that they feel compelled to go along whatever their real sentiments. I am sure that they felt that having Togo talk to Osborn was a minimum required bending with the wind.
In handling this whole matter, I think that we must bear in mind that, however frustrated we feel, much of Sato’s present political troubles have arisen from the efforts of himself and other like-minded persons in GOJ to move in directions that we want to see them move and he can push things only so fast. If, like Kishi he attempts to push things beyond what the political traffic here will bear, there could be an explosion and Sato could destroy himself. I still think he is our best bet.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL JAPAN–US. Secret; Nodis; Eyes Only for the Secretary; Priority.
  2. Document 115.
  3. In telegram 5638, February 15, U. Alexis Johnson expressed his dismay at Japan’s lack of response to the North Korean incursion into South Korea, the subsequent attack on the ROK’s Prime Minister’s residence, the seizure of the Pueblo, as well as the critical posture adopted by some government officials toward the United States because of events in Korea and in Vietnam. Nevertheless, Johnson believed Japan’s support for the United States had not fundamentally changed. Instead, he attributed the unwelcome developments to Sato’s attempts to improve his political position, which had been battered by domestic discontent and accusations that he was merely an “American tool.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL JAPAN–US)
  4. William Bundy met with Shimoda on February 17 to discuss developments in Korea and Vietnam and Japanese responses to the situation there. A summary of their conversation is in telegram 118512 to Tokyo, February 21; ibid.
  5. The New York Times, February 13, reported that Togo made mild “verbal representations” for Osborn to pass to Washington. Togo pointed out that the Okinawans were apprehensive about B–52s recently stationed on the island. Although he conceded their arrival was necessitated by events in the region, Togo also requested that the United States consider the sentiments of the local population to avoid the rise of negative feelings.
  6. Not found.