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


  • Agreement to Return the Bonin Islands to Japan, Final Review Prior to Signature by Ambassador Johnson

In a Circular 175 dated December 22, 1967,2 you authorized Ambassador Johnson to undertake negotiations to return the Bonin Islands to Japan pursuant to the agreement in principle reached by President Johnson and Prime Minister Sato last November. Ambassador Johnson has completed the negotiations and the texts of the basic Agreement and related documents are being reviewed,3 and appropriate Congressional consultations are underway. Signature is tentatively targeted for April 2. We anticipate early Diet approval and expect the agreement to take effect on or about July 1, 1968.

The “package” negotiated consists of a basic Agreement, Joint Committee Minutes, a letter from Foreign Minister Miki to the Ambassador covering the Iwo Memorial, oral statements on nuclear storage and the “no-precedent” question and oral assurances, coupled with an explanation of Japanese plans to care for the current residents of the Bonin Islands.

Ambassador Johnson believes the “package” represents the maximum we may expect of the GOJ and that it meets our basic requirements as set forth in the Circular 175. He strongly recommends Departmental approval to sign. I agree with the Ambassador. L concurs. The initial reactions in Defense and Treasury are favorable.4

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The following are the salient features of the proposed Agreement:

Military base arrangements—We will maintain the Loran Stations in Marcus and Iwo, all DOD wishes to retain. The GOJ has indicated its intention to maintain, and eventually enlarge upon, the remaining base facilities returned to it. The Japanese will provide all necessary support and services to our bases, and will give “as favorable consideration as possible” to any possible future request for additional facilities and areas.
Nuclear storage in the Bonins—The GOJ has been notified that we may in an emergency request nuclear storage and would anticipate a favorable reaction. The GOJ has agreed to enter into prior consultations under the Mutual Security Treaty under these circumstances. Ambassador Johnson considers the proposed Japanese response as a small advantage in committing Japan clearly to enter into consultations on nuclear storage, a position they have ducked in the past.5
No precedent principle—The GOJ considers that there is no need for a specific agreement providing that the Bonins settlement is not a precedent for the Ryukyus since any possible agreement to return the Ryukyu Islands will be “solely in accordance” with the results of the “joint and continuous review” of the Islands’ status called for in the JohnsonSato communiqué of last November. This meets the substance of our position.
Maintenance of the Iwo Marine MemorialMiki’s letter contains GOJ assurances that the memorial “will be preserved on Mount Suribachi and that United States personnel may have access thereto.” (The question of flying the U.S. flag has been obviated, through the cooperation of General Krulak, by replacing the cloth flag with a bronze one.)
Bonin Islanders’ welfare—During the course of the negotiations Ambassador Johnson has received in his view sufficient assurances that the GOJ will provide for the welfare of the 200-odd residents of the islands. Preliminary plans shown us confidentially indicate the GOJ’s intention to be liberal in treatment of the islanders in such important areas as land holdings, education, re-employment and taxes. We have provided equally liberally for the islanders and the Navy is proposing special legislation permitting their immigration to the U.S.
Claims waiver—We have obtained a satisfactory waiver of claims against the USG and its nationals arising out of U.S. administration. The exception, to the waiver for “claims of Japanese nationals specifically recognized in the laws of the United States of America or the local laws of these islands applicable during the period of United States administration of these islands” is patterned on the Amami Agreement.
Balance of payments—The question of a balance of payments windfall to the GOJ will not be a problem since it appears clear the Japanese will purchase in excess of $200,000 of movables located in the Bonins, more than offsetting the estimated drain from the switchover to yen.
GOJ assumption of responsibility for public services—During the course of the negotiations, the GOJ has made clear its intentions to assure that reversion will occasion no gap in public services.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 BONIN IS. Secret; Exdis.
  2. See Document 107.
  3. The agreement was signed in Tokyo on April 5 and went into effect on June 26. The text, entitled “Agreement Between the United States of America and Japan Concerning Nanpo Shoto and Other Islands,” is published in 19 UST 4895. Statements made by U. Alexis Johnson and Miki at the time of the signing appear in Department of State Bulletin, pp. 570–571.
  4. A March 27 memorandum from Sneider to Bundy recorded that the Departments of Defense and Treasury, L, and Congress approved of the terms of the agreement. In telegram 138456 to Tokyo, March 29, the Ambassador received authorization to sign the agreement. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 BONIN IS)
  5. Miki took U. Alexis Johnson by surprise when, a few days prior to the signing, he proposed making a statement at the signing ceremony that contradicted the agreed-upon provision on nuclear weapons. After much discussion, a deal was struck allowing Miki to orally state Japan’s intention to allow no nuclear weapons on its territory and U. Alexis Johnson to counter with a statement confirming the terms of the agreement. Both statements were made on the condition that they would not become part of the official written record of the signing ceremony. (Telegram 7087 from Tokyo, April 2; ibid.)