127. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State’s Staff Director (Hartman) to the Members of the Senior Interdepartmental Group1


  • IRG/EA Paper: “US Policy on Forthcoming Ryukyu Elections”

There is attached a paper on US policy toward the forthcoming Ryukyu elections forwarded by the Acting Chairman, IRG/EA, for SIG approval.

The proposed policy has been approved by the IRG/EA.2 Unless some members would prefer a meeting, Mr. Katzenbach would propose to approve the recommended policy without convening the SIG.3?

We will be in touch with your staffs on this matter.

AA Hartman


Paper Prepared by the East Asian and Pacific
Interdepartmental Regional Group


Conclusions and Recommendations4

I. The Problem

In November, the Ryukyuans will elect the Chief Executive of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands (GRI) a new legislature, and [Page 290] the Mayor of Naha, the largest city. The fate of the friendly conservative forces in these elections will directly and vitally affect the U.S. administration of the Ryukyus. Opposition control of the Chief Executive post alone, or in conjunction with control of the legislature, could so adversely affect our administration as to threaten the use of our bases. Moreover, the outcome of the election will have a direct bearing on the future course of the reversion issue. This paper analyzes the U.S. stake in the elections, the prospects of Ryukyuan conservatives, and recommends policy action consistent with basic U.S. interests in the Ryukyus and Japan.

II. Conclusions

The election of the conservative candidate Nishime as Chief Executive of the GRI, and the election of a majority of the conservative Okinawa Liberal Democratic Party (OLDP) members to the GRI Legislature, are of crucial importance to the U.S. A Nishime and OLDP victory offers the best promise of the necessary modicum of Ryukyuan cooperation with U.S. administration and military base operations. It would also thwart the local forces pressing for immediate and unconditional reversion. The Japanese Government and ruling conservatives consider that they have an equally great stake in a Nishime/OLDP victory. In their view, a Nishime defeat would impair Sato’s already eroded political position and would give major impetus to the opposition attacks against both their moderate reversion policy and the overall U.S.-Japanese treaty relationship.
The Chief Executive election between Nishime and the left-wing candidate Yara is now a toss-up. The outcome will depend principally on:
Nishime’s effectiveness as a campaigner and his ability to organize his support and to exploit incipient divisive forces within the opposition left-wing coalition;
Nishime’s ability to sell his gradualist approach to reversion emphasizing progressive identification with Japan (“ittaika”);
Actions by the U.S., the GOJ and the GRI to give meaning to “ittaika” (identification with Japan) through positive and popular actions;
The absence during the pre-election period of major base issues inflaming the public and working to the opposition’s advantage.
The OLDP chances in the Legislative election will depend not only on organization and local district factors but on public acceptance of a gradual approach to reversion, US/GOJ/GRI actions which demonstrate the benefits of the approach, and the absence of major base issues, including the wide spectrum of problems stemming from U.S. lease of Ryukyuan land.
Nishime and the OLDP are, with Japanese conservative support, fortunately prepared to conduct the election campaign with minimal U.S. support. In fact, they would find U.S. official “neutrality” of advantage in establishing an “independent” identity with the electorate.

III. Recommendations

U.S. Posture
Official neutrality: The U.S. officially and publicly, must maintain an aloof, neutral posture towards the elections. This posture is essential to cover our bets in the event of a Yara victory and protect against valid opposition claims of U.S. interference. Actions in support of Nishime and the OLDP are not precluded but must be limited, circumspect, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
Improving the climate: The U.S. administration can make a major contribution to Nishime’s prospects by actions directed at improving the welfare of the Ryukyuans, increasing the credibility of Nishime’s “ittaika” (identification with Japan) platform and diminishing to the extent possible the public impact of base operations.
Specific Actions
U.S. acquiescence in GOJ adoption of some form of Diet representation within the terms of the Japanese Constitution and Article 3 of the Peace Treaty in a manner and at a time redounding most to Nishime’s benefit.5
Expediting major actions by the Advisory Committee with maximum economic benefit and political appeal, including such things as early extension by the GOJ of Japanese social security and other welfare benefits to the Ryukyuans.
Measures to minimize off-base incidents by U.S. forces personnel: Maximize publicity of the concern with which the U.S. views such [Page 292] incidents, and maximize public awareness of disciplinary actions which arise from such incidents. Improve level and public image of U.S.–GRI police cooperation.
If the military situation permits, withdrawal of the B–52s at a time sufficiently prior to the election, so as to reduce the impact of that basing on the election, and avoiding if possible new military operations likely to arouse public concern.
Continue to maintain meticulous control over military land holdings, avoiding any incident or basis for new grievance. This would include circumspection in any (a) land acquisition, (b) termination of Ryukyuan licensed use of U.S.-leased land, (c) establishing realistic land rentals reflecting actual values.
Close coordination with the JLDP and GOJ on election planning and actions.

[Omitted here is an in-depth discussion of background issues and of the U.S., Ryukyuan, and Japanese stakes in the upcoming election.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, SIG, Vol. V, 40th Meeting, June 27, 1968. Secret; Exdis.
  2. A copy of the minutes of the IRG/EA meeting held on June 17 is attached but not printed.
  3. In his memorandum of July 15, Hartman recorded SIG members’ approval of the paper. The JCS raised the sole reservation to the paper’s conclusions and recommendations by reaffirming their previous recommendation that the B–52s remain on Okinawa. (Memorandum from Hartman and memorandum from McConnell, July 13; Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, SIG, Vol. V, 40th Meeting, June 27, 1968)
  4. The “Conclusions and Recommendations” portion of this paper was sent to Tokyo and Naha in telegram 170651, May 24, for comment. In telegram 8630 from Tokyo, May 25, both the Embassy and High Commissioner notified Washington of their acceptance of the draft without modification. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS)
  5. On June 4, however, the Embassy and HICOM reported that: “Issue of Okinawan participation in Japanese Diet has ‘ripened’ within past few months to point where Embassy and HICOMRY recommend we concede carefully limited, non-voting participation for Okinawans and seek coordinate with LDP and OLDP scenario for announcement of concession which will do Nishime most good in his race for Chief Executive.” The Embassy suggested that HICOM, Nishime, the LDP, and eventually key members of the Japanese Government agree to a program acceptable to all sides that would be publicly presented as the “Nishime Plan.” The plan would be submitted to the U.S. and Japanese Governments, which, after making “appropriate noises to effect his plan not an easy one to accept,” would agree to the Nishime Plan. (Telegram 8897 from Tokyo, June 4; ibid., POL 15–2 JAPAN) The Department of State concurred in telegram 182373, June 13. (Ibid.) After a meeting with the High Commissioner on July 11, the “Nishime Plan” was begun. (Telegrams HC–LN 819501 and HC–LN 819505 from the HICOMRY, July 12; ibid., POL 19 RYU IS)