132. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to the Ambassador to Japan (Johnson)1

Dear Alex:

Kei Wakaizumi came to see me this morning on his way back from several conferences in England.

At this outset, he said that he wanted to talk about Okinawa, and then to go on to discuss our elections and the prospects in Paris. His thoughts on Okinawa were as follows:

He said it was now widely assumed in informed circles in Japan that the Japanese Prime Minister (probably Sato, he thought) would come to Washington some time in 1969 to set a date for reversion. If such a visit were made, it would be impossible for the Prime Minister to return without an agreement having to do with the subject.
Since it was now so clearly understood between the USG and GOJ that the 1970 review period on the treaty would pass without action on either side, this meant that the Socialists—who are in any event in disarray—would have no specific event to attack in 1970 (i.e., no Diet action). Hence, their whole attention was focused on stirring up the issue within Okinawa. (He did not get into the question of this fall’s elections in Okinawa, strikingly enough.)
From this view of the situation and the timing, he said that in his considered judgment the Japanese Government could not, during 1969, agree to our having the right to station nuclear weapons in Okinawa without prior consultation. He said that the question of the right to operate into Southeast Asia, or even to launch combat operations directly from Okinawa, without prior consultation would probably not be difficult—but that he flatly could foresee no likelihood at all that a GOJ during 1969 could meet our present requirements on the nuclear issue.
He then asked whether it would be possible for us to accept some form of GOJ undertaking as to granted approval, as a practical matter, whenever prior consultation was required. I asked whether he meant blanket approval, and he said that he was not going this far, but was suggesting a clear undertaking that in certain categories and types of situations approval would be granted pretty much as a matter of course.
As a second alternative, he suggested the possibility of reaching agreement during 1969 for a conditional reversion to take place in [Page 303] 1972—the condition being that before that time we would agree on the situations requiring prior consultation under the treaty. (I again cross-examined to be perfectly clear that he was talking about a conditional reversion in this sense, and not an unconditional undertaking to revert under whatever might be agreed. He readily recognized the impossibility of the latter.)

Having heard him out, I then said that I assumed that these thoughts were not wholly his own individual ones. He said that my assumption was correct, and that he believed himself to be reflecting the views of the Prime Minister and senior people in the GOJ, for whom he was acting as a confidential adviser on this issue. (While he did not put this statement or otherwise claim to be bearing an express message from Sato, my interpretation would be that he was on an authorized sounding mission.)2

In any event, my reply comments were as follows:

I accepted his first paragraph, and said that we already had in mind a strong recommendation to the new administration that it plan on such a visit.
I accepted his second paragraph.

As noted above, I cross-examined vigorously on whether he thought the nuclear issue would really be impossible to handle next year for the GOJ. I asked, for example, whether what he was saying was, in effect, that Sato’s strong effort of last winter, the various incidents, and the July elections, and all else now added up to the clear conclusion that Sato simply could not sell the Japanese public adequately on the nuclear issue. His answer to this question was categorically affirmative. He went on to say that the issue simply remained too sensitive to see any possibility at the present time of the Japanese giving any ground on it.

He then asked what I thought our position would be on this issue. I of course said that I could not speak for a successor administration. However, even though all of us could foresee a possible decline in the military requirement for nuclear weapons in Okinawa, the plain fact was that we could not see the Pentagon, the White House, or the key leaders in the Congress giving up the right to have them there and without prior consultation. In other words, I was sure that this was the [Page 304] present position, and my personal forecast was that it was 90 percent likely to be the case a year from now.3

As to his proposal in paragraph 4 of his presentation, I said I would not exclude it completely, but thought it would be extremely difficult to arrange on a satisfactory and continuing basis.
As to a deal for contingent reversion in 1972, I gave the same general reply. I agreed with his point that between 1969 and 1972 there might well be significant developments in the area that would either put the need for nuclear stationing on Okinawa on a much higher plane (defense against Chinese Communist missiles was his example), or reduce it to the point where we could let it go. At the same time, I said that such a contingent reversion deal might in fact arouse sharply different expectations in the two countries—with people in Japan expecting sure-fire agreement on the conditions, but no such belief prevailing in key quarters here. He acknowledged this danger. Incidentally, I specifically asked whether he was mentioning 1972 because this would clearly be the limit of the authority of our President as of 1969, and he said that this was indeed the reason for selecting this date. I gave him my own personal view that we should be busting a button to get the thing really settled by then.

[Omitted here is brief discussion of the U.S. Presidential election.]

Finally, Alex, I might add that I told him that, while I was a political animal myself, I did not look at our relations with Japan as being in any sense a partisan issue. I said that with you in Tokyo and Dick Sneider here, we should be able to stay in very close touch with the Japanese at the professional level, and that I had every hope that the transition to whomever would be the next President would go with great smoothness.

Because of both the sensitivity and the future importance of this conversation, I am giving a copy of this letter solely to Win [Brown] [Page 305] and Dick Sneider at this end. I see no present action implications in it, but think that you two should have it well and truly in mind.

With love to Pat,

Yours ever,

William P. Bundy 4
  1. Source: Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Ambassadors’ Correspondence. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. In his reply, October 8, U. Alexis Johnson confirmed that Wakaizumi’s comments reflected the same positions he had heard from Sato and other high-level Japanese Government officials. (Ibid.)
  3. U. Alexis Johnson also agreed “that a Japanese Government will not by 1969 be able to bite the bullet of nuclear storage on Okinawa.” Johnson also pointed out his impression “that while the Japanese tend somewhat lightly to dismiss it, the issue of ‘free use’ is in many ways more important and fundamental than the issue of nuclear weapons. It seems to be hard for any country, and particularly now the third largest economic power in the world, in effect, to turn over to another power, determination of war and peace as far as its own territory is concerned, for this in fact is what is involved in the issue of ‘free use.’” He thought the solution to the matter depended on the “political climate within the United States,” which was dependent on the situation in Vietnam. (Ibid.)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.