137. Research Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rusk1



  • The Okinawa Elections Increase Pressure for Reversion

This paper discusses the impact of the recent election in Okinawa of a new Chief Executive and legislature on the reversion of Okinawa to Japan2

[Page 309]


In the first public election of their Chief Executive, a clear majority of the Okinawan electorate chose Chobyo YARA, president of the Okinawan Teachers Association and the candidate of an alliance of the three opposition parties, including the communist Okinawan People’s Party. However, the Okinawa Liberal Democratic Party retained its two seat majority in the 32 seat legislature. The Okinawan electorate has shown its preference for, among other things, return to Japanese rule as soon as possible rather than for the LDP/OLDP course of concentrating on integration with Japan and leaving the reversion problem to be worked out sometime in the future between the United States and Japan. Yara’s victory will have a psychological impact which is likely to be more important in Japan and particularly within the Liberal Democratic Party, than in Okinawa, where Yara’s limited capacity for initiatives is not expected to affect the US military mission.3 It seems likely that Prime Minister Sato’s rivals in the LDP will pressure him to press the US harder on reversion and to abandon his “blank sheet” policy on the status of US bases after reversion.4 In this context they may point to Yara’s strong opposition to US “nuclear bases” as an expression of a popular consensus for a “non-nuclear reversion.” By promising (after his talks with President Johnson in 1967) that a date for reversion could be set in “two or three years” if the Japanese people showed determination to defend their own country, Sato initiated the first substantial debate on Japanese defense posture since the end of World War II and made Okinawan reversion the major point in that debate. If, in the next few months his Okinawan policy draws too much fire, particularly from within the LDP, Sato may very well press the United States to set a reversion date under a formula which would exclude US nuclear weapons from Okinawa.

[Omitted here is detailed review of the election and the reversion question.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS. Confidential.
  2. Jenkins forwarded to Rostow this document along with CIA Intelligence Information Cable TDCS–314/17254–68, November 14, which reported the conclusion reached by Sato’s quasi-official committee on Okinawa that from a military-strategic standpoint U.S. nuclear bases on Okinawa were unnecessary. Jenkins noted that the Department of State believed the CIA report credible. (Memorandum from Jenkins to Rostow, November 25; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Ryukyu Islands, Vol. I)
  3. Renewed opposition to the U.S. presence on Okinawa arose after a B–52 crashed on the island on November 19. The accident reawakened the controversy surrounding the stationing of the planes on the island and reopened demands for their withdrawal. (Telegram 14006 from Tokyo, November 30; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 17 US)
  4. The debate on the status of U.S. bases after reversion took on added importance in the autumn not only because of the Okinawan elections on November 10, but also because of the election of a new LDP president on November 27 and the forthcoming election for Prime Minister on the mainland. Sato’s “blank sheet” approach, which advocated entering into negotiations on reversion without predetermined restrictions on U.S. bases, contrasted with that of Yara and Sato’s political opponents, such as Miki. The latter embraced the “homeland-level” approach to reversion, that is, they insisted that the U.S. prior to entering into negotiations accept restrictions on its Ryukyuan bases identical to those governing its bases on Japanese territory under the terms of the Security Treaty. Numerous telegrams and similar documents discussing the debate are ibid.