140. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State 1

212. 1. My hour and one-half follow-up talk with FonMin Aichi on Okinawa yesterday afternoon was most interesting and represented a great advance in GOJ's coming to grips with hard realities of Okinawa situation. In brief, Aichi “personally and informally” suggested possibility of a formula under which bases on Okinawa would “in principle” revert to “homeland level” at time of reversion of administrative rights; but it would be agreed that they would “temporarily” retain their present status with respect to “freedom of use” and nuclear storage until such time as both governments agree that situation in area has changed sufficiently for better to permit “homeland level.” Aichi said he felt it would be possible to sell such a formula in Japan only on basis it would bring about prompt reversion of administrative rights. It was his judgment that longer reversion was put off, the less freedom of action GOJ was going to have as pressures on subject continue to build up. I told him that my personal reaction was that formula was very interesting and certainly worth further study by both governments.

2. During course of conversation Aichi made it very clear that nuclear storage issue, even under above formula, presented great difficulties to GOJ, and statements by many prominent Americans that nuclear storage on Okinawa was no longer necessary because of development of Polaris, Poseidon etc. made it very difficult for GOJ to grapple with question, as it did not have sufficient understanding of what weapons or what purposes were involved.2 Aichi asked whether GOJ could be given more information on this subject so that it would be in position to say that it was dealing with issue on basis of its own judgment. I explained difficulty, from standpoint of our legislation, of doing this and said, in any event, I really doubted how much help it [Page 315]would be. I had previously discussed with him and other members of GOJ the whole concept of importance of graduated deterrence both in nuclear and conventional fields, and what was involved was question of principle rather than operational details. If Japan were to accept storage of nuclear weapons on its territory and was politically able to enter into necessary agreement with US for exchange of information, we would then be able to go into more detail and perhaps move toward relationship in this field comparable to what we have with NATO countries. Aichi said this of course was not possible for GOJ.

3. Apart from formula mentioned in first paragraph above and our discussion of nuclear matters, Aichi suggested possibility with respect to “free use” of giving US a formula of “free use” of Okinawa for support of UN forces in Korea, which could be made public without surfacing our present secret understanding with respect to our bases in Japan. In this regard he said that Sato and he were, in event of renewal of hostilities in Korea, absolutely determined to implement this secret understanding and give full support to our actions in Korea. He also said that both he and Sato fully recognized importance of our bases in Okinawa remaining “effective” and were determined to do their best to find a formula under which this could be done.

4. He made no mention whatever of Sato's previous formula of “setting the date and then negotiating the conditions,” and I am hopeful that they have now decided to get off this hook. He did reiterate Sato's desire to go to Washington in November “to settle” the Okinawa issue. He also reiterated his hope for cabinet-committee meeting in Japan in summer at which he could discuss Okinawa issue with Secretary Rogers.3 He made it clear that this was an official invitation to the new administration and that GOJ would hope for a response as soon as possible. He said that no conclusion had yet been reached for timing of visit to Washington by Kishi, but they would let us know soonest.

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5. I have some doubt that GOJ could, in fact, deliver on a formula such as set forth para one above, but entirely agree with Aichi that whatever ability they may have in this regard would certainly be eroded with passage of time. I will be seeing Prime Minister on Monday and will, of course, follow up matter with him.4

Johnson
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS. Secret; Exdis.
  2. U. Alexis Johnson met with Sato on January 13 for 11½ hours. Johnson pointed out the need to maintain effective use of bases on Okinawa after reversion, particularly to meet potential threats posed by North Korea and Communist China. In response Sato commented “that JDA even and ‘his own officer’ lacked sophistication in military matters.” Johnson then reported that to the “astonishment of Hori (Chief Cabinet Secretary) and Togo, who were also present, he [Sato] said that GOJ's ‘three nuclear principles’ (non-possession, non-production and non-introduction) were ‘nonsense.’ However, this should not be interpreted to mean Japan wants to have nuclear weapons.” (Telegram 267 from Tokyo, January 14; ibid., POL JAPAN–US)
  3. Sato's emissary, Kei Wakaizumi, came to Washington in early January and met with Walt Rostow. Wakaizumi reported “Sato's sense of urgency about finding an Okinawa formula,” his intention to visit the U.S. in the autumn of 1969, and his interest in preliminary meetings—the Joint Cabinet Meeting, a visit by former Prime Minister Kishi to Washington—to pave the way for a settlement. According to Wakaizumi, Sato still wanted to reach agreement on a timetable for settlement and reversion, and he “excluded nuclear weapons on Okinawa for the long pull.” Rostow presented the U.S. view that an agreement on reversion necessitated that Japan must “deliver—not promise—more muscle in Asia and the Pacific” by assuming a larger economic and security role in the region. (Memorandum of conversation, January 13; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File—Addendum, Japan)
  4. See footnote 1 above.