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

354. During Ambassador’s meeting with FonMin this afternoon latter stated GOJ had given careful consideration SSN entry question2 and concluded safety assurances adequate. Decision had therefore been taken approve entry. He proposed exchange of notes and other documents during period Aug 14–18 and public announcement Aug 18. Would expect call of first SSN at Sasebo September 15 or 16. During [Page 26]month between announcement and first visit GOJ would monitor radiation levels. Ambassador said above timing for announcement would be satisfactory and he thought it possible to have SSN ready to visit Sasebo on desired date.

Minister said GOJ has no objection in principle to calls at Yotosuka but it desires discuss timing such visits later in light public reaction Sasebo visits. GOJ intends prevent public sale of fish caught in Sasebo Harbor for one year and indemnify fishermen. Meanwhile studies of fish will be conducted to assure no possible radiation effects.3 Ministry official said some scientists, including conservatives, still worry over theoretical possibility plankton might feed on coolant water and contaminate fish. $250,000 put aside for this program including Sasebo and Yokosuka.

Minister noted Aug 18 chosen for public announcement4 since A-bomb and war end meetings will be over by then, made strong plea that no leak of proposed action take place before that date. Ambassador assured him that U.S. side realized importance of secrecy and would take all precautions. Addressees requested insure this is done.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 7 JAPAN–US. Confidential. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad and COMUSJAPAN.
  2. During Ikeda’s visit in June 1961, Rusk and Foreign Minister Kosaka discussed the possibility of nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) entering and berthing at Japanese ports. ( Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXII, Document 334.) The issue remained dormant until late 1962 when Reischauer raised it with Ohira, whose subsequent public announcement of the request in early 1963 sparked public demonstrations and heated political debates. (Reischauer, My Life Between Japan and America, pp. 249–250) It took nearly 2 years to reach an agreement permitting the visits; documents tracing the course of the negotiations are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 7 JAPAN–US.
  3. The Department of State strongly objected to Japanese intentions to stop the sale of Sasebo fish and to indemnify fishermen on the grounds that the approach would undermine assurances that the presence of SSNs in Japanese ports posed no danger to the population or the environment. The United States was also concerned that the action would adversely affect SSN visits around the world. Although the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office agreed to the U.S. position, the Japanese Fisheries Agency objected on the grounds that the entire fishing industry could be negatively affected, if any fish on the market was suspected of being contaminated. (Telegrams 437 and 583 from Tokyo, August 14 and 15, respectively; both ibid.)
  4. The unresolved fishing issue as well as a preoccupation in Washington with the Gulf of Tonkin crisis caused the announcement and first SSN entry, scheduled for late August, to be postponed. (Telegrams 488 and 632 from Tokyo, August 7 and 19, respectively; both ibid.)