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32. Memorandum From James C. Thomson, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to Robert Komer of the National Security Council Staff1

SUBJECT

  • Interim Thoughts on Okinawa

Just to assure you that I have not forgotten this one:

1.
The key issue at the moment is the mounting pressure for popular election of the Okinawan Chief Executive (rather than his nomination by the legislature and appointment by the High Commissioner). Bill Bundy, Bob Fearey, and Secretary Ailes are opposed to such an arrangement—as long as we are dealing with an “immature” electorate (whatever that means). John Steadman (Dep. Under Secretary of the Army) and I are incorrigible democrats who can’t quite see that the risks are overwhelming as long as the High Commissioner maintains a general veto over the person and actions of the Chief Executive. To my surprise, General Watson is maintaining an “open mind.” His people are making a “study” of the problem; and a joint State-Defense message has told the General that we are glad to know of this study but assume that it will take into account Washington’s view that popular election of a Chief Executive will not be feasible for the foreseeable future.
2.
Meanwhile, the Watson honeymoon has produced some overdue progress on a few items; it is not merely an empty era of good feeling. For instance, Watson has taken steps to speed up the processing of travel requests to and from the Ryukyus, including special consideration of applications for entry from Japanese VIPs. He has also done an about-face on the Caraway line and welcomes any aid that the Japanese Government is prepared to give to the Ryukyus which can be usefully absorbed by the islands (he has approved a $6.2 million Japanese aid program for JFY 1965).2 Watson has also directed that a continuous [Page 41]study be made of the functions performed by USCAR in order to see which of these functions can be transferred to the Ryukyuan Government (this is precisely what President Kennedy’s March 1962 statement directed, so we are a little late but finally moving).
3.
As you know, I have written Ed Reischauer to get his candid views on other specific ways in which we should put the Watson honeymoon to the best possible use. When we have Ed’s reply,3 I will have a clearer idea as to how we should proceed. In the meantime, I am less enthusiastic about a formal task force and lean more towards an informal “visiting committee,” perhaps in January, which might be composed of a Bundy staff member, John Steadman, an energetic and imaginative State representative (not Fearey), a good young lawyer, and an economist. I should repeat once more, for the record, that we have an absolutely first-rate ally in John Steadman.

Jim
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Komer Files, Japan, January 1964 to March 1966. Secret.
  2. The figure of $6.2 million appears to be a typographical error, for Watson approved Japanese aid to the Islands in the amount of $7.2 million. He also recommended an increase in U.S. aid to the Ryukyus. In combination, U.S.-Japanese aid was intended to raise significantly the low standard of living on the Ryukyus, a fact that rankled Islanders and Japanese alike. (Letter to Bundy, October 30; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 7 JAPAN–US) As a result of negotiations later in the year, the U.S.-Japan Consultative Committee approved a Japanese economic-assistance program for the Islands in the amount of $7.96 million. The Embassy noted that the cooperative attitude of the U.S. Civil Administration for the Ryukyus toward the Japanese economic aid package “was interpreted by the Japanese as clear proof of the United States’ willingness to cooperate with Japan concerning the Ryukyus.” The Embassy also believed that the “attitude assisted materially in securing continued Japanese acquiescence in our administration of the Ryukyu Islands.” (Airgram A–951 from Tokyo, January 21, 1965; ibid., POL 19 RYU IS)
  3. Neither Thomson’s letter nor Reischauer’s response were found.