35. Airgram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State1



  • Politico-Economic Assessment: Japan, as of December 1, 1964


  • CA–4260, October 20, 19642
[Page 47]

The basic long-term goal of U.S. policy toward Japan was expressed in “Guidelines for Policy and Operations—Japan” in March 1962,3 as the development of Japan as a major power center in Asia acting in concert with U.S. and Free World objectives. In the main, Japan is developing in this direction at the present time. U.S. policies which tend to promote this development may, therefore, be said to be meeting with success as of this date, although it is important to note that the principal factors contributing to the evolution of Japan as a major power center in Asia, and determining Japan’s role in international affairs, are internal Japanese developments which, however great our economic and political influence, are not primarily determined by American policy.

It must also be realized that the two parts of our long-term goal are not necessarily complementary in all regards, and that each must be treated in its own right. Japan has become potentially a major power center, but it is only slowly beginning to exercise its potential powers in international affairs. As it increasingly does so, judging international affairs purely in terms of the interests of Japan as seen by the Japanese, a greater divergence could arise between Japanese and U.S. objectives. As of the present this does not seem to be happening. However, the first emphasis in U.S. policy toward Japan should be on seeking to keep Japan’s international objectives and actions in harmony with U.S. and Free World interests.

The continuation in power in Japan of a moderate, Western-oriented government is an objective of American policy. This objective is being met. The new government of Prime Minister Sato shows every indication, by predilection and by objective actions, of moderation in internal and external affairs and of a strong orientation towards the West. This is a reflection of public opinion in Japan and of the multitudinous ties which bind Japan to the advanced, industrialized and democratic nations of the West.

Security considerations underlie a paramount objective of American policy towards Japan. The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security4 provides us with a valuable base in Japan, which not only helps maintain the security of Japan itself but affords logistic and back-up support to our military efforts in Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Our bases in Japan are secure, and in the recent Tonkin Gulf emergency it was possible to deploy forces from Japan rapidly to the scene of action. Our decision to notify the Japanese Government, as a matter of courtesy, of these developments in no way restricted our freedom [Page 48] of action. The recent first visit to a Japanese port of a nuclear-powered submarine seems to have been a forward step in increasing the freedom with which we can use our bases in Japan and helped make the Japanese public think more realistically about the problem of defense. A corollary to our base policy is our desire to see a stronger Japanese defense establishment which would assume a greater responsibility for the defense of Japan and thereby contribute to the overall security of the Far East. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces continue only slow progress in their respectable but still minor role in defense. Thus, while our policy on general security matters is meeting with current success, there are aspects which require careful long-term planning.

Certain developments in the defense field will require new and careful consideration. U.S. combat forces assigned to Japan under the Security Treaty have been greatly reduced in the past several years. There are now no ground combat units, and the major naval unit in the area, the 7th Fleet, is technically not based in Japan, although its ships make heavy use of Japanese ports and facilities. There have been reductions in the combat air units in Japan, and further reductions are planned for next year. The forces maintained by the United States in Japan are, therefore, becoming less and less credible as capable of achieving their basic purpose of defending against an attack on Japan. As a consequence, the role of our bases in Japan in providing military support for actions in other areas, and in intelligence collection and other regional activities not directly related to the defense of Japan, has become proportionately greater. While intelligence and other such units generally stay out of the public eye and cause less [sic] day-to-day problems than do combat units, their presence will also become increasingly difficult to justify to the Japanese public as their proportionate role becomes greater. Future policy decisions on the addition or subtraction of units stationed in Japan should take into account this fundamental need to justify the presence of our forces here in terms of the Security Treaty and common defense.

The Japanese will obtain the right to terminate or require renegotiation of the Security Treaty on one year’s notice in 1970, and we must be prepared for them to view the Security Treaty at that time in terms of their own interpretation of their interests, rather than, as has perhaps been more the case in the past, in terms of complying with the desires of the United States. The Japanese interpretation will take into account probable possession by Communist China of nuclear bombs and a delivery capability. We must, therefore, be very watchful of any tendencies in Japan to doubt the firmness of U.S. defense commitments or the value of our nuclear deterrent in defense of Free World positions in Asia and in particular Japan. In this regard we must be alert to any weakening of Japan’s current position and stance in the face of Chicom nuclear-weapon rattling.

[Page 49]

A corollary of our defense policy towards Japan is the policy under which we administer the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands. While the present policy was enunciated by President Kennedy in 1962 and has remained unchanged since that time, implementation of the policy has varied considerably. The present administration of the policy accords well with our desire to obtain continued Japanese acquiescence in our control of these Islands. Actions taken during the past several months have made the image of our administration of the Ryukyus considerably more favorable, but serious problems still exist which are reflected in the attitude of the Japanese people and Government towards our continued occupation of the Islands. The important thing at this time is to continue affirmatively to carry out the spirit as well as the letter of the current policy and to study long-term prospects with a view to avoiding crises which would undermine the value of our bases in the Ryukyus or endanger U.S.-Japan relations. We must recognize that over the long run, and possibly sooner than is generally realized, Japan will press for reversion of administrative rights over the Ryukyus and the Bonins.

In the political field, the United States’ policy is particularly concerned with Japanese relations with China and Korea. We have endeavored in the fourteen years since Japan resumed independence to persuade Japan of the rectitude of American policy on China and to obtain the greatest possible cooperation from Japan in that policy. Japan’s recognition of the Republic of China in Taiwan continues to be of great assistance to United States policy in the Far East. Relations between Tokyo and Taipei have improved since the serious differences which arose earlier this year.5 Japanese interests in Taiwan and willingness to support a Taiwan free from Chinese Communist control do not mean, however, that Japan subscribes to the view that the Nationalist Government is entitled to speak for all of China. While we have tried to minimize Japanese private dealings with Communist China, we have had only limited success. This is because, despite the cautious attitude of the government leadership—with its one eye cocked toward the United States and Taiwan—the public has moved perceptively closer to the view that Japan’s relationship with Mainland China is too abnormal to be sustained. Under Ikeda’s guidance (and probably also now under Sato) such public views, which are also widely held within the governing party, were not confronted directly but were instead [Page 50] deflected towards increased trade and other contacts relating to cultural kinship and tradition. Thus, although the Japanese Government continues to support our policy on the seating of China in the United Nations, it seems probable that, if a majority of the UN members should vote to admit the Chinese Communists, and particularly if the Chinese Communists should actually gain admission by either obtaining a two-third majority or by upsetting the “important question” rule, the Japanese Government would move towards recognizing Communist China. Even in this event, however, the Japanese would probably agree with us on the importance of maintaining the integrity of Taiwan. There is a continual necessity for the United States to consult with Japan in advance on matters concerning China.

Support for the independence of the Republic of Korea and assistance in developing the Korean economy has been an important American policy in the Far East. Japan has, as a matter of principle, supported this policy. The lack of a settlement between Japan and the Republic of Korea, however, and the tedious and often disappointing negotiations which have been conducted over the years have made the Japanese Government and people skeptical about the possibility of establishing normal relations with Korea.6 If American policy towards Korea is to gain the benefits of greater Japanese support in political and economic terms, a settlement between the countries must be arrived at and the United States must be prepared to do what it can to bring about that agreement and assure its proper limitations.

Our economic policies have exerted a strong and healthy influence in pursuit of basic goals. Japan’s economic vigor, which gives added strength to its democratic institutions, has developed in partnership with the United States. Japan’s moves toward a liberal and outward-looking stance illustrate that Japan wants, and indeed Japan’s prosperity and well being are dependent on, the kind of inter-dependent economic world we want. Japanese and United States economic policies and interests have accordingly a general harmony under the principles of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, and in the operating machinery of the GATT; we have common views on means of facilitating world commerce, international financial stability, and share the problem of how to deal with the economic needs of the Less Developed Countries.

There are discordant notes, however, both within and outside of our bilateral economic relationship, and, with the growth of Japan’s power, our direct leverage on troublesome issues has lessened. Japan [Page 51] tends to stay in step, neither ahead nor behind, with our European allies in its economic relationships with the Communist bloc and on the topical issue of credit. Our influence on Japan in trading with Communist China, as also in its trade with Cuba, is limited. Japan’s economic aid to the LDCs has, and will continue to have, a strong commercial tinge; there is, however, a growing awareness of a political need to introduce new directions and dimensions into Japan’s programs. We should continue to encourage Japan in such new efforts, particularly as they relate to Asia.

In our bilateral affairs frictions exist partly because our relationship is intimate and huge, but also because we are giving insufficient recognition to the fact Japan now has wide-ranging legitimate interests to protect, for example, in civil aviation and high-seas fishing. These frictions are generating a potential for psychological exploitation decidedly disadvantageous to long-range U.S. policy objectives. We should recognize and understand the issues which expose sensitive Japanese nerves of prestige and sovereignty, and do now what, in any event, we are likely to be obliged to do a little later.

An important objective of our policy toward Japan is the promotion of a healthy and moderate outlook on the part of the Japanese intellectual community. Evidence that we have had considerable success is visible and even accelerating. In the short period since the end of the war, broad and continually expanding relationships have been developed between Americans and Japanese in all fields of intellectual, artistic and professional endeavor. In the last several years especially, an ever-growing number of Japanese intellectuals and/or academicians have begun to voice increasing skepticism, and in some cases outright rejection, of the Marxist interpretation of political, economic and social phenomena. This has been accompanied by a growing willingness to participate in a meaningful dialogue with American colleagues. It is of utmost importance that this trend be exploited through continuing emphasis on programs (both government and private) which seek to expand the opportunities for contact and promote a wider understanding in Japan of U.S. institutions and policies. The Japanese intellectual community commands a public voice out of all proportion to its numerical strength, and as a result its sentiments have much influence in the determination of Japan’s response to the entire gamut of U.S. policy objectives.

In conclusion, our policy of promoting a stronger Japan is succeeding remarkably well, but mainly because the Japanese themselves are able and intend to grow more powerful. Our goal of persuading Japan to act in concert with U.S. and Free World interests is also succeeding to a large extent, though it must be recognized that the growing power of Japan inevitably makes it less responsive to American influence. This does not mean that Japan is not likely to continue to act [Page 52] largely in concert with us or that we lack all persuasive power. It does mean, however, that we must recognize and project visibly a real sense of equality between the two countries and must be ready to go halfway towards meeting Japan’s needs in order to achieve this relationship. This requires us to tailor our approach so as to accommodate ourselves to Japanese viewpoints and actions which differ from our own without being at cross purposes (e.g., ROKGGOJ normalization; economic cooperation with Asian LDCs) and to seek to maintain a dialogue between equals on matters of dispute without either seeming to preach or to threaten. In other words, it requires a continuing conscious effort to place our relationship with Japan on a footing more like that with the United Kingdom. Japan’s growing sense of complete independence is not now, at least, leading the country in the direction of neutralism and disassociation from the United States. In fact, it seems to be leading it closer to us. It is at the same time making the Japanese more insistent on having a greater voice in common decisions. This is the inevitable result of the success of the first part of our policy, which has been to help Japan to become a major power center, and accommodating ourselves to this demand is probably the key to success in the second part of our policy, which is to keep a powerful Japan in step with U.S. and Free World objectives.

Edwin O. Reischauer
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 2–3 JAPAN. Secret. Drafted by Zurhellen, Christensen, and Nickel and cleared by Vass.
  2. In circular airgram CA–4260, October 20, the Department of State asked all Embassies for an evaluation of the effectiveness of U.S. policies in their respective country. (Ibid., POL 2–3)
  3. For text see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXII, Document 354.
  4. The text of the treaty is published in 11 UST 1632.
  5. Tensions between Japan and the Republic of China increased at a time during which Japan sought to establish closer economic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Documentation on relations between Japan and the two Chinas is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL CHICOM–JAPAN, and POL CHINAT–JAPAN.
  6. For documentation on U.S. efforts to ameliorate differences between Japan and the Republic of Korea, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXIX Part 1.