45. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State1

3163. Ref: Deptel 2485.2

Embassy hopes GOJ agreement to calls by nuclear-powered surface warships can be accomplished by extending agreement on SSNs to cover all warships. Statement by USG on operation U.S. nuclear-powered warships in foreign ports, handed GOJ under note dated Aug 24, 1964, covers surface ships as well as submarines. Suggest Washington agencies redraft aide mémoire handed GOJ Aug 17, 19643 for possible use in case of surface ships.4
Prior negotiation of agreement with GOJ on entry of nonmilitary nuclear-powered surface ship (i.e. Savannah) and if possible actual entry such ship would establish useful precedent with Japanese public and should ease discussions with GOJ re entry nuclear-powered surface warships. Request best estimate probable timing first visit Savannah to Japan. Embassy sees no reason to delay approach on agreement for Savannah (which may be time-consuming) until visit is actually [Page 86]scheduled, however, and suggests proposal for negotiations in Washington or Tokyo be made to GOJ as soon as possible.
Now that SSN has actually called at Japanese port and has shown that this involves no radioactivity hazard, Embassy believes this aspect of calls by nuclear-powered surface warships will not excite as much attention as armament of ships and connection with heightened tension in Far-East caused by Vietnam situation. [14 lines of source text not declassified]
Embassy favors going to FonMin on highly confidential basis at bureau director (Yasukawa) level in near future to outline problem. We would ask confidential study of matter and offer to make formal approach at such time as FonMin informs us that such would be in order. This would have advantage of leaving to GOJ question of timing while making them aware that October will be a kind of deadline in sense that U.S. has right under treaty to bring ships in and public will expect answers by then as to whether ships in question will be using Japanese ports.
We assume use of only Sasebo and Yokosuka envisaged. Would be Savannah.5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 7 JAPAN–US. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC, CINCPACFLT, COMSEVENTHFLT, and COMNAVFORJAPAN.
  2. Joint State-Defense telegram 2485 to Tokyo, March 31, announced that nuclear-powered surface warships would be transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1966 and requested the Embassy’s recommendations on approaching the Japanese Government about their entry into Japanese ports and their having access to U.S. Naval facilities in Japan. (Ibid.)
  3. These and other relevant documents are ibid.
  4. The Department of State accepted this recommendation and on September 15 authorized the Embassy to begin discussing the entry of the nuclear-powered surface ships with the Japanese Government. (Telegram 797 to Tokyo; ibid.)
  5. In reply, in telegram 797 to Tokyo, the Department of State advised that the ships could collect and store coolant water in port, but that the information was not to be disclosed to the Japanese Government or public to prevent a “GOJ request (or public demand) for US commitment to refrain from in-port coolant water discharge from any nuclear powered vessels—a commitment which we would not be able to make.” (Ibid.)