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

361. Prime Minister Sato, through Yasukawa, has twice made it clear to us that he does not question in any way the right of the U.S. to use Okinawa for missions such as yesterday’s B–52 attack on Vietnam. At the same time, the Prime Minister has on both occasions also expressed his deep personal concern re the adverse impact this action will have in Japan including the effect it could have on his forthcoming trip to Okinawa.2

We are of course in no position to evaluate or question the military or other considerations which dictate that yesterday’s B–52 raid take place while these aircraft were at Okinawa, returning to Kadena upon completion of the bombing attack on Viet Cong elements in South Vietnam. We feel compelled however to emphasize that this has given [Page 111] the left in Japan a sizeable club with which to beat the Sato administration at the very time when the fortunes of the Liberal Democratic Party are at a low ebb. Directly linking Japan (via Sato visit), Vietnam hostilities, and Okinawa in this dramatic manner could provide the Japanese left the key missing element—a sense of direct Japanese involvement—in their current effort to convert Japanese public concern over Vietnam into massive indignation and action against our security relationships with Japan including the Okinawa base.3

We recognize that military considerations may be overriding but there are major political reasons in terms of our relations with Japan for avoiding further B–52 raids from Okinawa if we have this option. Repercussions from such raids could be extremely damaging not only in terms of Japanese public opinion but also in terms of GOJ’s strength and its attitudes toward us to the detriment of our overall position in the Far East.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD, COMUSJAPAN, Saigon, and HICOMRY.
  2. Sato visited Okinawa from August 19–21.
  3. According to reports from posts in Japan, reaction was limited to left-wing political parties sending protest delegations to the Embassy to register their opposition. (Telegrams 371, 388, and 423, July 31, August 2 and 4, respectively; all ibid.; also airgram A–6 from the Consulate in Fukuoka, September 13; ibid., DEF 15 JAPAN–US)