61. Editorial Note
In September 1965 Prime Minister Sato began working behind the scenes to promote a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam conflict. Sato supported a journey to South Vietnam and the United States by Toshikazu Kase, former Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations, intended to elicit a clearer picture of the United States’ role in Southeast Asia. Since retiring from the Japanese foreign service, Kase, a strong supporter of U.S. policy in Vietnam, was active as a writer and television commentator. Accordingly, the United States supported Kase’s visits to Saigon and Washington based on the hope that upon his return to Japan he could educate the Japanese public and policy-makers about the situation in Vietnam and engender support for American actions there. Kase met with Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Saigon and with Secretary Rusk and Assistant Secretary Bundy in Washington.
Similarly, in late January 1966, Prime Minister Sato sent Masayuki Yokoyama, a retired diplomat, on a mission to several European and Asian capitals to meet with North Vietnamese diplomatic representatives in an attempt to foster support for a peace conference on Vietnam. Some officials of the Japanese Foreign Office as well as Americans at the Embassy in Japan questioned the choice of Yokoyama as a suitable representative. Already in his 70s and retired since 1941, Yokoyama lacked contemporary political or diplomatic contacts and influence. Little was expected and little was achieved from his endeavors.
In addition to special envoys, Japanese diplomats became involved in Vietnam peace efforts. The limited contact began when the Japanese and North Vietnamese ambassadors serving in Moscow began periodic, private meetings to discuss the situation in Vietnam and the [Page 127] prospects for peace. But after four meetings—in July, September, and December 1966 and in January 1967—the North Vietnamese Ambassador was reassigned and the talks ceased. The Japanese Ambassador attempted unsuccessfully to reestablish the relationship with the new North Vietnamese Ambassador in Moscow. The precedent set by the earlier meetings, however, spurred Prime Minister Sato to try to establish such contact elsewhere. In March 1967 he ordered Japanese Embassies in locations having North Vietnamese representation to attempt to open a diplomatic dialogue. On the whole, the Japanese overtures proved disappointing.
Telegrams, memoranda of conversations, reports, and similar documentation detailing these and other Japanese peace efforts are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27 VIET S, POL 7 JAPAN, and POL JAPAN–US.