62. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to Secretary of Defense McNamara1

Dear Bob:

You will recall Ambassador Reischauer’s memorandum of July 142 in which he analyzed the present situation in Japan and advanced a number of recommendations for a new relationship with Japan, including a new regime for the Ryukyus. The new relationship would take account of the growth of Japanese nationalism, the mounting Communist threat in Southeast Asia, and the widespread desire in Japan for a more assertive stance toward the United States and a more prominent role in the Free World.

I share Ambassador Reischauer’s view that we face a changing situation in Japan presenting dangers for United States interests if we fail to respond correctly, and opportunities if we do. I also share his view that our approach should be two pronged—removal of avoidable irritations in our relations, and high-level talks with the Japanese to [Page 128] review our common interests in the Far East and to stimulate the Japanese to a larger role in the promotion of those interests.

My colleagues and I intend to do our utmost, in cooperation with other interested agencies, to arrive at agreements with the Japanese on civil air, fisheries, textiles and other bilateral economic issues. We are also working with public and private elements to promote better understanding in Japan of the Viet-Nam conflict and of our common interests there. We intend to explore within the United States Government the possibility of closer financial relationships which would help to sustain a satisfactory economic growth rate in Japan and further to bind Japanese interests with those of the United States. I am hopeful that by early 1966 we will have reduced substantially existing irritations and misunderstandings in US-Japanese relations.

There are a number of matters on which I believe our own views and interests should be clarified before we undertake formal, high-level talks with the Japanese. I suggest that our two Departments complete by late fall confidential studies of (a) the desirable missions, size and composition of the Japanese defense forces in the years ahead; (b) our future requirements in the Ryukyus, including analysis of whether administrative responsibility for the Ryukyuan population could be carried out by Japan without impairing the value of our bases; and (c) the overall US-Japan strategic relationship—political, economic and military—which will best serve our common interests in the Far East. If you agree, our staffs can work out detailed arrangements for these studies.3

I believe it would be useful for Ambassador Reischauer to initiate the informal, exploratory conversations with Japanese leaders which he recommends in his memorandum. If you agree, I will authorize him to do so, on the understanding that his own comments in these conversations will be personal and tentative, and will in no way affect the studies proposed above until they have been completed and their recommendations approved. The Ambassador would not bring up the Ryukyus. If the question were raised by the Japanese, he would give them no basis whatsoever for believing that we might be prepared to modify our present controls over the Ryukyuan population.

[Page 129]

I have asked Assistant Secretary Bundy to serve as coordinator within the Department of State for the studies proposed above.4 Some of the conclusions and recommendations of these studies may require approval by the National Security Council.

With warm regards,


  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files, FRC 330 70 A 3717, 092 Japan. Secret. The Department of State copy indicates it was drafted by Fearey and cleared by William Bundy, Solomon, Meyers, and Thompson. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 JAPAN–US)
  2. Document 55.
  3. The Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG), a high-level interagency body created in March 1966 to assist the Secretary of State with interdepartmental problems and matters affecting foreign policy, directed the Interdepartmental Regional Group for the Far East to prepare the studies and recommendations. Four studies resulted from the SIG directive: “Japanese Defense Forces,” “U.S.-Japan Security Treaty,” “The U.S.-Japan Overall Relationship,” all issued on May 27, 1966, and “Our Ryukyus Bases,” issued on August 24, 1966. Copies of those papers and related documentation are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Lot 72 D 139, Country Files.
  4. In an October 11 letter to Rusk, McNamara agreed that the time had come to review and plan for the future of the U.S.-Japanese relationship. He endorsed undertaking the studies presented in Rusk’s letter and designated McNaughton to represent the Department of Defense in coordinating the studies. (Ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–US) Bundy appointed Fearey to represent the Department of State in the joint State/Defense studies. (Letter from Bundy to McNaughton, November 10; ibid., DEF 1 RYU IS)