65. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Future of the Ryukyu Islands (U)
(S) Reference is made to JCSM–760–65, dated 16 October 1965, subject: “US-Japan Relations (U),”2 in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed that the Departments of State and Defense should study US-Japanese relations, including an analysis of whether administrative responsibility for the Ryukyuan population could be carried out by Japan without impairing the value of our bases in the Ryukyus. Because of the strategic importance of the Ryukyus to the US military posture in the Pacific, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered separately the future of these islands. The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are set forth in the Appendix3 hereto and their conclusions follow:
Reversion of the Ryukyus to Japanese control would degrade the US strategic posture and seriously impair the US military position in the Far East. Exclusive US jurisdiction over the Ryukyus will continue for the foreseeable future to be essential to US and Free World security interests. Recent political problems with Japan over US use of Okinawa in support of Vietnam operations indicate the nature of the difficulties which the United States would likely encounter if the Ryukyus were under Japanese administrative control, even with special treaty provisions. This is particularly true [1 line of source text not declassified].
In view of the increasingly aggressive posture of Communist China, its growing nuclear capability, and the unsettled conditions in Southeast Asia, as well as in other areas around the periphery of Communist China, it would be premature and unrealistic to attempt to draw up a timetable for returning the Ryukyus to Japanese control.
Unilateral US control of Ryukyuan administrative procedures is essential for as long as we maintain major bases there to prevent the [Page 133] direct imposition of political limitations by another country upon the utilization of our Okinawa-based forces, equipment, materiel, and other resources. Less than full US administrative control of Okinawa would inhibit the operational flexibility of US military forces based there and might directly affect our nuclear capabilities in the Far East. Therefore, any transfer of administrative rights over the Ryukyus to Japan would severely dilute the military value of our Okinawan bases, particularly if there should be a change adverse to US interests in the Government or policies of Japan.
Demonstrated Japanese reluctance to share proportionately in Free World defense in the Pacific strengthens the requirement for continued US jurisdiction over Okinawa. Although the United States is exerting pressure on Japan to increase its defense effort, that pressure has not resulted in significant increases in its defense budget or in the scope of its defense mission, and it is premature to anticipate developments in this direction which would decrease the need for continued control of Okinawa by the United States.
The political situation appears to have improved somewhat since last July. Japanese officials have gone out of their way, on a number of occasions, to give public assurance of their acquiescence in the continuation of full US jurisdiction over the Ryukyus in order to insure the effectiveness of our military bases on Okinawa.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur in proposals to relinquish administrative authority over the Ryukyus to Japan or to share such authority with Japan. They do agree that the United States should continue to eliminate those restrictions on the private freedoms of the Ryukyuan people which are not essential to the maintenance of the security of US military installations or of the Ryukyus themselves. The United States should also continue to transfer additional functions to the Ryukyuan Government, provided that such actions do not adversely affect US security interests or impair our freedom of military action.
The United States should continue to provide economic aid based on the capability of the Ryukyuan economy to utilize such aid efficiently. Increased Japanese economic aid and technical assistance should be welcomed and encouraged. However, the United States should continue to exercise basic control over the Government of Japan’s participation in the economic assistance program for the Ryukyus within the context of present US-Japanese agreements on this subject.
The United States should continue to use the US-Japan Consultative Committee, now operating under enlarged terms of reference, to accommodate Japan’s legitimate concern for her nationals in the Ryukyus.
(U) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the Appendix be approved for incorporation in the Department of Defense portion of the forthcoming studies on this subject.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
John P. McConnell 4
Acting Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington Nationals Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files, FRC 330 70 A 1266, 092 Ryukyus. Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Attached but not printed. This report was to serve as a basic document for an interdepartmental study of the Ryukyu question. (Memorandum from Maurice W. Roche to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 21, 1966; Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files, FRC 330 70 A 1266, 092 Ryukyus)
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates McConnell signed the original.