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

46. Ref Deptel 3687.2

As instructed by reftel, Ambassador July 1 reviewed with Prime Minister Sato overall U.S.-Japan relationship in light of paper on that subject approved by SIG.3 Ambassador also informed Sato in detail of [Page 143] our views on security treaty after 1970, as indicated para 13 of SIG paper on treaty.4
In opening remarks Sato referred to bombing of POL depots in North Vietnam5 and said although international reaction at this time might not be good, in view of sacrifices U.S. was making in Vietnam U.S. had to carry through with military actions good results of which would be recognized later. Said it was important, in his opinion, to concentrate attacks on military facilities and at same time keep up talk about willingness to negotiate. Ambassador noted preliminary reports show bombing effective and loss of life small.
Regarding Ambassador’s review of U.S. views on relationship with Japan, Sato said he was impressed by two points Ambassador had emphasized, that Japan is now a world power again, and that U.S. sees American and Japanese national interests as parallel. He agreed completely with this formulation, and said these two ideas formed basis on which U.S. should understand Japan. From the point of view of Japan’s being a major country, Sato said he wanted to deal in forthcoming talk with Secretary Rusk in two broad areas:6
Peace in Asia and in the world, and U.S. relations with USSR, France and England, the major countries of Europe. His implication was that if U.S. really considered Japan one of great powers, he would like to know how our relations with Japan compared with those with other great powers.
Vietnam and China, concrete problems which must always come up.
Regarding China, Prime Minister said that coordination of policy toward the GRC was very important. He noted that opinion in U.S. on China seemed always in motion, and referred, without being specific, to opinions expressed by Senator Robert Kennedy and Vice [Page 144] President Humphrey. He said, however, that he realized that U.S. policy was not changing and that President Johnson had told him, when they met last year, that U.S. policy was not going to change.
Concerning Vietnam, Sato expressed gratification that although Japan was not militarily engaged in that conflict U.S. had kept him well informed of developments there. Noted that no chance for peace should be neglected and perhaps such chances had to be made, not waited for. Said great powers often thought to have primary responsibility for maintaining order but he thought that the other side, even though much smaller, also had a responsibility. Both sides shared responsibility for getting together for solution of war, and he repeated his earlier statement that U.S. should keep up the bombing and at the same time show a “gentle face.”
Sato said he thought he and Secretary should discuss Chirep and share voting estimates, and consider whether “Important Question” was one more way to get over this problem.
Prime Minister said Japan’s basic attitude towards the Ryukyus and Bonins had not changed, and was one of understanding and cooperation with U.S. However, he referred to current controversy over removal of two cases involving validity of HICOM ordinances from Ryukyuan courts to USCAR courts and asked whether U.S. could not do something about matters like this, which were not questions of procedure but of substance. U.S. actions in these cases appeared arbitrary to him, and he thought matters concerning taxes and elections ought to be left to local authorities for solution.7
Regarding Ambassador’s review of defense matters, Sato commented that these were the same fundamental views he had. He noted President Johnson had told him last year that U.S. guarantees were effective against nuclear attack, a point made again in Ambassador’s review. Said Japan was not thinking of building own nuclear forces, and would cooperate on question of nonproliferation. GOJ had a very difficult problem on question of introduction of U.S. nuclear weapons into [Page 145] Japan, and this was connected with Okinawa problem. There had been no fundamental change in GOJ attitude, and he asked for U.S. understanding of GOJ’s difficulties. On Japan’s self-defense efforts, Sato said defense forces were weak and this was a domestic problem. He wanted to build defense expenditures up to level of two percent of GNP, but could not say this out loud publicly. He asked that U.S. not say anything about the percentage of GNP applied to defense, as this would cause GOJ internal difficulties. Ambassador noted that earlier U.S. had sometimes referred to this matter but that for past two years we had studiously avoided subject.
Referring to U.S. balance of payments problem, which Ambassador had brought up in review, Sato said he realized balance of payment was in favor of Japan and that U.S. payments due to Vietnam war were problem for us. Sato said he understood U.S. difficulty and was trying quietly to help. But that he was not able to say “Buy American” out loud to businessmen very well. Ambassador noted this remained very important problem for U.S. and there were other areas besides trade where Japan could be helpful. Sato said he thought matter ought to be discussed fully at Kyoto ECONCOM.
Sato then said he wanted to raise one more question, and ask for U.S. help in connection with forthcoming visit of USSR FonMin Gromyko (last week of July). Said that when Sov Fisheries Minister Ishkov was in Japan recently Ishkov maintained there was no connection between fisheries agreements and problem of “northern territories” (Kunashiri and Etorofu Islands). Sato, however, had insisted to Ishkov that there was a connection, and he thought there might have been something new in the way in which Ishkov talked. Latter said, according to Sato, that Okinawa was occupied by U.S. and Kunashiri and Etorofu by USSR. Sato replied that U.S. was in Okinawa as result of a treaty with Japan, while Soviets held northern islands illegally without a treaty. From way in which Ishkov avoided further discussion Sato felt he had scored point, especially since Japan Communist Party and socialist party had always claimed that way to get northern islands [garble—back?] was to get U.S. out of Okinawa.
Sato then asked rhetorically what was the best way to “clean up” the northern islands problem. Bilaterally? Through appeal to UN? World Court? Said it was too early to make specific decision but would eventually ask U.S. advice. He realized Sovs had great difficulty in giving on territorial problem vis-á-vis Japan since they were faced with number of similar territorial problems with European neighbors. On other hand years passed and reality had to be recognized, since it continued to be reality whether recognized or not. Germany and Korea were still divided, and Japan had its northern islands problem. U.S. had recognized Japan’s “residual sovereignty” in Ryukyus and it would be well if USSR did same regarding northern islands. Sato said [Page 146] some opportunity for settlement must be found, even though he was called a revanchist by the Soviets.
Referring to Sato’s desire to discuss relations between U.S. and great European powers, Ambassador said that our ideal of U.S.-Japan relations would be for them to be like those U.S. has with England, and he hoped our relations would grow in that direction. Sato remarked that he had thought that Labor Govt under Wilson supported U.S. more than had Conservatives, but he noted support had not held up on bombing of North Vietnam.
Comment: Embassy particularly impressed with Sato eagerness to be informed on U.S. relations with what he considers three great powers of Europe, and we hope Secretary will include appropriate time on that subject. Critique of de Gaulle visit to Moscow will undoubtedly be at top of Sato’s list.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–US. Secret; Limdis; Priority. Repeated to Taipei for Rusk and Bundy.
  2. In telegram 3687 to Tokyo, June 22, Bundy notified Reischauer that SIG policy papers on U.S.-Japan Overall Relationship, U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, and the Japanese Defense Forces had been approved and that he should begin carrying out the actions they outlined. (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is to “The U.S.-Japan Overall Relationship,” May 27. (Ibid., S/PC Files: Lot 72 D 139, Country Files)
  4. Paragraph 13 of the paper “U.S.-Japan Security Treaty,” May 27, contained a list of recommended actions for Reischauer to implement, namely, to inform Sato of the U.S. commitment to maintaining the treaty without revisions and to request that the Japanese Government declare its intention to renew the treaty. (Ibid.)
  5. President Johnson explained in a letter presented to Sato on June 23 that the bombing raids on rail and road bridges had been resumed to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines, which had been expanded during the bombing pause in December and January. (Telegram 3691 to Tokyo, June 22; ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL 27 VIET S)
  6. Rusk visited Japan July 4–7 to attend the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs held in Kyoto. On July 6 and 7 Rusk discussed a broad range of topics with Shiina. On July 7 Rusk went to Tokyo and met with Sato. In addition to visiting Japan, Rusk traveled to Australia, the Philippines, the Republic of China, and the Republic of Korea during his official visit to the Far East between June 25 and July 9. Documentation on Rusk’s trip to Japan is ibid., POL JAPAN–US, POL CHICOM–JAPAN, POL JAPAN–KOR S, POL 19 RYU IS, DEF 4 JAPAN–US, DEF 12 CHICOM, E 1 JAPAN–US, and FT 1 JAPAN–US.
  7. During their meeting on July 7, Sato briefly mentioned the court cases to Rusk, who agreed to look into the matter after returning to Washington. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., POL 19 RYU IS) At issue were the so-called “Mackerel” case, involving a HICOM ordinance taxing imported mackerel, and the Timori case, questioning an ordinance establishing qualifications for elected officials. The USCAR Court issued its verdicts on both cases on December 2. The verdict in the “Mackerel” case upheld the HICOM ordinance and garnered little comment. The verdict in the more highly publicized Timori case attracted attention because the USCAR Court decision seemingly granted GRI courts the right to challenge the validity of HICOM ordinances. Soon after the verdict was announced, HICOM repealed the ordinance, a long-planned action having no relationship to the verdict but nevertheless granting GRI authorities jurisdiction over qualifications of the Islands’ elected representatives. (Airgram A–761 from Tokyo, December 9; ibid., POL 2–1 JAPAN) Additional documentation pertaining to the cases is ibid., POL 19 RYU IS.