85. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Courtesy Call of Mr. Seiho Matsuoka, Chief Executive of the Ryukyuan Islands
[Page 170]


  • Ryukyuan Side
    • Chief Executive—Seiho Matsuoka
    • Chief of Public Transportation, GRI—Yoei Miyara
  • United States Side
    • Secretary of Defense—Robert S. McNamara
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense/FE (ISA)—Richard C. Steadman
    • Deputy Under Secretary of the Army (IA)—Thaddeus Holt
    • Staff Assistant, Far East Region (ISA)—James K. Pont
Social: Social pleasantries were exchanged and photographs taken. Mr. Matsuoka commented that his last trip to the United States had been in 1962. He said he expected this trip to last a week to ten days.2

Economic Aid to Ryukyus: Mr. Matsuoka said the main purpose of this trip was to show his support for the proposed Price Act amendment which would raise the ceiling on U.S. aid to Okinawa. He said he had mentioned this to President Johnson3 and would also do so to Members of Congress. The Secretary indicated that the Administration supports this amendment.

Mr. Matsuoka continued by expressing gratitude on behalf of the people of Okinawa for U.S. aid since 1945. He cautioned, however, that some people were never happy and the Opposition was very tough to handle. He said he had given the details to the Secretary of the Army and would not take up the Secretary’s time by repeating them to him. He asked if the Secretary had any questions.


U.S. Presence on Okinawa and U.S., Japanese & Okinawa Relations:

The Secretary asked Mr. Matsuoka for his view of the long-run relationship between the U.S. military forces on Okinawa and the Okinawans. Mr. Matsuoka answered that the Conservatives understood the situation in the Far East and the resulting need for the U.S. presence. The Opposition, however, did not and they continued to clamor for the removal of U.S. forces. He said the Opposition now numbered about 45% of the legislature and was gradually increasing.

The Secretary then asked Mr. Matsuoka how the Opposition would feel if the U.S. did leave Okinawa. Mr. Matsuoka replied that the leftists [Page 171] don’t look at the effect this would have on the economy; rather, they point to and exploit the fact of foreign presence on Okinawan soil, a politically potent subject. He said the Opposition ignored the fact that the foreign exchange gained from U.S. presence helps to balance out the excess of Okinawan imports over exports. He indicated his concern over a possible two-fold effect if the amendment to the Price Act fails to pass: (1) $5 million shortage in the GRI FY67 budget and (2) increased propaganda by the Opposition against U.S. control when Japanese aid is greater than that given by the U.S.

The Secretary then asked Mr. Matsuoka how he believed GOJ and GRI officials would act toward U.S. bases if the administration of Okinawa did revert to Japan. Mr. Matsuoka answered that because of the dispersion of the bases over the island and the resulting interrelationships, the leftist and communist elements could cause agitation which would be very hard to control. The Secretary said that to him this raised a fundamental long-range question concerning the willingness of the American people to remain in Okinawa, thereby protecting the Okinawans and the Japanese, unless the Okinawans and the Japanese want the U.S. there and are willing to provide the environment necessary to make that stay militarily effective.

Indicating that he was still speaking on a personal basis and not giving a U.S. Government position, The Secretary said he believed that Okinawans and Japanese need to study very carefully their own self-interest in continued U.S. presence on Okinawa. The U.S. cannot govern Okinawa indefinitely and should not impose its will on other countries. If the Japanese and Okinawans find it in their own self-interest for the U.S. to remain, they should begin moving toward a position of increasing political support for the U.S. and its objectives, allowing the U.S. to make its role in the Far East less unilateral. He indicated that the U.S. does not require Okinawa to protect Hawaii or San Francisco. Furthermore, he did not believe the U.S. public would support the defense of other countries who (1) don’t want to be defended or (2) want to be defended but don’t want to stand beside the U.S. politically.

The Secretary re-emphasized his view on two basic points (1) the U.S. should not again be put in a position of having to stand alone and (2) the need for Okinawan and Japanese political support. This support would include the flexibility required to make U.S. presence on Okinawa efficient from a military viewpoint. As a related but broader proposition, The Secretary expressed his opinion that Japan needs to take a much larger political and economic role in Asia and that Asian nations need to undertake more long-term regional activities. He pointed to recent healthy signs such as ASPAC, and the Korea-Japan settlement.

Mr. Matsuoka stated Prime Minister Sato had repeatedly told him that Japan depends on the U.S. for protection. The Japanese constitution [Page 172] presents the government with problems in this regard. Furthermore, by relying on the U.S., the Japanese can devote their resources to economic activities. He continued by noting that his party in Okinawa as well as the Japanese Government realize the cost incurred by the U.S. because of its stay on Okinawa. He said they also realize that the U.S. remains there and bears this cost because of Communist tension. The Secretary responded that he believes the U.S. should stay only when the host country wants the U.S. to do so, Communist tension or not. If it is strictly a unilateral U.S. decision, it is basically wrong. He realizes that the Japanese and Okinawan people need time to reconsider this problem and the public needs to be educated. He also realizes that the U.S. should help by such actions as amending the Price Act. Mr. Matsuoka reiterated his belief that the Japanese Government did realize that the U.S. is paying for defense of Japan. He alluded to some recent speeches which have brought out this point, especially those by the Minister of Agriculture. The Secretary emphasized the need for a viable U.S.-Japan partnership which included active political support by Japan. As an example, he felt that in another Vietnam Japan could not stand aside, but would need to play a positive political role.

Conclusion: The Secretary concluded the discussion by saying how much he had enjoyed this opportunity for an exchange of frank and personal views.
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, Okinawa 091.112. Confidential. Drafted by Pont and approved in DASD/FE (ISA) on March 31. The meeting was held in McNamara’s office at the Pentagon.
  2. In a meeting with Matsuoka on April 4, Rusk confirmed that the United States continued to handle foreign relations of the Ryukyus, despite the recent adoption of a new flag bearing Japan’s colors for Ryukyuan vessels. Matsuoka pointed out that that “anomalous position” coupled with other questions of authority and economic development on the Islands produced dissatisfaction and a desire for reversion among a majority of the population. (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU US)
  3. Making a brief courtesy call, Matsuoka met with President Johnson at the White House on March 29 from 1–1:15 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)