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



  • Future Use of Ryukyuan Bases (U)
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff are becoming increasingly concerned about possible future changes in the character of US control in the Ryukyus which could impact adversely on national security.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that:
Reversion of the Ryukyus to the Japanese Government would weaken the US strategic posture and our military position in the Far East.
Because of the growing aggressiveness of Communist China and unsettled conditions in Southeast Asia, it would be premature to draw up a timetable for returning the Ryukyus to Japanese control.
In view of the complete interdependence of the military and civil communities, unilateral US control of Ryukyuan administration is of prime importance for as long as we maintain major bases there. Under Japanese control political limitations could be imposed upon the use of our Okinawa-based forces, equipment, matériel, and other resources.
Japanese reluctance to share proportionately in Free World defense in the Pacific strengthens the case for continued US jurisdiction over Okinawa.
(S) In view of increasing pressures by the Japanese Government for reversion of the Ryukyus, possible alternatives (Appendix hereto)2 to existing unrestricted US use of Ryukyuan bases have been examined. It is concluded that:
For reasons of military security, it is important that the United States retain its present administrative control over the Ryukyus. Erosion of such control is not supportable from a military point of view since it would impact adversely on the US posture in the Pacific.
Unrestricted access and freedom of action in the use of our military bases in the Ryukyus is essential if US security interests in the Far East are to be protected through the foreseeable future.
Should political developments require a lessening of the current level of administrative control, the following factors should be considered in the formulation of future US actions:
The least disruptive alternative of those examined would be an orderly transfer of civil administration to Japan in return for a special base rights agreement which provides for the military requirements essentially as set forth in Annex B. However, such an arrangement would be vulnerable to future changes in policy by subsequent Japanese governments.
Transfer of administrative authority to Japan under the context of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security of 1960 with Japan would seriously reduce US military capabilities in the Far East because of the resulting highly restrictive conditions governing our operations. US interests would best be served by separate negotiation on the future of the Ryukyuan bases.
The establishment of an enclave-type base structure in Okinawa, or one of the other Ryukyu Islands, does not appear practicable and should not be considered as an acceptable alternative unless it is the only method of retaining unrestricted control and freedom of action over our military bases in the Ryukyus. The United States has over the years provided common support utilities (water, electricity, telecommunications, transportation nets, POL pipelines, airports, harbor installations, etc.) for its bases and the civil community. The establishment of independent base support facilities would be made necessary by an enclave policy. The relocation effort and legal actions associated with development of separate utilities and facilities would be extremely expensive and complex. In any instance, further feasibility and cost studies by the military services would be required and the cost implications fully understood by the Japanese before a decision is made. Full understanding of these problems as well as recognition of the fact that the United States would expect exclusive enclave rights and reimbursement from the Japanese for relocation costs could persuade Japan to give preference to other alternatives.
Relocation of US bases elsewhere in the western Pacific within the mid-term period would seriously undermine US military capabilities because of such factors as host government political restrictions and the greatly increased operating ranges involved. More significantly, it would result in the abandonment of approximately $1 billion in assets, with negligible salvage value, and require in excess of $600 million for the construction of alternate facilities. However, examination of alternate base sites in the western Pacific should continue in the [Page 186] event of the contingency occurring that prescribes relocation elsewhere of some or all of the US Ryukyuan facilities.
In recent years, the Government of Japan has endeavored to increase its knowledge and understanding of security questions, including the use of US bases in the Ryukyus. This maturing attitude on the part of Japan’s leaders, together with the problems involved in establishing a true enclave, should make it possible for the United States to press for continued exclusive control of the Ryukyus as a legitimate political cost of US defense commitments to Japan. The US Government should continue to emphasize to the Government of Japan that Japan’s security is in large part dependent on the maintenance of a substantial US military posture in the Ryukyus. The Government of Japan, for its part, should continue its efforts to bridge diverse attitudes among the Japanese people concerning basic security issues and should seek to create popular support for the thesis that Japan’s security, together with that of the rest of the free nations in east Asia, is largely dependent on credible US military presence in the Pacific. Such presence, in turn, is dependent on continued unrestricted US control of its bases and operations in the Ryukyus.
While unrestricted US control over the Ryukyus is critical for the foreseeable future, the political pressures we now face and may anticipate in coming years point to the urgency of having the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under US sovereignty. Also important is the requirement to retain US control over and freedom of action in the Bonin-Volcano Islands.
(U) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the conclusions above, as amplified in the Appendix, be approved as the Department of Defense policy position for guidance by US officials in future discussions and actions concerning the Ryukyus.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 71 A 4919, 680.1 Ryukyu Islands. Top Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates that McNamara saw it.
  2. Attached but not printed.