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

614. Pass Army/DUSA and OASD/ISA. Ref: HC–LN 720718.2

1.
I appreciate General Unger’s thoughtful comments on my discussions here thus far with the GOJ on Okinawa, and in turn want to comment on how I view the situation from here. As I read reftel, I interpret it in effect as saying that if prospect of reversion, or at least US-Japan agreement on reversion by 1970 is not made known [garble— before] 1968 legislature elections,3 this may result in control of GRI by Leftist political parties in Okinawa; therefore we should now use Japanese desire to obtain return of the Bonins and for a greater role in Ryukyuan affairs to obtain a satisfactory commitment from the GOJ on the future of the bases in the Ryukyus in order to permit public statement on reversion prior to 1968 elections.
2.
If I am correctly interpreting the message, the basic difficulty with this line is that it is not now politically possible for GOJ to give us the commitment which not only we want but which, I believe, many in GOJ, including FonOff, want to give us. The facts of life in Japan are such that no politician at this stage can condone violation of what has come to be considered as Japanese “nuclear policy,” nor could any of them support other US freedoms in the use of the Okinawa bases. They are, nevertheless, encouraging a public education process which in time GOJ hopes will bring about a political climate in Japan which would enable GOJ to agree to something coming much closer to the desires of both of us. Much progress is already evident. The “Shimoda formula” has not been rejected and nucs can now be openly discussed— both unthinkable a few years ago.
3.
I feel that responsible Japanese Govt. leaders are giving increasing indications of seeing Okinawa as a common GOJ–US problem and that they are increasingly concerned at not permitting political pressures and public sentiment in either Japan or Okinawa to get so far out of hand as to limit their freedom of action. Accordingly, I do not read the aide-mémoire as a “hidden warning that the US will have increasing trouble maintaining civil administration and unimpeded operation of bases, unless it agrees to ‘consultations’ to find a solution to the reversion problem,” but rather, an assessment of the situation [Page 188]closely corresponding to that of HICOM contained in para 4 reftel and a desire to do all that is feasible in cooperation with us to prevent such a situation arising.
4.
In order to resist more extreme pressures, the GOJ must show some progress which the Japanese public can interpret as progress toward reversion. I do not interpret the areas which the GOJ is exploring for closer relations with Okinawa as an effort at whittling away of our basic authority but as what the GOJ feels is a minimum necessary for the GOJ to maintain political credibility.
5.
I also do not have any impression that the GOJ does not intend to continue to cooperate as fully as it can with us in maintaining our civil administration and unimpeded operation of the bases. Its assets to influence the situation are, however, limited in present circumstances and they see the desirability of increasing their involvement not only for domestic political reasons but also to facilitate our role. They find it to their advantage also to have Okinawa remain quiet.
6.
As it does not seem to me that the consensus process will permit us to reach a “solution” to the Okinawa problem in time to influence the elections 1968 (para 4 reftel), it would seem to me desirable that we give sympathetic consideration to GOJ proposals for such further participation in Okinawan affairs as it feels will be helpful in meeting our common problems, rather than regarding such proposals as bargaining levers which we can use to obtain what the GOJ cannot now give. I do not suggest that we permit GOJ involvement which derogates from US administrative authority (I have been categorically clear to GOJ on this), but there are many areas which might be helpful and in line with our policy guidelines.
7.
As for the Bonins, I do not see the prospects or desirability of trying to use them as a bargaining counter in reaching an Okinawan solution. It is not that kind of a situation and I do not feel it would be to our advantage if we tried to make it such. The Japanese are well aware of the marginal importance of the Bonins in our defense structure and the sooner we are able to agree to reversion the more we establish a credible rationale for our position on the Okinawan bases. While there may be some whetting of appetites for reversion in Okinawa, if the Bonins are returned, I am inclined to believe it will strengthen the hands of those in both Japan and Okinawa advocating faith and conference in US by demonstrating that we mean what we have said with respect to returning these areas when the security situation permits. It is, of course, not a question of removing our security installations on the Bonins, but rather bringing them within the framework of our many security installations within Japan.
Johnson
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to HICOMRY and CINCPAC.
  2. Not found.
  3. Elections for the Ryukyu legislature were scheduled for November 1968.