97. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Japan1

46082. Subject: Ryukyus and Bonins.

Ambassador Shimoda called on Asst. Secretary Bundy Sept 28 preparatory to returning to Tokyo for consultations on Sato visit. Shimoda departing this coming weekend and will be in Tokyo next week. Before reporting directly to Sato, Shimoda wished to check with Bundy his impressions on US position regarding Ryukyus and Bonins. Shimoda at outset reviewed US position as he understood it following Miki talks in Washington as follows:2
With respect fundamental issue of reversion of Ryukyus, main points US position:
US has deep understanding of Japanese national aspirations for reversion.
US is ready to discuss fundamental issue of reversion with Sato.
US presently not prepared to state whether it willing to take any forward step on reversion at this time given primary concerns regarding tensions in Far East particularly Vietnam hostilities; only President Johnson will be in position to set forth US views on a forward step and then after talk with Sato.
To increase prospect for favorable answer on forward step, it advisable for Sato express firm GOJ resolution to assume greater responsibility for Asian regional cooperation in political, economic, and social areas and to set forth with clarity GOJ views on Asian security problem.
Secondly, US prepared to discuss in preparation for Sato visit interim measures on Ryukyus expanding local autonomy and continuing Japanese cooperation on economic well-being and general welfare Ryukyuans.
Finally, US finds Bonin Islands problem easier to treat than Ryukyus in view lesser degree of importance from security point of view. However, Iwo Jima must be handled as special case due to military factors and sentiment of US people.
Shimoda then went on to outline three key aspects of GOJ position as he understood it:
GOJ desires “one step forward on reversion.” Shimoda pointed out that Kennedy–Ikeda formula, which reiterated in SatoJohnson communiqué of 1965, made reversion conditional on change in general situation in Far East and easing of tensions. However, nobody knows when tensions will ease in Far East, particularly given China situation and tensions could continue for long time, in fact indefinitely. As result, there could be sense of impatience and frustration on part Japanese with unfortunate impact on US-Japanese friendship particularly as a result left-wing demagoguery and propaganda on Ryukyus. GOJ therefore hopes for public formulation on reversion not tied to general situation in Far East or waiting for easing of tensions there. Shimoda indicated public formulation along these lines is “real step forward” GOJ desires.
Japanese prepared to discuss interim measures but these should not be considered as sufficient in themselves or replacing some step forward on reversion.
GOJ understands difficulty for US in going very far on Ryukyu reversion but urgently hopes for at least more advanced steps on Bonins.
Shimoda also proposed that best means for dealing with specific steps to be taken during Sato visit is to discuss text of draft joint communiqué.
Bundy then reviewed Shimoda’s impressions of US position and stated they generally correct with the following additional comments. First, with respect to Ryukyu reversion, four points made by Shimoda correctly reflect US views. Additionally, Bundy pointed out importance of discussing regional security problem in broader sense as it related to reversion of Okinawa. There are both practical problems involved in reversion [1½ lines of source text not declassified] and broader security problems involved. It also important to consider impact on US public and Congress of public discussions of reversion while we currently involved in intensive phase of Vietnam hostilities. Bundy referred to discussions between Miki and Secretary on timing factor in Ryukyu reversion, specifically 1968 Okinawa elections, security treaty review in 1970 and understandable desire not to have both this and Ryukyu problems acute at same time, and US elections which any US President must be mindful of in considering major new foreign policy actions. He concluded that given Vietnam situation and political problems involved, [Page 210] it doubtful whether public and firm process of discussion of reversion and real move in this direction possible before late 1968.
Bundy also confirmed readiness to discuss interim measures and to take a hard look at Bonins as action separate from Ryukyus. Re Bonins, he emphasized that no final decision made and we concerned whether action on this issue would be considered step forward or would instead increase public pressures in Japan for Ryukyu reversion. He also confirmed desire consider Iwo in separate category.
On three points in GOJ position set forth by Shimoda, Bundy commented:
US appreciated Japanese desire for step forward and prepared to take hard look at alternate ways of stating formula on reversion.
US understood interim measures may not be enough alone but felt they could have significant impact particularly on Ryukyus.
US appreciated GOJ hopes on Bonins.
Bundy also stated willingness to consider GOJ proposals on communiqué language and referendum to President and Sato, it was agreed this best done in Tokyo.
Also pointed out to Shimoda another important area for US would be making headway before Sato visit on balance of payments problems raised with Japanese during Cabinet Committee meeting. Shimoda asked whether publicity on this necessary in communiqué3 and Bundy replied that such balance of payments assistance done quietly in past and there no need for publicity. In response Shimoda question, Bundy also said that we have no strongly fixed views on manner of talks but it important to move ahead before Sato visit. Shimoda commented that US proposal balance of payments assistance had hit Finance Ministry like “thunderstorm.”
Shimoda also mentioned re nuclear problem that it had been tendency in Japan to discuss specifics such as whether Mace B in Okinawa could be replaced by Polaris system but that such discussions not useful at this time. It more important to consider political and psychological impact of withdrawal of nuclear weapons than military aspects. [6 lines of source text not declassified]
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Sneider and approved by Bundy.
  2. Memoranda of Miki’s conversations with Rusk on the Ryukyus and Bonins, September 14 and 16, are ibid. and ibid., POL JAPAN–US. Miki also briefly discussed the issue with McNamara on September 15, and a memorandum of that conversation is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 71 A 4546, 333 Japan. In telegram 1917 from Tokyo, September 21, the Embassy reported on Japanese media, public, and official responses to reports of U.S. hesitation to undertake reversion of the Ryukyus and the Bonins during the Miki visit. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 RYU IS)
  3. A general reference to the balance-of-payments issue was included in Section II, paragraph 2 of the Joint Communiqué issued on September 15 at the close of the committee meeting. The text appears in Department of State Bulletin, October 9, 1967, pp. 452–455. Shimoda’s comment most likely refers to the anticipated communiqué to be issued upon completion of the Sato visit.