1. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State1
267. 1. I had hour and one-half talk with Prime Minister yesterday on my farewell call.2 He went into considerable length explaining difficulties with agriculture and his consequent regret that they were not able to do more on agricultural offers during trade talks, but with some time to work out their agricultural problems they will be able to be much more forthcoming.
2. On Okinawa he again emphasized importance he attached to obtaining some agreement this year. He said that he recognized pressure on new administration of other problems and that it would probably take some time before administration would be able to come to grips with Okinawa problem. (He knew statements on Okinawa being made by “doves like Reischauer and Fulbright” and from which Japanese press and public were deriving much comfort did not necessarily represent majority opinion in U.S.) He still hoped to make visit to Washington “not earlier than November” and, if necessary, perhaps it could be a little later. He very much hoped that cabinet-level committee could be held in Japan during summer and that this would give him opportunity to talk to Secretary Rogers. Either before or after cabinet-level meeting he hoped that FonMin Aichi could visit Washington to meet with Secy Rogers. He did not mention visit by Kishi. (Previously Ambassador Shimoda had told me that he had discouraged visit by Kishi at this time, as he did not feel GOJ position sufficiently developed to make visit productive.)[Page 2]
3. With respect to timing of his visit he said that while he was trying to lead public opinion in Japan on Okinawa, he feared what effects might be on public opinion here of incidents during general strike on Okinawa and adverse reactions to new labor ordinance.3 There could also be other developments in Okinawa during course of year that “could lead public opinion in unforeseen directions” that could make his visit inappropriate in November, thus for time being he wanted to remain flexible on a possible date.
4. Taking advantage of his mention of “gap” between Japan’s and U.S. public opinion, I said I entirely agreed and was very concerned over what I felt were the growing adverse trends in U.S. opinions towards Japan. I said that in part, because of sensationalized news and TV coverage of small minority group demonstrations in Japan against our bases, etc., there was growing feeling that Japan was economically “fat and happy,” financially profiting from our sacrifices in Vietnam, while seeking to expel us from our bases in both Japan and Okinawa. I said that growing reaction to this among many Americans was, if Japan wants us to get out why don’t we. I knew that this did not represent majority or government opinion in Japan, but this was not getting across to American people. Under these circumstances, I was sure that there would be very adverse reaction in U.S. simply “to giving back Okinawa to Japan.” Thus I thought it important that GOJ find better context in which to present problem to us and suggested that one possible means was to present question in terms of GOJ’s willingness to undertake increased defense responsibilities, by accepting same kind of immediate defense mission in the Ryukyus after reversion, as it now accepted in Japan proper. This was apart from conditions with respect to our bases in Okinawa, which involved whether our bases there were to be “effective.” In this connection I, of course, discussed the whole question of graduated deterrence and the necessity of paying attention [Page 3] to how Pyongyang and Peking might interpret whatever we did. I also discussed necessity of getting away from present context in which Japan thought it was doing us a favor by permitting us to be here, and instead putting across to USG and American people sense that Japan valued and wanted our presence.
5. Sato received all this in good spirit and said that even JDA and “his own officer” lacked sophistication in military matters. To astonishment of Hori (Chief Cabinet Secretary) and Togo, who were also present, he said that GOJ’s “three nuclear principles” (non-possession, non-production and non-introduction) were “nonsense.” However, this should not be interpreted to mean Japan wants to have nuclear weapons.
6. In response to probing me whether there was a split between military and civilian elements in USG concerning Okinawa, I said that this was not case. As far as I was personally concerned I fully supported importance of maintaining strong deterrent in Okinawa, not with purpose of using it in war but in preventing war, which is a political matter.
7. I also spoke to him about our lack of progress in our space cooperation discussions, pointing out that MITI’s apparent unwillingness to bring space hardware under its export-control regulations was preventing Sato from getting us anything in way of a meaningful package. He said he would look into it right away.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 533, Country Files, Far East, Japan, Vol. I. Confidential; Exdis.↩
- U. Alexis Johnson ended his mission as Ambassador to Japan on January 15, 1969.↩
- On November 19, 1968, an American B–52 bomber crashed on Okinawa, creating a rallying point for opposition to the stationing of B–52s on the island. In early January 1969, the Joint Struggle Council of the Council to Protect the Lives of Okinawans announced plans for demonstrations and sit-down strikes to begin on February 4 throughout Okinawa that would interdict movement into and out of the U.S. Air Force Base at Kadena, as well as block traffic on the major Okinawan highways. The Military Workers Union (Zengunro) and the Okinawa Teachers Association decided to participate in the strike after a new Comprehensive Labor Ordinance (CLO) was issued on January 11, which restricted union picketing, union political activities, and, some felt, the activities of ordinary Okinawan citizens. Although the CLO was to take effect on January 25, the Civil Administration of Okinawa responded to widespread criticism by postponing the effective date of the ordinance and consulating with interested parties. The February 4 strike was called off, although some demonstrations occurred. Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research Thomas Hughes sent an intelligence note discussing these events to Secretary Rogers on February 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 RYU IS–US) Additional information is ibid., POL 19 RYU IS.↩