43. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Delay of Chemical Weapons Removal from Okinawa

Since the decision not to ship the chemical munitions on Okinawa to Oregon via Washington, a new situation has been developing.

—The Okinawa legislature unanimously passed a resolution (Tab B)2 demanding immediate removal of the chemical munitions while noting that Okinawans had to endure what Washingtonians and Oregonians would not accept.

—Mr. Yara (Chief, Executive Government of the Ryukyu Islands) sent you a telegram requesting immediate removal of the weapons (Tab C).3 (The appropriate reply will be sent by State)

—The Japanese Government desires earliest possible word on U.S. shipment plans as the delay is being protested by all opposition parties and being used by Japanese leftists in anti-treaty demonstrations (Tab D).4

—Senators Magnuson, Jackson, Hatfield, Packwood and Gravel are sponsoring an amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act which would preclude the use of any funds whatsoever to transport the munitions to the U.S. (Tab E).5

—We can expect the same loud opposition, public and official, in Alaska as occurred in Oregon and Washington (Tab F).6

Alaska (Kodiak Island) and Guam are under active consideration as storage sites. It is understood that one-third of the munitions could be shipped to Guam immediately with the remainder following sometime [Page 128] after November. However, the Governor of Guam expressed his opposition to this idea some months ago.

The length of delay is unknown pending Army’s proposal which is due around June 3. However, if we wait until facilities are completely ready to hold the entire stocks, the forecast for delay could run from 4 to 6 months at the very least and probably more.

I indicated earlier we could accept some delay as long as the Japanese do not feel we are backing away from our intention to remove the weapons. However, to assure the Japanese and to take some steam out of the opposition and leftist arguments in Japan, the sooner some movement is made the better.

Therefore, I believe that two aspects of this issue should be considered simultaneously: (1) how to move some munitions as rapidly as possible; and (2) whether these particular stocks are essential to our chemical capability and overall military posture as directed by National Security Decision Memorandum 27.

Attached at Tab A is a proposed memorandum to Secretary Laird for your approval.7 It first states that we should move some munitions as soon as possible and should not wait until selected sites can hold the entire stocks.

It then asks for Secretary Laird’s appraisal of the Magnuson amendment in the Senate (Tab E) and his appraisal of the importance of these munitions in relation to our chemical capability and NSDM 27. It concludes: If these stocks are not essential, would it be to our advantage to announce plans to detoxify them on Guam or elsewhere? It requests his assessment of these matters by June 8.

Since there is no requirement for forward deployment of these munitions on Guam, and since there appears little reasonable justification for choosing Alaska as the site, the option to announce plans to detoxify the munitions should be considered. For such consideration, Secretary Laird’s assessment of the situation is required.


That you approve the memorandum to Secretary Laird at Tab A.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 554, Country Files, Far East, Okinawa, Vol. I, 1969 and 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. The date is handwritten on the source text. Sent to Kissinger under cover of a May 28 memorandum from Michael A. Guhin of the NSC operations staff, in which Guhin recommended that Kissinger sign and send the memorandum to the President.
  2. Attached, but not printed, at Tab B is a May 20 memorandum from Finn to Green that extracted Rogers’ morning brief about the reaction of the Okinawa Legislature.
  3. Yara’s letter to Nixon of May 21 was not found attached. It is available in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15 RYU IS–US. On June 3 Finn wrote a reply to Yara, stating that the U.S. Government sought to remove the chemical munitions from Okinawa “as rapidly as is possible consistent with safety.” (Ibid.)
  4. Attached, but not printed, at Tab D is telegram 3784 from Tokyo, May 25.
  5. Tab E was not found attached, but a June 30 telegram to Tokyo discusses this amendment, its passage, and its implications. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15 RYU IS–US)
  6. Attached, but not printed, at Tab F is a May 27 memorandum from Brigadier General Hughes to John Erlichman.
  7. Attached but not printed.
  8. Nixon initialed the approve option on June 8. The memorandum was sent to Laird the same day.