9. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • Eighteen Nation Disarmament Treaty, specifically the Seabeds Treaty
  • U.S. Policy Towards Japan


  • (List can be obtained from NSC Secretariat)

[Omitted here is discussion of Disarmament and the Seabeds Treaty that is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. E–2, Documents on Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 1969–1972, Document 89.]

The President then said, let us turn to Okinawa.

Mr. Kissinger stated, Mr. President, today we will limit our discussion of U.S.-Japan relations to the Okinawa issue alone.

The President stated, precisely. The Okinawa issue is a situation in which the linkage problem is quite clear. The fundamental question we are faced with is the reversion of Okinawa. The simple options are: we must consider the political cost of keeping control of Okinawa and our military access to it versus the security costs of losing some of this control or perhaps even all of it.

Mr. Kissinger stated, in the Review Group consideration of this issue, the consensus was that we should give something.2 The disagree[Page 34]ment rested with how far we should go and when we should take these initiatives. Essentially, there are three problems 1) timing of reversion—here we have two choices, agree to proceed this year to a reversion in 1972, or to agree in principle but not to set a specific date for reversion. The advantages of the first course of action is that we would reduce growing pressures in Japan. The disadvantage of this course of action would be that we would be committed at this early date. The advantages to course of action 2 would be that we retain flexibility and would give an impression to the Japanese that we are still uncertain and that we must negotiate a settlement. Within the Review Group the majority favored proceeding now with the view towards a reversion in 1972.

The President asked, what the specific provisions of the reversion would be, commenting that this would be the focal point of the argument.

Mr. Kissinger stated that the essential elements include the retention of U.S. rights to utilize Okinawa as a base and under that broad category we had the issue of nuclear storage, first, and secondly the retention of the right to utilize Okinawa in a conventional base sense. Concerning nuclear operations, there are several possibilities:

1) Status quo on storage and freedom to move weapons in and out in an operational sense.

2) Interim nuclear storage, with a time limit as to when this option or this authority will run out.

3) Emergency rights for nuclear storage, only under emergency conditions but no permanent storage.

4) Transit rights only.

5) Emergency humanitarian rights.

6) No storage of nuclear weapons and no rights under emergency situations.

On all of these six provisions we could not arrive at a consensus. Most people thought that options one and two were not acceptable or that we would be unable to obtain them. Under the conventional use options, we isolated four choices:

1) The maintainance of status quo, that is continued open conventional rights.

2) To negotiate interim conventional rights.

3) Limited free use for certain key areas, Vietnam for example and other areas.

4) Only conventional rights as a result of agreed-upon consultations.

The President said what possibilities do we have to secure a secret deal with the Japanese? One that we could make dependent upon consultations but which would have a low profile in a context with Japanese domestic and Okinawan domestic views.

[1 paragraph (1 line) not declassified]

[Page 35]

The President asked if it gives us specific rights.

Johnson replied, no, just general rights.

The President stated that the Review Group paper was a good one which helped him a great deal in considering this problem.3 The President then asked if we are to be forthcoming on this issue we should be looking at the Trust Territory. Can we create substitute facilities there?

General Wheeler answered, we have looked at this—land acquisition, the money, and the time involved are very critical. It would take us from three to four years and a considerable expense to develop replacement facilities. Adding that [less than 1 line not declassified] facilities and airfields would take some time to construct but this is our only alternative if we lose Okinawa. The cost of our facilities at Okinawa are in the neighborhood of $1 billion. To replace those in the Trust Territory, it would run4

General [Wheeler] continued, also the land areas in the Trust Territory are very limited. We are now looking at the Trust problem—specific islands that could be developed and additional facilities which we could construct alternate facilities on.

The President asked Ambassador Johnson to comment on what was actually realistic in terms of our negotiations on this issue. Johnson stated we seemed to be in complete agreement that it would be necessary to negotiate some kind of agreement with the Japanese. The opposition parties in Japan are working desperately to get a confrontation with the power structure on the issue of U.S. involvement in Japan and their specific rights on Okinawa. Within Okinawa proper, the current population is about one million and it would be necessary for the Japanese to maintain order and control after reversion. If we were to agree to reversion, this could be used to force the Japanese to take on greater responsibilities for their defense.

This is a distinct advantage. Then we could reduce our own level of expenditures. On a longer range basis we must consider our bases in Japan proper. Some flexibility and some willingness with respect to Okinawa would give us longer staying power in Japan proper. Concerning the most difficult issue, that of nuclear storage, in 1957 we told Sato that we had to have storage and took a hardline in this regard. We tried to get the Japanese to look at the problem at that time. Now [Page 36] the whole issue has backfired. Sato can no longer agree to unlimited nuclear storage. The opposition, domestically, will just not tolerate it and it could result in his downfall. The nuclear proliferation treaty is an issue which also influences this. [2½ lines not declassified] Another consideration is the fact that we want the Japanese to develop greater political responsibility and to the degree that we do not have free use of Okinawa this tends to drag them into greater responsibility of their own. It seems obvious, however, that we must not be placed into a position which would give the Japanese in effect a veto power over our ability to support our forces in Korea. I think it would be possible to get a strong public statement both from Taiwan and Korea which will protect us in these two specific areas. If we can just resolve the nuclear issue we can probably get a viable treaty with the Japanese. But we must have a public position. It need not be developed today nor need this issue be resolved today. The Japanese Foreign Minister comes in June. Secretary Rogers will go to Japan in July. Basically we must have a resolve position in July. We need something for Sato to help him at home domestically. I think we can get something from the Japanese on emergency nuclear storage. [less than 1 line not declassified] We think of when we might use nuclear weapons in the Far East and list these conditions, I think the Japanese will go along. Actually, the ʽ72 target date came from Sato. We know we must have some mutual agreement before that time so that by then a final agreement will be easier. In my own view it will take several years to negotiate a viable arrangement with the Japanese with respect to Okinawa.

The President asked Mr. Johnson to comment on the domestic situation in Japan.

Johnson replied, Sato is strong but he could fall. He needs some help as a result of his visit here.

The President said, well wouldn’t U.S. support tend to hurt him domestically?

Mr. Johnson stated, no, the Japanese measure the ability of their leaders to get along with the U.S. and respect.

The President said, yes, especially their ability to negotiate favorable trade arrangements. This they do like.

Johnson continued, the opposition really wants to launch a major campaign to put the Okinawan issue in the forefront. This has a demagogic appearance. They hope to merge the Okinawan issue with the overall treaty issues. Sato on the other hand wants to decouple Okinawa and to get it out of the way before the overall treaty review must be faced.

The President stated that the key point is for us to understand what the problem really is. We may not have but two options. We [Page 37] don’t want to hurt our friends by the position we take. The idea that we are imposing on poor little Japan, however, should not be the overriding factor in our deliberations. There is a degree of schizophrenia in the Japanese position. They like to be told what to do but then resent it when we tell them. There is a fine line between U.S. guidance and U.S. pressure. They benefit if they can appear to be on their own. We are in a solid position but they don’t like our bases, our planes, etc. The opposition exploits this. We in turn provide a nuclear umbrella.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, National Security Council, Box TS 82, Meetings, Jan.–Apr. 1969. No classification marking. The meeting time is taken from the President’s Daily Diary. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) These minutes are taken from a June 9 draft that apparently was never revised. The draft was based on a tape recording of the meeting. Alexander Haig took handwritten notes of this meeting. (Ibid., NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes, Originals 1969 [3 of 5])
  2. A talking paper prepared in the Department of Defense reported that participants at the April 25 Review Group meeting recommended that the United States decide in 1969 on the reversion of Okinawa in 1972, “provided agreement is reached on the essential elements of base use.” (Talking paper for the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in preparation for the NSC meeting of April 30; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–75–0103, Box 12, Japan, 092)
  3. Presumably a reference to the NSC summary of the revised paper produced by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for East Asia, Document 8. The full paper is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–128, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 5, [1 of 2].
  4. Omission in the original. According to Haig’s notes, Wheeler’s figure for the trust territories was $3.5 to 4 billion.