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Okinawa Question

June 25, 1969

Report Outline
Pressure for Early Okinawa Settlement
Sources of Japanese Claim on Ryukyus
Effects of Revision on Okinawa Bases

Pressure for Early Okinawa Settlement

When premier Eisaku Sato of Japan meets with President Nixon in Washington later this year, the two heads of government must come to a long-postponed decision on a difficult issue in which the stakes for both are high and the pitfalls many. Their November meeting will climax five months of negotiations that began on June 2 with a visit to Washington by Japanese Foreign Minister Klichi Aichi and will include a trip to Japan this summer by Secretary of State William P. Rogers. The purpose of the Nixon-Sato meeting will be to clinch an agreement for the return of Okinawa and other islands of the Ryukyu chain to Japan. Specifically, the Japanese leader will ask the United States to set a definite date, not later than 1972, for the promised reversion. The United States is willing so long as it does not lose control over its extensive military installations on the island. Herein lies the difficulty.

Matters Involved in Future Status of Okinawa

The question of Okinawa's status—an emotion-charged issue on that island and in Japan for many years—has only recently come to public attention in the United States as a matter of great urgency. It is now generally realized that the pressure of public opinion in Japan (and in Okinawa) is such that the United States cannot continue to postpone final settlement of the Okinawa problem without grave danger to American relations with Japan, its major ally in the Far East. The consequences of continuing evasion could be the fall of the pro-American Liberal Democratic government in Japan, the collapse of the U. S.-Japanese mutual security system and, with it, deterioration of American power and influence in the Pacific. At the same time, it is recognized that any change of the status quo with regard to Okinawa presents certain hazards to all parties concerned.

The task of the Nixon administration is to win agreement on a plan for reversion of the Ryukyus to Japan that will preserve as much as possible of U. S. military strength and flexibility of action on its island bases, without offending popular sentiment in the affected areas. This is a tall order, for the Japanese tend to be uneasy about American defense strategy in their part of the world. Even though they have consistently kept in power a political party committed to cooperation with the United States, the Japanese are nevertheless fearful that their nation will be drawn into involvement in a confrontation between the United States and Communist China. In addition, they suffer from a so-called “nuclear allergy,” which takes the form of instant objection to any suggestion that nuclear weapons be developed, stored on, or deployed from Japanese soil. Storage of nuclear weapons on Okinawa is already a sore point; it would be intolerable when and if Okinawa became an integral part of the Japanese homeland.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jun. 25, 1969  Okinawa Question
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