U.S. envoys involved in ’60s secret nuke arms pact

Kyodo News

News photo
Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira is seen with U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer in this September 1963 file photo. KYODO PHOTO
The government, which maintains the three principles of not possessing, producing or allowing atomic weapons into its territory, has never admitted an accord existed.But other declassified U.S. documents have already shown that the two nations secretly exempted port calls and passage through Japan by U.S. vessels carrying nuclear weapons in revising the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960, and subjecting U.S. transportation of nuclear arms into Japan to prior bilateral consultations. The two sides confirmed the position in April 1963.The latest document, obtained by the independent U.S. think tank National Security Archive, indicates the U.S. remained concerned in the late 1960s as Japanese officials domestically told the Diet that such port calls or passages are not allowed.Dated Jan. 26, 1968, the document is in a "top secret" telegram sent by U.S. Ambassador Alexis Johnson to the State Department about his discussions the day before with senior Foreign Ministry officials over his meeting earlier that month with Foreign Minister Takeo Miki.In the telegram, Johnson reported that after the meeting with Miki, "I was most gravely concerned that there was perhaps basic misunderstanding between the two governments that must be cleared up soonest," and that he spoke of the concern to the Japanese officials."Until Miki had spoken to me, I had been proceeding on the assumption that senior levels of the government of Japan, at least Prime Minister Sato, understood our position and government spokesmen were saying what they had said in – Diet for their own purposes,” Johnson quoted himself as telling the officials.

The Japanese officials mentioned were Vice Foreign Minister Nobuhiko Ushiba and Fumihiko Togo, head of the American Affairs Bureau.

Referring to the April 1963 confirmation of the position between Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira and U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer, Johnson told the officials Japan has never since indicated it did not “at least acquiesce in that position.”

He cited Reischauer’s talks again with Ohira in September 1964 and with Sato that December, plus another U.S. effort the same month to confirm that its position was shared with Foreign Ministry officials.

Neither Ushiba nor Togo challenged Johnson’s interpretation of the situation, and told him Tokyo had a record of Ohira’s April 1963 talks with Reischauer, according to the document.

The matter was left for Ushiba to again talk with Ohira, and Ushiba, indicating he would discuss it also with Sato, specifically asked Johnson not to raise the issue with Miki until he heard from either Ushiba or Ohira, it showed.

In a Diet session in late 1967, prior to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise’s first call at Japan in January 1968, Miki, in the face of the opposition alleging the ship was carrying nuclear weapons, said the flattop would not call with nuclear arms, citing what he called a U.S. promise.

Tokyo’s decision to allow the Enterprise to enter Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture triggered a bloody student demonstration against the government.

The document indicates the framework of prior consultations over the nuclear issue has been crippled and that the Japanese government was giving consent to port calls by nuclear-armed U.S. vessels, said Masaaki Gabe, a professor of international politics at the University of the Ryukyus.

Japan has claimed that no nuclear arms have been brought into its territory on grounds that no prior consultations have been requested by the U.S. side, but that would not convince the public as long as bilateral relations are based on such secrets, Gabe said.