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Okinawa deadline sought in 1957

Kishi felt public was growing restless for reversion

Kyodo

Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi pressed U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower at a summit in 1957 to consider setting a deadline for returning Okinawa, saying the Japanese public might otherwise become nervous about U.S. intentions, according to diplomatic records declassified Wednesday.

The talks, 15 years before Okinawa’s 1972 return to Japan following U.S. rule after World War II, underscored Kishi’s readiness to work for Okinawa in addition to revising the original Japan-U.S. security treaty that Tokyo had seen as unequal.

But Kishi endorsed the continuing presence of U.S. forces in Okinawa, saying they were “needed for the security of the Far East.”

While U.S. documents have already unveiled the contours of the June 19 talks, the newly declassified Foreign Ministry records shed light on the details of the summit held during a U.S. visit by Kishi, the grandfather of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to the records, Kishi, who was prime minister from 1957 to 1960, said “the Japanese people can’t help feeling nervous about the intentions of American people” because U.S. control of Okinawa remained open-ended.

While stressing Japan’s position at the height of the Cold War to oppose communism, advocate liberalism and emphasize cooperation with the United States, he said that “few people think it is fine to leave the current Japan-U.S. relations as they are.”

“I find it difficult to accept the view that we must totally leave (Okinawa’s) administration” to the U.S. side, he added.

Eisenhower said Okinawa would be needed to quickly respond in case of invasion, suggesting its return was not an option at that time, but also left room for future negotiations, saying it would be possible to consider the matter with the Japanese side, according to the records.

A memo dated April 1, 1957, created by the Japanese side to prepare for the summit, contains a plan to urge the United States to return Okinawa “in 10 years,” but there was no record of Kishi mentioning a concrete deadline in the talks.

A joint statement issued after the summit simply confirmed Japan’s potential sovereignty over Okinawa.

When the Allied Occupation ended and Japan regained sovereignty in 1952 under the San Francisco peace treaty, Okinawa was put under U.S. rule. Under a 1969 deal struck between Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and President Richard M. Nixon, Okinawa was returned to Japanese rule in 1972.

Pro-base candidate

Naha Okinawa Pref. KYODO

A former mayor of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, declared Wednesday that he will run against the current mayor, who opposes the construction of a coastal U.S. base in the city.

Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 67, who was mayor from 2006 to 2010, accepts the Japan-U.S. plan to build a new base to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which sits in a crowded residential area in the city of Ginowan. The plan calls for building an airstrip adjacent to Camp Schwab on the Henoko coast of Nago.

Shimabukuro told a news conference he supports the planned replacement base because it would spur the local economy.

“Unless I clarify this point (in the campaign for the Jan. 19 election), I would be cheating citizens,” he said.

Current Mayor Susumu Inamine, 68, who defeated Shimabukuro in the previous election, already declared in May that he will run for a second term.

Bunshin Suematsu, 65, a member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly from the Liberal Democratic Party, threw his hat into the ring on Oct. 24. Suematsu is backed by a pro-relocation group of Nago Municipal Assembly members and local business leaders, although he has yet to clarify his stance on the new base.

LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said Wednesday it would be best to field only one candidate who supports replacing Futenma with a new base in Nago. Otherwise the vote against Inamine could be split.

Even so, Ishiba said it is up to Okinawa residents to decide the matter, and participation by the LDP headquarters will be limited.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is opposed to replacing Futenma with another base in the prefecture and wants the air station shuttered.