• SHARE

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on Tuesday denied a report that Japan secretly paid $200 million to the United States over the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese rule, saying he has checked it directly with the official allegedly involved.

Kono told reporters that he talked with Bunroku Yoshino, then head of the American Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, after the report of secret deals appeared Monday in a Japanese newspaper.

Yoshino, whose handwritten initials reportedly exist on a related declassified U.S. document, “said there are no such documents in Japan because such secret deals do not exist,” Kono said.

“Successive foreign ministers and those involved in negotiations on the reversion have repeatedly made it clear that there were no secret deals . . . and this remains our government’s position,” Kono said.

“I really regret that it has been raised again and again,” he said.

In its top story Monday, the Asahi Shimbun said it had obtained declassified U.S. government documents that indicate top-secret agreements were concluded prior to Okinawa’s return burdening Japan with various costs related to the reversion.

One of the documents indicated that Yoshino told Richard Sneider, then minister at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, that Japan would cover the restoration costs, the newspaper reported.

The document bears Yoshino’s handwritten initials, it said.

The newspaper said Japan covered the $4 million the U.S. was to pay to restore Okinawa to its original state.

while allocating funds to provide goods and services to the U.S. military in Okinawa.

The allocations included $65 million to improve and relocate U.S. military facilities, $10 million for personnel administration and $112 million to cover interest payments, according to the Asahi.

The newspaper said its study of the documents was conducted with Masaaki Gabe, a professor at Okinawa’s University of the Ryukyus who obtained the documents through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

According to announcements by the Japanese government as well as declassified U.S. government documents, Japan spent $320 million on the purchase of assets, labor costs and other expenses involved in the reversion of Okinawa, which the U.S. ruled for 27 years from the end of World War II.

Since 1976, the Foreign Ministry has been declassifying 30-year-old diplomatic records that do not pose a risk to state security, diplomatic negotiations or privacy. The latest were released Sunday.

But the ministry has never released documents related to Japan-U.S. negotiations over the return of Okinawa, the newspaper said.