Diplomatic documents declassified Wednesday by the Foreign Ministry confirm that Japan and the United States had a secret pact under which Tokyo paid an additional $65 million to finance costs related to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.
U.S. documents have shown that the two countries secretly agreed that Japan would pay the money to cover goods and services for the improvement and transfer of U.S. military facilities, in addition to $320 million in reversion costs to be shouldered by Japan under an official agreement struck in June 1971.
The newly revealed Japanese documents show that an official asked the United States not to disclose the amount of additional expenses for the reversion for fear of being accused of misleading the Diet.
A confidential note dated Oct. 22, 1971, written by an official in the Foreign Ministry’s First North America Division shows that a staff member of the U.S. Embassy told the official that the U.S. would be compelled to cite “the figure of 65 (million)” in explaining the additional Japanese payment at a secret congressional meeting.
The Japanese official responded that the Foreign Ministry was aware the financial authorities of the two countries had reached an accord for an additional payment of $65 million, but that the Japanese government “has told the Diet that Japan is not obliged to pay to the United States in excess of ($)320 (million).”
With those remarks, the official apparently requested that the United States not divulge the specific figure of $65 million.
Masaaki Gabe, a University of the Ryukyus professor who has looked into the secret financial pact by examining U.S. archives, said now that the Japanese documents have confirmed the accord’s existence, the government should launch a full-fledged probe into the matter.
In March, then Finance Minister Naoto Kan admitted there was “a secret pact in a broad sense” between Japan and the United States regarding the payments related to Okinawa’s reversion, following an investigation by the Finance Ministry. Kan said he believed Japan paid more than $320 million in official reversion costs.
In a related development, the release of the declassified documents suggests the possibility that papers may have been discarded related to an alleged secret pact concerning Japan’s payment on behalf of the United States of $4 million to restore land occupied by the U.S. military at the time of the Okinawa reversion.
The papers that may have been dumped are connected to a high-profile scandal involving former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Takichi Nishiyama, who was convicted in the 1970s for urging a Foreign Ministry secretary to give him copies of classified documents about the negotiation process for the reversion.
A list of files that were newly made available at the Diplomatic Record Office indicates there were documents concerning the scandal, but only a cover for the missing papers remains.
Among 291 files of declassified diplomatic documents released Wednesday were papers revealing that there was a call within the U.S. government to agree to the reversion before a bilateral accord was struck in 1969.
In the year before President Richard M. Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato reached the accord in November 1969, Morton Halperin, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, told a Japanese official that Okinawa would be returned by the end of 1972 if the two countries could agree on the matter in June 1969.
Halperin was part of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. After Nixon’s inauguration in January 1969, he moved to the White House and was briefly involved in U.S. policy on the reversion of Okinawa.
The content of his talks with the head of the Foreign Ministry’s First North America Division was recorded in a cable dated June 18, 1968, by Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Takeso Shimoda.
The newly declassified documents also reveal that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara expressed his displeasure with the Japanese government over its attempt to secure Okinawa’s return.
The minutes for talks held Nov. 2, 1967, between Foreign Minister Takeo Miki and Seiho Matsuoka, chief executive of the government of the U.S.-controlled Ryukyu Islands, show that McNamara told Matsuoka that Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was the root cause of the U.S. occupation of Okinawa.
Matsuoka quoted McNamara, who led the U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s, as telling him that Japan was less cooperative with the United States than South Korea in the area of defense, even though it had achieved economic development under the wing of U.S. defense capabilities. South Korea sent troops to the Vietnam War.
McNamara, believed to have made the remarks during Matsuoka’s trip to the United States in spring 1967, also suggested that the departure of the U.S. military from Okinawa would harm the defense of Japan, the minutes show.
McNamara likely made the negative comments about Okinawa’s return because the prefecture hosted U.S. bases used by aircraft to bomb Vietnam, experts said.