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Prime Minister Eisaku Sato told a senior diplomat in 1970 to hold backroom negotiations with the United States to settle a long-standing bilateral textile trade dispute, Japanese diplomatic documents declassified Friday showed.

According to a March 5, 1970, document, Sato instructed Bunroku Yoshino, minister at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, to work together with the United States on finding “a way of sneaking off behind the scenes” through a secret meeting with influential presidential aide Henry Kissinger.

Sato issued the order after he failed to honor an agreement he reached with President Richard M. Nixon during a summit in November 1969 to settle the dispute over Japan’s textile exports to the United States by the end of that year.

At that time, Sato was in dire need of meeting U.S. demands over the textile trade talks, Nixon’s pet project, as the prime minister wished to gain Nixon’s promise to return Okinawa to Japan in 1972 after removing nuclear arms in the prefecture.

A separate declassified document showed that Nixon, during the 1969 summit talks with Sato, handed over a secret document that lists Washington’s demands for Japan’s export controls.

The one-page list written in English, labeled as top secret, was attached to a document on the summit talks.

The reference to the secret list in the document being disclosed this time backs up a story in a book by Kei Wakaizumi, a scholar of international politics known as Sato’s emissary in the bilateral negotiations on the return of Okinawa.

Wakaizumi says in his work that Kissinger gave him a secret document addressed to Sato ahead of the 1969 summit meeting.

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