Signed paper confirms secret pact on Okinawa reversion


Japan effectively acknowledged the existence of a signed paper confirming its commitment to pay $65 million to the United States military in connection with the 1972 reversion of Okinawa, a newly declassified diplomatic cable showed Thursday.

While a declassified U.S. document has already shown that Tokyo and Washington reached a secret bilateral pact on the costs involved in facility improvements and base relocation, the cable for the first time shows that there also was a paper confirming specific expenses.

The two countries secretly agreed that Japan would pay $65 million — worth around ¥234 billion in today’s economy — to improve and relocate facilities outside the purview of the $320 million Tokyo had already agreed to pay Washington under an accord specifying Okinawa’s reversion to Japan.

A memorandum of understanding signed in December 1969 between Vice Finance Minister Yusuke Kashiwagi and his counterpart at the U.S. Treasury Department, Anthony Jurich, already has been found in declassified U.S. records.

But the freshly declassified diplomatic cable shows that the two countries confirmed the outlines of the memorandum anew. The document was apparently drafted in the runup to the signing of the Okinawa reversion accord on June 17, 1971.

The confidential cable was sent by the Japanese ambassador to France on June 9, 1971, and elaborates on negotiations that Japan and the United States had held the previous night.

According to the cable, Tokyo and Washington confirmed that the $65 million would be provided consistent with a status of forces agreement stipulating that costs associated with maintaining U.S. military bases in Japan would be covered entirely by the United States.

But the cable said the provision would be implemented in “as flexible (a manner) as possible.”

In the negotiations, a U.S. State Department official in charge of Japan affairs told Bunroku Yoshino, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s American Affairs Bureau, that there were strong concerns within the U.S. Defense Department over the scope of the expenses, according to the cable.

To address the concerns, the cable said the U.S. official asked Yoshino to reaffirm at a meeting between Foreign Minister Kiichi Aichi and Secretary of State William Rogers on June 9 that in addition to the construction of new bases, the money “will be disbursed for repairs and maintenance,” expenses that could violate the terms of the status of forces agreement.

The cable also noted that an instruction had been issued to Richard Sneider, a U.S. diplomat in Japan, to provide to the Japanese side an “illustrative list” describing what the U.S. side thought the facility improvements and relocation should consist of when the summary of the memorandum was signed.

Secrets of Nixon shock

Japan-U.S. textile talks in the late 1960s and early 1970s got bogged down early because the two countries’ leaders couldn’t overcome a wide gap in their views, revealing the difficulty in carrying out their secret agreement, according to diplomatic documents made public Thursday.

The negotiations followed the election of Richard Nixon as president in 1968. One of Nixon’s campaign pledges was to put restrictions on textile imports from Japan.

In November 1969, Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato agreed that Japan would impose voluntary restrictions on textile exports to the United States in exchange for the return of Okinawa in 1972, the documents showed.

Only the two leaders and their close aides knew the details of the accord. While the U.S. at the time maintained that Japan’s voluntary export restraints would cover a wide range of products, Japan stressed that they should only apply to a limited number.

On Nov. 29 that year, the U.S. told Japanese Ambassador Takeso Shimoda in Washington that Nixon and Sato had agreed to make comprehensive restrictions.

But Foreign Minister Kiichi Aichi said in a telegraph message dated Dec. 1 that Sato had repeatedly rejected comprehensive restrictions.

The disclosed documents revealed that the discrepancy in views soured relations between Japan and the United States.

Unaware of the secret accord, the Japanese textile industry reacted sharply against the tough U.S. stance on bilateral textile trade, further tangling negotiations between the two governments.

Shimoda and other Japanese government officials involved in the negotiations thus considered it necessary to disclose the secret agreement and explain the situation to the public.

But Sato consistently denied the secret accord, keeping the negotiations bogged down until trade minister Kakuei Tanaka complied with U.S. demands for an agreement between the two countries in October 1971.

The deteriorating bilateral relations were behind a series of events known as the Nixon shock, such as Washington’s unilateral cancellation of the direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold in July 1971, which ended the yen’s fixed exchange rate of 360 to the dollar, and Nixon’s visit to China without Tokyo’s prior knowledge, according to experts on Japan-U.S. relations.

The Japan-U.S. textile negotiations are a “typical example” of the difficulties involved in maintaining a secret agreement without having it in writing, said Takashi Shinobu, professor of international politics at Nihon University.