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Declassified papers show U.S. sought Japanese security role

Date Posted: 2007-09-05

Negotiations for the return of Okinawa to Japanese control 40 years ago brought U.S. demands for Japan to assume an increased role in national and regional defense.
Newly declassified document reveal details of a November 1967 summit in Washington, during which President Lyndon B. Johnson listened to Japan’s Prime Minister, Eisaku Sato, press the timing for Okinawa’s reversion to Japan. As Sato sought an immediate return, President Johnson countered with requests Japan assume a more active role in Asian regional security as a condition for Okinawa issues being on the table. Okinawa had been occupied by the United States since the end of World War II.
Fewer than half the 48 pages documenting the Johnson-Sato summit were declassified and released by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and none address past revelations of secret negotiations by Sato’s government. Nothing was included in the 22 pages released that addressed a secret deal made between Sato and Johnson in 1969 to allow American nuclear weapons in Okinawa during times of crisis.
The summit was held in Washington in November 1967. Johnson repeatedly avoided talking reversion dates with Sato, only listening as Sato asked it be done within several years. The U.S. handed back control of Okinawa in May 1972. Sato had hinted to the U.S. president that not giving Okinawa back could cause major difficulties between the two now-allies.
A significant point coming from the Sato camp was a concession that Okinawa bases would remain for the long term, noting it was “a matter of course that removing U.S., bases in Okinawa is unthinkable.”

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