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Slowly, secret U.S. nuke deals come to light [Okinawa, Japan]

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Friday, Nov. 20, 2009
Slowly, secret U.S. nuke deals come to light
By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer

OSAKA — Decades since Washington and Tokyo reportedly crafted secret agreements to allow U.S. nuclear weapons in Japanese territory, declassified documents from the U.S. detailing its nuclear presence in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan during the postwar period are slowly coming to light.

The move is creating headaches for both countries as they grapple over military bases in Okinawa and the future structure of the alliance.

The documents, some dating to the late 1950s, were publicly released by the National Security Archives at George Washington University in mid-October, not long after Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada called for an investigation into four alleged secret pacts, including allowing ships and aircraft carrying nuclear arms into Japanese territory.

The Japanese government has repeatedly denied the existence of any secret agreements. A panel of Foreign Ministry officials appointed to look into the matter is expected to issue a report by the end of the year. But disclosure of the report may be postponed until early next year, Okada said Wednesday.

In addition to the secret agreement on stopovers by vessels and planes carrying nuclear weapons, the panel will seek to confirm three other pacts.

The veiled documents include an agreement for Japan to shoulder $4 million of the cost of Okinawa's reversion to Japan, an accord to allow nuclear weapons to enter Okinawa during emergencies and the use of U.S. bases in Japan in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

On Oct. 13, the National Security Archives, which catalogs declassified U.S. government documents and posts them on its Web site, released a series of formerly top secret cables, communiques and background papers on U.S. nuclear weapons policy in Okinawa and Japan from the late 1950s until 1972.

The documents show the extent to which officials from both countries worked to deceive the Japanese public during the height of the Cold War.

For example, an April 4, 1963, cable sent by U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer to Washington about a meeting with Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira notes Ohira apparently agreed that the introduction of atomic weapons into Japan did not include nuclear arms on U.S. naval ships in Japanese waters.

"I took occasion to make clear significance of our sticking to word 'introduce,' as implying placing or installing on Japanese soil, and our previous assumption that Japanese had been intending to achieve same effect by their use of word 'mochikomu.' Ohira then remarked that under this interpretation, 'introduce' would not, repeat, not apply to hypothetical case of nuclears (sic) on vessel in Japanese waters or port, and I agreed. He then said that while Japanese had not, repeat, not in past used mochikomu with consciousness of this restricted sense, they would so use it in future," Reischauer said.

When Japan's three nonnuclear principles of never possessing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons into the country were announced several years later under Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, the words "introduce" in English and "mochikomu" in Japanese were used.

The U.S. was aware of the political fallout in Japan should word of nuclear weapons transiting the country become public. On Jan. 19, 1972, Winston Lord of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff sent the following message to other State Department officials:

"The GOJ now maintains in public that it is unaware of U.S. nuclear transit visits, and would refuse permission for such visits if we should request them. Therefore, if current transit practices were publicly exposed in an authoritative manner, the consequences would surely include:
(1) the fall of the Japanese government;
(2) enhancement of the credibility of those Opposition leaders most hostile to U.S.-Japan defense cooperation;
(3) a corresponding loss of credibility by Japanese officials that have defended U.S.-Japanese security cooperation in the past;
(4) massive doubts about U.S. respect for basic Japanese principles."

The transit of nuclear weapons in and around Japan became a huge concern when the carrier USS Ticonderoga, en route from Vietnam to Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, suffered an accident involving a nuclear weapon on Dec. 5, 1965. An A-4E aircraft loaded with a 1-megaton B43 hydrogen bomb rolled off the carrier with the weapon and pilot aboard and sank in 5,000 meters of water.

The accident was kept secret until 1981, when the Defense Department acknowledged it had taken place, but initially said it occurred more than 800 km from land. However, U.S. Navy documents show the accident occurred about 128 km from Kikaijima in the Ryukyu Island chain.

It is believed the bomb was never retrieved.

No single entry in the newly declassified documents clearly constitutes a smoking gun for U.S. nukes in Okinawa after 1972, when the prefecture was returned to Japan. The documents do suggest, however, that Washington had considered it necessary to place nuclear weapons in the prefecture beyond the reversion.

On April 28, 1969, in a top-secret memo, the U.S. National Security Council outlined key bilateral issues for the Nixon administration, which had just taken office.

On Okinawa's reversion, it noted there were a couple of issues: "Denial of our present nuclear rights on Okinawa would necessarily impact upon both the capability and the credibility of the U.S. forward-deployed nuclear deterrent."

Prime evidence for the existence of such an agreement can be found in "Tasaku Nakarishi wo Shinzemu to Hossu" ("The Best Course Available"), the memoirs of Kei Wakaizumi, a former diplomat who said he arranged the agreement along with Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon's national security adviser at the time.

Wakaizumi, who passed away in 1996, originally published the book in 1994, but few people apart from diplomatic historians took notice.

An updated version appeared after the Democratic Party of Japan took office in September. In it, Wakaizumi introduced what he said was a top secret minute to a joint communique signed between Prime Minister Sato and Nixon on Nov. 21, 1969.

"As stated in our Joint Communique, it is the intention of the United States Government to remove all the nuclear weapons from Okinawa by the time of actual reversion of the administrative rights to Japan; and thereafter the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and its related arrangements will apply to Okinawa, as described in the Joint Communique.

"However, in order to discharge effectively the international obligations assumed by the United States for the defense of countries in the Far East including Japan, in time of great emergency the United States Government will require the re-entry of nuclear weapons and transit rights in Okinawa with prior consultation with the Government of Japan. The United States Government would anticipate a favorable response. The United States Government also requires the standby retention and activation in time of great emergency of existing nuclear storage locations in Okinawa: Kadena, Naha, Henoko, and Nike Hercules units.

"The Government of Japan, appreciating the United States Government's requirements in time of great emergency as stated above by the President, will meet these requirements without delay when such prior consultation takes place. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that this Minute, in duplicate, be kept each only in the offices of the President and the Prime Minister and be treated in the strictest confidence between only the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Japan."

Over the past several months, U.S. officials have said that all documents related to the question of U.S. nukes speak for themselves. But as the National Security Archives notes, many documents remain classified. Whether they become public, and whether they further prove or disprove the existence of a secret agreement, is no longer a matter of interest to history but to current politics.

Retired diplomat to testify on secret pact: Ex-bureaucrat, 91, set to tell court of Okinawa reversion deal
Monday, Nov. 30, 2009
Kyodo News

A former senior Foreign Ministry official will testify Tuesday before the Tokyo District Court about state documents that plaintiffs argue indicate the existence of a secret Japan-U.S. pact about cost burdens for the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan.

Although successive administrations of the now-ousted Liberal Democratic Party consistently denied the secret pact existed, 91-year-old Bunroku Yoshino, the ministry's former American Bureau chief who was one of Japan's negotiators for the reversion, has claimed otherwise.

The documents include one that is supposed to indicate that Japan secretly shouldered $4 million in costs on behalf of the United States to restore Okinawa farmland used by the U.S. military.

Presiding Judge Norihiko Sugihara summoned Yoshino to appear in court in October. The summons had to be approved by the Foreign Ministry based on a provision in the code of civil procedure pertaining to questions to a witness involving secrets handled as part of diplomatic work.

Yoshino's testimony is expected to give impetus to moves to disclose other secret pacts, particularly one in which Japan allegedly turned a blind eye to stopovers by nuclear-armed U.S. vessels and aircraft — an agreement that goes against the nation's three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, developing or permitting the entry of nuclear weapons.

Those pacts are now under investigation by a Foreign Ministry team after the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in the August general election by ousting the long-ruling LDP.

One of the plaintiffs, former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Takichi Nishiyama, 78, is seeking to clear his name. He was convicted in the 1970s of arranging for a female Foreign Ministry bureaucrat to hand over classified documents about the negotiation process behind the reversion of Okinawa.

In an earlier trial involving Nishiyama, Yoshino testified for the prosecution, denying the existence of the secret documents. He made similar denials in the Diet.

But in court Tuesday, Yoshino will testify on behalf of the plaintiffs, standing by Nishiyama nearly four decades after testifying against his claims.

Yoshino apparently changed his position after the United States between 2000 and 2002 declassified official documents that included secret pacts with Japan regarding the Okinawa reversion.

In April 2005, Nishiyama filed a damages suit with the Tokyo District Court, claiming his career as a reporter was ruined by the conviction. The suit was rejected by the Supreme Court in September 2008 without referring to whether the pact existed.

Yoshino meanwhile began featuring in media reports in 2006 — while Nishiyama was still pursuing damages. Yoshino admitted the secret pact existed and said the initials "B.Y." on related documents were his.

The latest litigation was brought by 25 plaintiffs, including Nishiyama, in March. They are demanding that the government disclose documents pertaining to the alleged secret pacts based on the people's right to know.

"The significance of the latest trial is that it demonstrates we will continue to pursue this issue," Nishiyama said recently.

"Mr. Yoshino will appear as a sworn witness in court. It's different from appearing in the media. (In court) he could face a perjury charge," Nishiyama said, adding the retired bureaucrat's testimony carries "very important meaning as it will be tantamount to an assertion that the government has lied about the secret pact."

Yoshino said he now wants to reveal the truth because the United States has disclosed the official documents for the secret pacts, and there have been several publications on the issue released in Japan.

"There is no doubt that I signed those official documents and they are authentic documents. All the records are there, so I believe nothing should be hidden any longer," he added.

Yoshino said had he admitted the existence of the secret pact before Okinawa was finally returned to Japanese sovereignty from the United States on May 15, 1972, the reversion "would have undoubtedly been broken off."

Paper on secret nuke pact kept by Sato family
Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009
Kyodo News

A document on a secret Japan-U.S. pact signed by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and President Richard Nixon in 1969 allowing the United States to introduce nuclear weapons into Okinawa in the event of an emergency has been kept by the Sato family, a close relative disclosed Tuesday.

If the document is genuine, it would put an end to debate over the existence of the secret pact, which has long been denied by the Foreign Ministry.

It would also influence the ongoing probe by a third-party panel set up by the Foreign Ministry to look into nuclear deals between the two countries.

According to Shinji Sato, the former prime minister's son and a former transport minister, the document records the minutes of a secret conversation between Sato and Nixon during a meeting in November 1969, when the two countries were negotiating the return of Okinawa to Japan.

Shinji Sato said the document indicates that during this meeting, the two sides agreed that with prior consultation the U.S. could bring nuclear weapons into Okinawa in the event of a crisis in Japan or elsewhere in East Asia.

According to him, both parties also agreed to classify this document and keep it only in the White House and the prime minister's office.

He said the document was originally found in 1987, when Hiroko Sato, the wife of Eisaku Sato, died and the family was organizing belongings at their home in Daizawa in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. The family has kept the document since then, Shinji Sato said.

The existence of the document was noted in a book by a scholar of international politics but had not been publicly confirmed.

Eisaku Sato won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for his three-point nonnuclear principles — not possessing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons to enter Japan.

But the document proves he violated the stated defense policy of Japan, according to his son. A number of statements of former diplomats have strongly indicated the pact did exist, despite the Foreign Ministry's official denials.

Japan Report: Private Agreements Allowed US to Bring Nukes
State Department Shrugs Off Reports, Pentagon Declines Comment
by Jason Ditz, March 09, 2010

Following through on a pledged investigation into “secret agreements” made by the previous government, Japan today issued a report revealing that the Liberal Democratic Party governments violated the nation’s official bans and allowed the United States to transport and even store nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.

Not long after taking power last year, the Democratic Party of Japan revealed that they had found documents proving that their predecessors had signed secret deals with the United States as early as 1960 regarding nuclear weapons. The announcement came with the pledge of a full report.

Rumors of the deal, a flagrant violation of Japan’s non-nuclear stance since it was attacked with nuclear weapons in 1945, have been long-standing, but the LDP governments had repeatedly denied that any such deal existed. It is unclear what, if any, legal ramifications those who were in power at the time might face, but the current government is likely to gain big from uncovering it.

The US State Department downplayed the possibility that it might have any impact on US-Japan relations, saying they had lived up to their end of the treaties. This does appear to be the case, though they had to know at the time that the treaties were illegal under Japanese law. The Pentagon, for its part, refused to comment at all, saying that they don’t discuss specific nuclear weapons movements.

MAY 14, 1997
Contact: Dr. Robert A. Wampler
202-994-7237; 202-994-7005 (FAX)

The National Security Archive is today releasing on its World Wide Web site a set of recently-declassified U.S. documents obtained by Dr. Robert Wampler, Director of the Archive's U.S.-Japan Project, which shed important new light upon the role Okinawa and U.S. military bases on that island have played in U.S.-Japanese relations and American strategy in the Pacific. These documents were in part the basis for a documentary entitled "The Truth About the Okinawan Reversion After 25 Years: The Role of U.S. Bases as Shown in Classified Documents." NHK-Japan Broadcasting aired the documentary on its "Close-Up: Gendai" news program on the evening of May 14th (JST).

By far the most important and news-worthy of the documents are those which relate to NSSM 5, the National Security Council study produced in the spring of 1969 which analyzed the U.S. objectives and negotiating position on Okinawan reversion, with particular attention given to the question of the future of U.S. nuclear weapons based on the island. The documents relating to this report are:

[Go to the above link to access the following documents]

(1) Memorandum, Ambassador Brown to Secretary Rogers, 4/29/69, Subject: NSC Meeting April 30 - Policy Toward Japan: Briefing Memorandum (Secret), with attached -

(2) Memorandum, Davis to Office of the Vice President, etc., 4/29/69, Subject: U.S.-Japanese Relationship: Summary (Top Secret), with attached

(3) NSSM 5 - Japan, Table of Contents and Part III: Okinawa Reversion (Secret)

(4) NSDM 13: Policy Toward Japan, 5/28/69

(5) Memorandum of Conversation, Nixon/Sato, 11/19/69 (Top Secret/Sensitive)

Documents 1-3 were originally marked by State Department reviewers as to remain secret "until expiration of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty." These documents provide a detailed discussion of the issues surrounding U.S. nuclear weapons in Okinawa and their fate following reversion, and makes recommendations as to the position the U.S. government should take in negotiations with Japan on this issue. Page 2 of the first document and pages 2-3 of the second one provide an overview of the issues, based on the more detailed discussion found in the attached NSSM 5 extract. This extract can only be found in one place, an obscure State Department record collection which Dr. Wampler discovered at the U.S. National Archives. The National Security Council had previously denied release of the material found in document No. 3, including even the descriptive information found on the table of contents. Dr. Wampler noted that Document No. 3 contains "a detailed discussion of U.S. military rights and interests regarding nuclear weapons on Okinawa, in terms of nuclear storage and freedom for nuclear operations in the Pacific and Asia. Until now, both Washington and Tokyo have maintained a veil of secrecy wrapped in refusals to comment on these subjects." (see pages 21-26 of Document No. 3) Of especial importance, Dr. Wampler notes, is the statement on page 25 under '(4) Only Transit Rights for Nuclear Armed Planes and Ships': "Japan now acquiesces in transit by naval vessels armed with nuclear weapons. This right would automatically extend to Okinawa. (This is sensitive and closely held information)." [emphasis added]

The policy paper which resulted from this analysis and the ensuing discussion within the U.S. government is Document No. 4: NSDM 13: Policy Toward Japan, dated May 28, 1969. Document No. 5 records President Nixon's meeting with Prime Minister Sato on November 19, 1969 at the White House during which they discussed these issues. This record is similar to the account which appeared in the memoirs of the late Prof. Kei Wakaizumi, Sato's secret emissary who conducted negotiations on Okinawa with Henry Kissinger, Nixon's National Security Advisor. lending credence to Wakaizumi's claims that a secret arrangement on the emergency reintroduction of nuclear weapons into Okinawa following reversion was part of the Okinawa agreement.

The other documents which NHK is highlighting in its documentary and reports are:

(6) Memorandum of Conversation, Rusk/Sato, 1/13/65, Subject: U.S.-Japan Relations and Related World Problems (Secret)

(7) Senior Interdepartmental Group Memorandum, 6/6/66, with attached paper, "Our Ryukyus Bases"

(8) Memorandum of Conversation, William Bundy/Japanese Ambassador Shimoda, 7/10/67, Subject: Okinawa and the Bonin Islands (Secret/Exdis/Need to Know)

(9) Memorandum JCSM-406-67, JCS Chairman Wheeler to Secretary of Defense McNamara, 7/20/67, Subject: Future Use of Ryukuan Bases (Top Secret)

(10) Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, 8/7/67, Subject: Reversion of Okinawa and the Bonins (Top Secret)

(11) Memorandum of Conversation, Rusk/Sato, 11/15/67, Subject: Ryukyus and Bonins (Secret/Exdis)

(12) Memorandum, Sneider to Bundy, 12/24/68, Subject: Trip Report: Okinawan Reversion on the Front Burner (Secret/Exdis) with attached memoranda: Japan-Okinawa-Short Term, and Japan-Okinawa Reversion

(13) State Department Cable Tokyo 212, American Embassy Tokyo to Secretary of State, 1/11/69, subject: Ambassador Johnson/Foreign Minister Aichi discussion re Okinawa.

All of these documents provide new insights into U.S. interests and policy objectives with regard to the military importance of Okinawa and how to mesh U.S. military requirements with the political problems created for U.S.-Japanese relations by the continued U.S. presence on the island, and in particular by the nuclear role played by these forces. "These are records of particularly high-level discussions between U.S. and Japanese officials and leaders," Dr. Wampler emphasized, "giving a unique perspective on how these issues were being managed at the highest levels as both governments struggled with the dilemma posed by Okinawa, a dilemma which still bedevils the alliance."

The National Security Archive,
The Gelman Library, George Washington University
2130 H Street, NW, Suite 701, Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-994-7000 / Fax: 202-994-7005


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