The Best Course Available

The Best Course Available: A Personal Account of the Secret U.S.-Japan Okinawa Reversion Negotiations

Wakaizumi Kei
Edited by John Swenson-Wright
Copyright Date: 2002
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Best Course Available
    Book Description:

    This volume affords a fascinating and rare look at the sensitive issue of nuclear diplomacy between two critical Cold War allies, the United States and Japan, during the 1960s. Challenging the silence of the official bureaucracies in Washington and Tokyo, Wakaizumi Kei reveals the truth behind the secret 1969 agreement that ensured the eventual reversion of Okinawa to Japanese jurisdiction in 1972. Revelation of this secret accord created considerable controversy in Japan when Wakaizumi's memoir was first published in 1994. With the publication of this translation, his description of the events leading up to the closed-door agreement is available to an English-language audience for the first time. At a time when security matters are once again predominant in the U.S.-Japan alliance, Professor Wakaizumi's account is a timely reminder of the gap between official, media-filtered descriptions of diplomatic relations and the private discussions of national leaders. The long-standing reluctance of the Japanese government to declassify its postwar diplomatic records has meant that Japan's side of its relationship with the U.S. has been only partially revealed. The Best Course Available attempts to correct this shortcoming and at the same time provides insight into the complicated and arcane process of foreign policymaking, national leadership, and domestic politics in Japan after 1945.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6461-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Editor’s Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    John Swenson-Wright

    History, according to the conventional wisdom, rarely if ever repeats itself. However, in the case of Okinawa and its significance in the wider U.S.–Japan post-1945 relationship, perhaps the most striking feature has been the recurrence of common themes and familiar points of tension in a complex interplay between national governments and among politicians, bureaucrats, and public opinions within both Japan and the United States. In September 1995 the rape of a twelve-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl by three U.S. Marines suddenly and shockingly provoked a crisis in relations between Washington and Tokyo. Virtually instantaneously, the event cast into relief a long-standing...

  4. Preface to the English-Language Edition
    (pp. 17-26)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 27-32)
  6. Chapter 1 The Transition to the Nixon Administration
    (pp. 33-48)

    In the November 1968 American presidential elections, Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon was chosen as the thirty-seventh president of the United States. However, Nixon had obtained only 43.5 percent of the vote, winning by only a 0.5 percent margin over the Democratic candidate and incumbent vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Such a tiny margin was unexpected—as my friends in Washington had told me at the end of September, Mr. Nixon’s victory had been predicted for quite some time. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June 1968, Nixon’s victory had seemed certain, but in the final stages of the contest...

  7. Chapter 2 Denuclearized Reversion: The Prime Minister’s Decision
    (pp. 49-63)

    After returning from Washington on January 18, 1969, other than a single meeting with Prime Minister Satō five days following my return (and a report to former prime minister Kishi), I devoted all my energies and activities to the success of the Japan–U.S. Kyoto Conference, in my capacity as a member of the Okinawa Bases Problems Research Council (Okinawa Kichi Mondai Kenkyūkai or Kichiken—the Bases Research Council).

    This Japan–U.S. Kyoto Conference on Okinawa and Asia¹ was held at Kyoto International Hall and organized by the Japan–U.S. Kyoto Conference Executive Committee (in actuality the Bases Research Council)....

  8. Chapter 3 Prime Minister Satō, Former Prime Minister Kishi, and President Nixon
    (pp. 64-85)

    According to Kusuda Minoru (the prime minister’s right-hand man and adviser throughout the Satō administration), Satō’s general position on the Okinawa problem could, at the beginning of March 1969, be summarized as follows:

    1. Both the White House and State Department are increasingly aware of the need to resolve the Okinawa problem speedily in order to maintain healthy U.S.–Japan relations.

    2. Nevertheless, the Pentagon, and some members of Congress’ securityrelated Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, remain reluctant to allow a quick reversion. The hard-line view favoring maintaining the status quo over the bases, should reversion occur, is still...

  9. Chapter 4 Establishing The Political Hotline
    (pp. 86-118)

    Talks between the Japanese and American governments began at the end of April 1969 with preliminary negotiations in Washington attended by Tōgō Fumihiko, bureau director of the Foreign Office’s North American Affairs Bureau. Tōgō described the event as follows in his memoirs:

    In essence, I explained in these talks that the Japanese government accepted the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese jurisdiction as set forth in the aforementioned framework. None of the discussions at the State Department, the White House, and the Pentagon gave rise to any great debate, although I felt the Americans’ stance on both the nuclear issue and...

  10. Chapter 5 The West Coast White House in San Clemente
    (pp. 119-147)

    I had ended the two initial meetings with Henry Kissinger on July 18 and 21 feeling nearly completely satisfied. First of all, I saw a clear agreement being reached on the establishment of a political hotline, which was my primary objective. Second, I had been able to elicit the opinion of President Nixon concerning Prime Minister Satō’s visit to the United States—namely, nothing would be done to make matters awkward for the prime minister. I was also delighted to have detected a positive outlook for a nuclear-free return of Okinawa. Still unresolved were Japan’s stance on prior consultation and...

  11. Chapter 6 Okinawa’s Nuclear Weapons and Textiles
    (pp. 148-170)

    One of the focal issues in the third round of negotiations had been the Vietnam War, but there was another very important topic that had to be brought up at the meeting between the prime minister and myself on September 16. This was, not surprisingly, the nuclear issue—from my perspective an issue of vital importance. During my conversation with Satō, we had barely finished discussing the question of Vietnam before I felt the need to raise the matter. Somewhat animatedly, I volunteered,

    We cannot afford to concede our position that Okinawa should be returned without nuclear weapons. Whatever happens,...

  12. Chapter 7 President Nixon’s “Ultimatum”
    (pp. 171-184)

    Foreign Minister Aichi returned to Japan on the evening of September 27 after a tour of more than three weeks that had taken him to the Soviet Union, Belgium, and the United States. His statement, delivered on landing at Haneda Airport, detailed, among other things, his impressions on the Okinawa question; these were on the whole positive, looking forward to Satō’s planned November 19–21 summit with Nixon in Washington, and anticipating a “satisfactory resolution” despite some tough negotiating in the final stages.¹ Aichi was also careful to outline his expectation that a “package deal” would be pursued aiming at...

  13. Chapter 8 Conveying Prime Minister Satō’s Counterproposals
    (pp. 185-201)

    By the time I met with the prime minister on the morning of October 23, the preparations for the summit were approaching completion. Our meeting started at 9:20 A.M. and lasted for about half an hour, taking place in the same room as usual in the official residence. The prime minister was very eager to learn whether I had received any communications from the United States. He told me that in the discussions at the diplomatic level a few problems remained aside from the nuclear issue, and he pointed out that they were still awaiting answers from Ambassador Meyer and...

  14. Chapter 9 Top Secret Negotiations at the White House
    (pp. 202-229)

    From November 6 to 10, I hid myself away from the diffuse late autumn sunlight in a room at the Statler Hilton Hotel (my regular home while in Washington) and focused all my energies on preparing materials for the planned discussions with presidential aide Henry Kissinger on the afternoon of the 10th. Wary of bumping into anyone I knew, I barely set foot outside my room and relied on room service for my meals.

    My first task was to translate into English the drafts for paragraph 7 of the joint communiqué concerning a nuclear-free Okinawa. In the process I added...

  15. Chapter 10 Writing the Script in Collaboration with Henry Kissinger
    (pp. 230-252)

    As the previous chapter revealed, my meeting with Kissinger on the 12th had enabled us to agree on an appropriate format for the “procedural arrangements” concerning textiles and the nuclear issue, as well as the final copy of the agreed minutes for the summit. Our “script” indicated how the principal players should proceed during the face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Satō and President Nixon and allowed us to brief the two national leaders on the details of the forthcoming agreement.

    The textiles problem was a source of considerable interest for the United States. Neither Kissinger nor I was an expert...

  16. Chapter 11 A “Nuclear-Free, Homeland-Level” Reversion by 1972
    (pp. 253-277)

    Prime Minister Satō and his entourage left Haneda Airport at 10:04 A.M. on November 17, amid driving rain and elaborate security arrangements, and flew via Anchorage, Alaska, arriving in Washington on the same day, local time. Because of time differences and the international dateline, they reached Washington virtually at the same time as they had left Japan. On landing at Dulles International Airport, the prime minister made a brief statement. In Washington, the Japanese delegation also encountered a small group of demonstrators (a number of whom were Japanese) protesting against the Vietnam War and apparently focused on raising the awareness...

  17. Chapter 12 The Textiles Question
    (pp. 278-299)

    On November 19, at 5:50 P.M. local time (7:50 A.M. on November 20 in Japan), after the end of the first round of the Japan–America leadership talks and the subsequent afternoon negotiations between Satō and Rogers, I received (as described in the previous chapter) a phone call from the prime minister. The day was a historic one since the United States had officially agreed to return Okinawa to Japan in 1972, essentially in line with the wishes of the Japanese government. However, there was one delicate matter on the agenda—the textiles problem—that remained to be resolved in...

  18. Chapter 13 “All I Can Do Is Await the Judgment of Future Historians”
    (pp. 300-310)

    On November 21, in the middle of the night, every television channel in Japan broadcast its own special program of a long-awaited national event. It was a time when I was feeling especially tense, given the significance of the events taking place. I remained rooted in front of the television, watching an NHK satellite broadcast from Washington that combined additional footage from Tokyo and Naha (Okinawa’s capital). Nervously, I switched channels several times, concerned not to miss anything significant. Finally, shortly before 1:00 A.M. (11:00 A.M. on November 21 in Washington), Prime Minister Satō and President Nixon, having just completed...

  19. Chapter 14 In the Dark Recesses of History
    (pp. 311-331)

    At ten past three on the afternoon of November 26 the prime minister and his party arrived in Haneda Airport on a special Japan Airlines flight. At the airport, the prime minister was greeted by both Japanese and American government officials: on the Japanese side, several cabinet members were present, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Ishida and Acting Vice Premier Hori, as well as numerous LDP Diet members, including the party vice president Kawashima [Shōjirō] and Secretary General Tanaka [Kakuei]. The American side was represented by David Osborne, the deputy chief of mission and acting U.S. ambassador to Japan [while...

  20. Afterword
    (pp. 332-336)

    The history of the Japanese-American friendship, which has gone through many changes, stretches back over 150 years. As is well known, relations between the two countries began in 1853, when Commodore Matthew C. Perry, at the head of an American expedition, arrived in Edo (Tokyo) harbor with his four “Black Ships” and at gunpoint forcibly ended 250 years of deliberate isolation under the Tokugawa regime. It is interesting to note that Perry first landed at Naha (the current capital of Okinawa) in the Ryūkyūs, and when he experienced difficulty during his negotiations, he would frequently retire to Okinawa, from where...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 337-360)
  22. Index
    (pp. 361-368)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 369-369)