Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi pressed U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower at a summit in 1957 to consider setting a deadline for returning Okinawa, saying the Japanese public might otherwise become nervous about U.S. intentions, according to Japanese diplomatic records declassified Wednesday.
The talks, 15 years before Okinawa's 1972 return to Japan following U.S. rule after World War II, underscored Kishi's readiness to work for Okinawa in addition to revising an original Japan-U.S. security treaty that Tokyo had seen as unequal.
But the Japanese leader endorsed the continuing presence of U.S. forces in Okinawa, saying they are "needed for the security of the Far East."
While U.S. documents have already unveiled the contours of the June 19 talks, the newly declassified Foreign Ministry records shed light on the details of the summit held during a U.S. visit by Kishi, the grandfather of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who served as premier between 1957 and 1960.
According to the records, Kishi said, "The Japanese people can't help feeling nervous about the intentions of American people" because the U.S. administration of Okinawa remained open-ended.
While stressing Japan's position at the height of the Cold War to oppose Communism, advocate liberalism and put emphasis on cooperation with the United States, he said, "Few people think it is fine to leave the current Japan-U.S. relations as they are."
"I find it difficult to accept the view that we must totally leave (Okinawa's) administration" to the U.S. side, he added.
Eisenhower said Okinawa would be needed to quickly respond in case of invasion, suggesting its return was not an option at that time, but also left room for future negotiations, saying it would be possible to consider the matter with the Japanese side, according to the records.
A memo dated April 1, 1957, created by the Japanese side to prepare for the summit, contains a plan to urge the United States to return Okinawa "in 10 years," but there was no record of Kishi mentioning a concrete deadline in the talks.
A joint statement issued after the summit simply confirmed Japan's potential sovereignty over Okinawa.
When the postwar Allied occupation ended and Japan regained sovereignty in 1952 under the San Francisco peace treaty, Okinawa was put under U.S. rule. Under a 1969 deal struck between Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and President Richard Nixon, Okinawa was returned to Japanese rule in 1972.