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The Best Course Available

A Personal Account of the Secret U.S.-Japan Okinawa Reversion Negotiations

Wakaizumi Kei & Swenson-Wright

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. ix-x

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. 1-16

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 ...

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Preface to the English-Language Edition

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pp. 17-25

This book represents my personal account of a series of international diplomatic negotiations dealing with the territorial reversion of Okinawa to Japan. I would like, perhaps somewhat idiosyncratically, to begin the preface to the English-language version of the work by drawing attention to one of the world’s most striking flowers, known in ...

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pp. 27-29

As a participant in the Okinawa reversion negotiations, arguably one of the most important issues in postwar U.S.–Japan diplomatic relations, I am greatly indebted to a substantial number of people, both in Japan and elsewhere—teachers, colleagues, and acquaintances—without whose invaluable cooperation this work would have been impossible. ...

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Chapter 1 The Transition to the Nixon Administration

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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 ...

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Chapter 2 Denuclearized Reversion: The Prime Minister’s Decision

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pp. 49-63

After returning from Washington on January 18, 1969, other than a single meeting with Prime Minister Satò 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 ...

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Chapter 3 Prime Minister Satō, Former Prime Minister Kishi, and President Nixon

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pp. 64-85

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

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Chapter 4 Establishing The Political Hotline

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pp. 86-118

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

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Chapter 5 The West Coast White House in San Clemente

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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 Satò’s visit to ...

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Chapter 6 Okinawa’s Nuclear Weapons and Textiles

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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 ...

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Chapter 7 President Nixon’s “Ultimatum”

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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 ...

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Chapter 8 Conveying Prime Minister Satō’s Counterproposals

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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 ...

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Chapter 9 Top Secret Negotiations at the White House

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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 ...

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Chapter 10 Writing the Script in Collaboration with Henry Kissinger

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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 ...

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Chapter 11 A “Nuclear-Free, Homeland-Level” Reversion by 1972

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pp. 253-277

Prime Minister Sat

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Chapter 12 The Textiles Question

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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 Satò 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 ...

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Chapter 13 “All I Can Do Is Await the Judgment of Future Historians”

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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 ...

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Chapter 14 In the Dark Recesses of History

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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 ...

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pp. 332-335

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 ...


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pp. 337-359


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pp. 361-367

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864613
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824821463

Publication Year: 2002

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Japan.
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1989.
  • Okinawa Island (Japan) -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1989.
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