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Reviewed by:
  • Negotiating the U.S.-Japan Alliance: Japan Confidential by Yukinori Komine
  • William L. Brooks (bio)
Negotiating the U.S.-Japan Alliance: Japan Confidential. By Yukinori Komine. Routledge, London, 2017. xxii, 258 pages. $160.00, cloth; $49.95, paper; $24.98, E-book.

This meticulously researched book on "negotiating the U.S.-Japan alliance" might be subtitled "the untold story," since it relies heavily on declassified sensitive documents of the U.S. and Japanese governments that significantly update a familiar narrative. The author, Yukinori Komine, adds fascinating hitherto unknown details to key negotiations in the early decades of the U.S.-Japan alliance, focusing in particular on the thorny issue of nuclear weapons in Japan. Though there has been much revealed already regarding the existence of secret pacts between the two governments reached during the security treaty negotiations in the 1950s and lengthy talks to return Okinawa in the 1960s, this is the first book to exploit once highly classified materials that describe the policy process, inner-circle thinking, internal debates, and high-level exchanges that led to key bilateral agreements. Kudos to Komine for writing a book that is a must-read for serious students of the postwar foreign policies of Japan and the United States.

The book is divided into three parts, with the first and second examining alliance-related decision-making and negotiating processes of the U.S. and Japanese governments in the 1960s, and part 3 focusing on Japan's defense buildup and cooperation with the United States between 1969 and 1978. The first two parts, backed by official documents, oral histories, and diaries and memoirs of main participants, are by far the most interesting as Komine shines new light on the "secret agreements" and even "secret disagreements."

The existence of the secret pacts has long been known, having even been investigated by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) when it was in power (2009–12). There were three confidential understandings or pacts: (1) a secret understanding during the 1960 revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty allowing nuclear-armed U.S. vessels or carriers to stop over at Japanese ports or transit Japanese waters; (2) a secret agreement connected to the 1960 treaty that allowed U.S. forces to launch military combat operations if conflict broke out again in Korea; and (3) a 1969 agreement between President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Satō Eisuke in connection with the reversion of Okinawa that allowed the United States to reintroduce nuclear weapons there in case of a regional emergency.

While Tokyo continued for decades to deny their existence, despite several public leaks, Washington regarded them as a domestic Japanese matter that should not impede the alliance and long ago declared them nullified. [End Page 262] The evidence Komine cites shows that right from the start of the alliance in the run up to 1960, Japanese leaders, while assuring the public otherwise, were willing to bend the rules as a realistic recognition of the dangerous security environment around Japan. There continued to be a tendency on the part of the Japanese government to keep secret aspects of the bilateral security arrangements that were considered too politically sensitive to reveal to the public.

The nuclear-weapons issue appears as a constant irritant in the U.S.Japan relationship. Although Japan wanted the United States to protect it with its nuclear umbrella, it did not want any such weapons on Japanese soil. The nuclear issue first appeared in the negotiations to revise the bilateral security treaty in the late 1950s. It resurfaced during the Okinawa reversion negotiations in the 1960s. It created waves again in the 1970s when leaked information suggested that nuclear weapons were indeed being brought into Japan by U.S. naval vessels making port calls. Resolving the nuclear issue in its various forms was a large part of a constant effort during negotiations to find common ground between U.S. strategic requirements and domestic sensitivities in postwar Japan.

Secret documents reveal also that some Japanese leaders, in reaction to China's nuclear weapons program in the mid-1960s, entertained for a while the notion of Japan developing its own such weapons and that the United...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 262-266
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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