Removal of nuclear weapons from Okinawa delayed its reversion to Japan

December 23, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

According to diplomatic documents declassified on December 22, 2011, the date of Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty was set to match the completion of the removal of nuclear weapons stored in U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
While the Japanese side requested that Okinawa be returned to Japan on April 1, the United States rejected this timing, claiming that it was difficult to complete the removal of so-called special weapons (nuclear weapons) from the islands by then. It was already known that America postponed the reversion, no clear reasons had previously been disclosed.

On July 7, 1971, officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the U.S. Embassy of Japan negotiated the reversion of Okinawa. During the negotiations, the U.S. side indicated that it would be impossible to complete the removal of nuclear weapons from its military bases in Okinawa by April 1, 1971, and on that basis, U.S. representatives stated that they doubted that reversion would be possible by that date.

In addition, the Americans sought to justify the postponement of the reversion by claiming that it would be difficult to start the handover process of regional defense in Okinawa from April 1 and asserted that the reversion should be carried out after that date.

During the foreign ministerial conference between Japan and the United States on June 9, 1971, Japanese Foreign Minister Kiichi Aichi stated that the Okinawan people agreed with the request for reversion of sovereignty on April 1, but Secretary of State William P. Rogers dismissed this, saying that it would extremely be difficult to meet that deadline. For his part, Rogers did not mention the removal of nuclear weapons deployed in Okinawa, and only explained that the U.S. Congress may disapprove of negotiations on the reversion date occurring at that late stage in the piece.

On January 1, 1972, Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and President Richard Nixon officially decided to return Okinawa to Japan on May 15, 1972.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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