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Japanese to Guard Okinawa

Accord Seen as Symbol of Militarism

By Selig S. Harrison
Washington Post Foreign Service
June 28, 1971

Tokyo, June 27 -- Japan has formally agreed to take over responsibility for the "immediate defense" of Okinawa following the return of the island under an agreement with the United States, it was disclosed today.

The long discussed defense accord has been a political storm center in Japan and was deliberately kept separate from the overall reversion agreement signed last week. Both Okinawans and substantial elements of public opinion have viewed the projected role of the Japanese forces on Okinawans as symbolic of a growing militarist revival.

Leaders of the governing Liberal Democratic Party wanted the sensitive defense pact put off until after the elections for the Upper House of the Diet (parliament) today.

American officials agreed and final approval of a draft agreement was fixed for next Tuesday at a scheduled meeting of the Japan-U.S. security committee. But Mainichi, a leading Japanese paper, published the full text of the draft in a dramatic newsbreak on election morning.

Opposition critics argue that the government yielded under pressure from the United States and should have insisted on its independent right to deploy Japanese forces without binding prior commitment.

By making this the subject of an explicit bilateral agreement, the opposition argument runs, Japan implies acceptance of a "subordinate role on the island even after its reversion."

Government spokesmen warn that the reversion agreement faces serious hurdles in the U.S. Congress and point to a statement by Sen. Strom Thurmond last Friday opposing ratification. Japan can help counter congressional attacks, officials maintain, by detailing its minimum defense commitments on Okinawa now.

Informed sources confirm that the draft agreement envisages the assignment of ground, air, and maritime self-defense force units totalling 3,200 men within six months after reversion.

By July 2, 1973, Japan has agreed to provide an additional unspecified "appropriate" number of supporting troops for surface-to-air missile defense units and the operation of aircraft control and warning systems.

The agreement specifically provides for Japan to take over three Nike-Hercules surface-to-air missile batteries currently operated by the United States as part of its air defense commitment. This is a major focus of controversy because the Nike-Hercules is a nuclear-capable missile.

Another controversial aspect of the Japanese defense plans is the announced intention of maritime safety headquarters to operate 17 patrol boats carrying three-inch guns and 40-millimeter machine guns over a 110,000-square-mile area embracing the southern defense perimeter of the Hyukyu island chain adjacent to Taiwan.

Defense agency announcements in recent weeks have indicated that these boats will eventually be equipped with ship-to-ship missiles.

Since these patrols will cover the disputed Senkaku Islands, claimed as Chinese territory by Peking and Taipei alike, "this patrolling is expected to have a delicate effect on our relations with China and Taiwan," Mainichi declared.

The United States has administered the Senkakus as a part of the Hyukyuan chain since the San Francisco Peace Treaty and is returning the islands to Japan under the reversion agreement.

American officials state that this merely restores the situation existing prior to the peace treaty and does not commit the United State in the territorial dispute between China and Japan, but Japanese foreign ministry sources note that the United States is planning to seek permission to use two bombing ranges on the Senkakus after reversion at the security committee meeting on Tuesday and contend that this amounts to U.S. support for the Japanese claim.

Press attacks on the defense accord and on the recent reversion agreement warn that Japan will inevitably drift into a rigidly anti-Peking posture as a result of its military links with the United States on Okinawa.

The influential Asahi newspaper charged that the government has "deliberately obscured" the use of Okinawa as a base for three or more SR-71 reconnaissance planes conducting spy flights over China.

The giant SR-71, a successor to the U-2, operates at 80,000 feet and can survey 80,000 square miles of territory per hour. With Chinese radar and antiaircraft missiles growing in sophistication, Asahi warns, another "Powers" case could easily develop, putting Tokyo squarely in the middle of a Washington-Peking crisis.

Foreign ministry officials have sought to stifle controversy over the SR-71 flights with a statement that the United States has pledged to keep the planes from entering the air space of their countries, and that there was "no need" to obtain such assurances in the reversion agreement or other written documents.

The opposition has also found an effective issue in a submarine cable recently laid between U.S. bases on Okinawa and Taiwan. First revealed by the Communist Party, the cable has become linked in public thinking with Premier Sato's declaration in 1969 that peace in the Taiwan area is the "most important factor" for Japanese security.

Apart from the China issue, the major area of controversy surrounding the military provisions at the reversion agreement and the new defense accord is the fact that U.S. military installations and military personnel will not diminish substantially on the island in the foreseeable future. Out of 74,000 acres currently held by the United States for military bases, only 12,800 will be returned to Japan.

The agreement gives the United States the continued use of 54 major military installations, including the giant Kadena Air Base, and provides for the transfer to Japan of portions of 34 others, 22 at the time of reversion and the remainder when the Japanese self-defense forces are ready to take them over.

Taken together with the increase in Japanese bases on the island, many Japanese and Okinawans argue, the continuance of such extensive U.S. base facilities will give Okinawa the same high density of bases in proportion to areas for civilian use that it has now, nullifying government pledges to put the island on the "homeland level" as a site for military installations.

In his annual policy speech before the Ryukyuan legislature on June 12, Okinawa Gov-Chobyo Yara renewed his long-standing opposition to the size of the U.S. base presence and stepped up his attack on plans for the deployment of Japanese forces on the island.

He cautioned that Japanese bases "will stimulate foreign countries and further arouse the general feelings about bases in Okinawa."

Japanese defense agency officials have announced that the level of personnel on Okinawa will reach 6,800 within "18 months after reversion" but have not committed themselves to this figure by July 1, 1973, the deadline cited for the minimum deployments listed in the draft defense agreement.

The agreement states that Japan will have a squadron of 25 F-104 fighters ready for "scramble" action within six months after reversion and will be prepared by the 1973 deadline to "assume the mission for the immediate defense of Okinawa, namely ground defense, air defense, maritime defense, patrol and search and rescue."

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