Assumption and “Special Considerations:” the Ryukyus

  • Timothy P. Maga


Of the many problems facing Kennedy’s Pacific policy, the Ryukyu Islands offered one of the more intriguing and difficult to New Frontier vision. Ever-conscious of America’s image in Asia and always planning to win the Cold War, Kennedy preferred a new status arrangement between the Ryukyus, the United States, and Japan. On the other hand, the Ryukyus in general played a primary role in Pacific defense. Okinawa specifically, and Kadena Air Base especially, represented an important link in that defense. Any Ryukyuan- or Japanese-inspired political deal that even touched upon American defense interests would be unacceptable to the Kennedy administration. The matter created a certain dilemma for the Kennedy team because the large American military presence on Okinawa was a major issue in Tokyo. Could the White House achieve the self-proclaimed noble goals of the New Frontier and maintain the status quo in defense? Could the New Pacific Community truly be built if the Ryukyus issue was not resolved?


Ryukyu Island American Government American Policy Pacific Community American Official 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR), Ryukyu Islands, 1950–1956 (Okinawa, 1956), introduction;Google Scholar
  2. USCAR, Joint Economic Plan for the Ryukyu Islands, 1961–1965 (Okinawa, 1965), introduction; Briefing Material to Prime Minister Ikeda’s visit, State Department to Kennedy, 23 June 1961, JFK Library, POF/Box 120. Although the comparisons between the long American role at Guam and the relatively recent occupation of Okinawa were not always clear, they were difficult to avoid. Both were prizes of war, strategically valuable, and rife with political problems.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Military studies of the battle for Okinawa abound. The following work stands out from the others due to its consideration of the psychological impact of the battle on Japanese society. William P. Simpson, Island X — Okinawa (W. Hanover, Mass., 1981).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    The government structure of the American occupation, in its entire complexity, is well described in USCAR, Civil Affairs Statistics of the Ryukyu Islands, 1950–1972 (Okinawa, 1972).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Although highly emotional and filled with visions of a coming new era of American-Ryukyuan-Japanese relations, Mikio Higa’s account of local politics from the Truman era to Johnson remains vital to any serious student of the Ryukyus debate. Mikio Higa, Politics and Parties in Postwar Okinawa (Vancouver, 1963).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    US Office of Armed Forces Information and Education, A Pocket Guide to Okinawa (Washington, D.C., 1961). A fading way of life in the face of American encroachment is the major thesis point ofGoogle Scholar
  7. Douglas G. Haring, Okinawan Customs: Yesterday and Today (Rutland, Vt., 1969);Google Scholar
  8. USCAR, Economic Plan for the Ryukyu Islands, 1951 (Okinawa, 1951), and Joint Economic Plan for the Ryukyu Islands, 1961–1965.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    The Ryukyus issue was a significant one in Japanese politics, and Japanese politicians and foreign policy-makers were amazed that Washington did not appreciate its delicate nature. This point is stressed in Akio Watanabe, The Okinawa Problem: A Chapter in Japan-U.S. Relations (Carlton, Australia, 1970). Nevertheless, the issue should also be viewed in the context of the intense Liberal v. Socialist struggle in Japan during the early 1960s. See J. A. A. Stockwin, The Japanese Socialist Party and Neutralism (Carlton, Australia, 1968), andGoogle Scholar
  10. Nathaniel P. Thayer, How the Conservatives Rule Japan (Princeton, 1969).Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    Ikeda’s and the GRI’s concern, as well as Kennedy’s caution, are considered in Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Tokyo, Public Information Bureau, Okinawa: Some Basic Facts (Tokyo, 1969). A vigorous defense of Kennedy’s security priorities is offered in James H. McBride and the Directorate of Documentary Research, Air University Institute for Professional Development,Google Scholar
  12. Maxwell Air Force Base, Okinawa: Pawn in the Pacific (Maxwell Air Force Base, 1972). A cynical treatment of all positions in the Ryukyus debate is the approach offered byGoogle Scholar
  13. William G. Ross, Why to Okinawa? (North Quincy, Mass., 1971).Google Scholar
  14. 26.
    Kennedy’s practical accomplishments and impact on the issue were considered in USCAR, Office of the High Commissioner, Final Report, May 14, 1972 (Okinawa, 1972), andGoogle Scholar
  15. US Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Far East and the Pacific, Claims of Certain Inhabitants of the Ryukyu Islands, Hearing, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., 28 July 1965 (Washington, D.C., 1965).Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    Department of State, Reversion to Japan of the Ryukyu Islands. Agreement Between the United States of America and Japan signed at Washington and Tokyo, June 17, 1971 with Related Arrangements (Washington, 1972).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Timothy P. Maga 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy P. Maga
    • 1
  1. 1.Asian DivisionUniversity of MarylandUSA

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