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U.S. military’s dissent blocked Embassy Tokyo’s bid to restructure Joint Committee in 1972

Ryukyu Shimpo gave top play to a report on declassified USG documents showing that opposition by the U.S. military blocked an attempt by the U.S. Mission in Japan in 1972 to conduct a review of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee. According to a diplomatic cable written by then-Ambassador Ingersoll in May 1972, the Embassy proposed to the State Department a review of the Joint Committee by capitalizing on the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administration in the same month on the grounds that the Embassy had been “bypassed” by American uniformed officials since they maintained direct contact with the Japanese government. The Embassy side allegedly wanted its minister-counselor instead of the deputy USFJ commander to head the U.S. delegation.


Although the State Department seconded the idea, the USFJ and CINPAC reacted strongly and insisted on maintaining the existing framework by arguing that “military flexibility and readiness must be preserved.”  A diplomatic cable written in August 1972 pointed to a compromise reached between the U.S. Embassy and the military, under which a minister-counselor would be appointed as the “acting representative” next to the deputy commander. The paper stressed that the “abnormal composition” of the Joint Committee, in which a senior military official represents the U.S. government in lieu of a civilian, has remained the same for decades. Five of the six U.S. members of the committee are military officers, while not a single SDF official is on the Japanese delegation.  


The daily claimed in an accompanying piece that friction has long existed between the State Department and military authorities over the operation of the U.S. military in Japan, saying that U.S. diplomats have sometimes run into difficulty managing relations with Japan since the U.S. military’s foremost priority has been to operate its forces with as few restrictions as possible.       

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