Words of wisdom from beyond the grave of Japan's secret pacts

by Philip Brasor

The Japan Times

A drama currently being played out on the stage of national politics in Japan may well mark a turning point in the country's postwar history.

On March 9, a panel of experts appointed by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada presented its findings on secret agreements made between Japan and the United States with regard to the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960 and the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

In fact, though, the March 9 presentation was no real open-sesame moment. The existence of some salient details of those pacts, contravening as they did the three anti-nuclear principles adopted by Japan, has been known for years.

Those principles, adopted as a parliamentary resolution in 1971, but never enshrined in law, forbid Japan from possessing or producing nuclear weapons or permitting them to be on its territory. The two main secret pacts in contravention of those principles are a 1960 one allowing nuclear-armed U.S. planes and ships to enter Japan, and one from 1969 regarding the reversion of Okinawa to Japan and the possible presence of such weapons there.

Despite these blatant transgressions of Japan's non-nuclear principles, Japanese leaders — all members of the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party — consistently denied the existence of the agreements, in effect pulling the wool tightly over the public's eyes.

The plot only thickens as former LDP prime ministers rush to defend prevarication in the name of patriotism.

"I'd say the leaders of the time resolved to leave the judgment (of their actions) to history," said Shinzo Abe, prime minister from 2006-07, as reported in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper on March 10, 2010. "As a result, I believe that Japanese security was protected."

Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (2007-08) was more succinct, saying, "I was never particularly interested (in the problem)."

It happens that I have a personal connection with a man who played a key role in the secret agreement allowing the possible presence of nuclear weapons in Okinawa — and I suppose this is the time to write about it. Until now, I have kept to myself the memory of the part he played, and the toll it took on him.

Kei Wakaizumi was my mentor during my early years in Japan. I met him the very next day after I first arrived in September 1967. Still in his late 30s then, softly spoken and terribly kind, he was a professor at Kyoto Sangyo University, which had been set up with funds from conservative groups to counter the left-leaning activities of many Japanese universities in the polemical 1960s.

Wakaizumi was conservative by nature. I myself, being a Vietnam war protester but deeply beholden to him for getting me my first job here as a lecturer in Russian and Polish at his university, veered clear of political subjects in his company.

Born in Fukui Prefecture in 1930, Wakaizumi was a political science graduate from the University of Tokyo who had spent a formative year in 1960 as a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

I saw a lot of him during my years in Kyoto (1967-72) and acted as his interpreter when American futurologist Herman Kahn and British historian Arnold Toynbee visited Japan. Wakaizumi and Toynbee collaborated on a book, "Surviving the Future" (OUP, 1971), in which I was privileged to be involved as my mentor's interpreter.

Wakaizumi's link with the secret pact came about at the urging of Henry Kissinger, U.S. President Richard Nixon's national security adviser. Wakaizumi, then a special envoy to Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, accompanied the prime minister to Washington and, on Nov. 21, 1969, the two of them went to the White House, where they were called by Nixon into a private room. There, the prime minister and the president signed a secret document, witnessed by Wakaizumi, that granted the U.S. the right, with consultation, to bring nuclear weapons in an emergency into Okinawa after its reversion to Japan. (Only four people knew of the existence of this pact violating Japan's non-nuclear principles, the fourth being Kissinger.)

On Sept. 21, 1971, when asked about the status of American nuclear weapons in post-reversion Okinawa, White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said, "It is our policy not to reveal the presence of nuclear weapons overseas."

Over time, I noticed a change in Wakaizumi's demeanor. He seemed to be under enormous stress. He took a months-long break to return to Fukui where, he told me, he sat Zen at Eiheiji Temple. At the time, of course, I had no idea of the strains he was undergoing by virtue of his role in the secret pact.

I left Kyoto in 1972 and, for a time, lost contact with him. It was only years later that I came to know the pressure the LDP was putting on him as he struggled to come to terms with an ever-growing guilt.

In 1994, Bungeishunju published his book, "Tasaku Nakarishi o Shinzemuto Hossu" — which in English means "I Had No Recourse." In that 19-chapter, 600-page work he pours out his heart not only about the secret pact but also his vision for the future of Japan.

Of course, he knew all too well that the LDP would not take kindly to his confessions, amounting to a breach of trust from their standpoint. The last time I saw him was in the late '80s, when I believe he was either contemplating or already writing his memoir. He had had what amounted to a nervous breakdown. I still did not, at that stage, know why.

I strongly believe that those secret agreements were signed because successive LDP leaders wanted to destroy Japan's anti-nuclear allergy and acquire a nuclear capability for the country.

Herman Kahn said to me, "Japan will be nuclear by 1985." That was in 1969, and I responded saying it was "out of the question" — trying to out-prophesy the influential futurologist who, at the time, was acting as a virtual apologist for Prime Minister Sato.

After his book came out, Wakaizumi traveled to Okinawa with a note to the Okinawan people in his pocket. In the note he revealed his sense of "grave responsibility" for his part in the deception. He also carried a knife, with which he intended to kill himself at a cemetery for the war dead.

He did not attempt suicide, but instead, deeply depressed and regretful of his role in the blatant duplicity of his leaders, he went down to Ishigaki in the Yaeyama Islands where he rested and strove to gain his composure.

Two years later, wracked with guilt, Wakaizumi did take his own life — at his family home in Fukui.

In his book, he says that politicians who believe it's possible to secure peace and protect their country through such pacts are living in "a fool's paradise."

The string of LDP leaders now washing their hands of their predecessors' lies are the unsung villains in this unfolding drama. Perhaps Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's new prime minister who broke the pernicious LDP monopoly on power, will listen to the words of my dear and gentle friend, who wrote:

"I have brought about new insecurity, anguish and anger to the people of Okinawa . . .

"Japan must begin to present its national interest and its principles to Asia and the entire world, beginning with the United States. That national interest and those principles must, in turn, be based resolutely on an autonomous spirit of independence, be expressed with an unwavering mettle and be couched in language that is universally understood."

Were he alive today, Kei Wakaizumi would be 80, and his words of wisdom would be resounding around Japan and the world with a new relevance.

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