the u.s. buys japanese support for the vietnam war -- 4/15/16

Today's selection -- from Altered States by Michael Schaller. Even though the U.S. had entered the Vietnam War in no small part to preserve a non-communist Asian trading partner for Japan, a large contingent of Japanese opposed the war and eighteen million demonstrated against it between 1965 and 1970. One part of the objection was American use of Okinawa to stage bombing raids on Vietnam at a time when Japan was requesting the return of Okinawa. As part of a program to appease the Japanese and retain their support in the war, the U.S. adopted a more lenient trade policy with Japan -- much to the disadvantage of some U.S. industries:

"Discontent with the war had an important ... impact on Japanese-American relations. Running B-52 raids out of Okinawa proved especially unsettling to Japanese opinion. While in the United States dur­ing August 1965, [Ambassador Edwin] Reischauer complained to State Department officials that use of the Okinawa bases needlessly offended Japanese sensibilities. He told an audience in Boston that the 'loss of our close relationship with Japan because of Vietnam would be much more disastrous than anything that might happen in Vietnam itself except a world war.' ...

Protest against US base, before Kadena Air Base, March 1971.

"American escalation [in the Vietnam war], Tokyo's acquiescence, and Chinese threats incited an anti-war movement among university students and intellectu­als [in Japan]. Beheiren (Citizens' Federation for Peace in Vietnam) opposed the war both on pacifist grounds and out of concern that Japan would be dragged into the conflict because of its security ties with the United States. Beheiren favored peace in Vietnam, self-determination for the Vietnamese, and ces­sation of Japanese complicity in the war. ... Demos in front of the U.S. embassy became so frequent by mid-1965 that riot police assumed a nearly perma­nent presence. Between 1965 and 1970, some eighteen million Japanese demonstrated against the Vietnam War.

JAPAN. Tokyo. Wateseda University. Student demonstration protesting against the Vietnam War and
lack of condemnation from Japanese Government --1968.

"Opinion surveys during the period 1965 to 1968 found a sizeable majority of Japanese opposed to bombing Vietnam and expanding the ground war. Respondents sympathized with the Viet Cong goal of top­pling the Saigon regime. By 1968, at the height of American escalation, two-thirds of Japanese polled favored adopting a more neutral foreign policy. Only 20 percent wanted to continue the security treaty with the United States after 1970 when it could be ended. (Support for the alliance increased in 1969 when Nixon began removing troops from Vietnam.) ...

"Moreover, continued covert CIA financing of friendly Japanese politi­cians and publications muted criticism of American policy. As the war in Vietnam escalated, the United States spent about $1 million annually in subsidies to sympathetic newspapers and magazines and to individual members of the Democratic Socialist and Liberal Democratic parties. Americans made a special effort to influence politicians on Okinawa where popular opposition to the use of bases for Vietnam operations piggybacked on demands to return the island to Japanese control. A 'secret action plan' provided cash to sympathetic politicians in elections held in 1965 and 1968."


Michael Schaller


Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation


Oxford University Press


Copyright 1997 by Oxford University


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