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Japan, U.S. staged failed backroom campaign in 1968 Okinawa election.

TOKYO, Dec. 22 Kyodo

The Japanese and U.S. governments staged an unsuccessful backroom campaign to support a pro-Washington conservative politician in the first public election in 1968 for the head of the Ryukyu government, or Okinawa, while it was still under U.S. rule, declassified diplomatic documents showed Wednesday.

Shortly before the contest, Tokyo and Washington unveiled a bilateral accord to grant the people of Okinawa suffrage in Japan's national elections, which residents had long pushed for, presenting the deal as though it had been the initiative of candidate Junji Nishime, local chapter head of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Despite this backing, Nishime was defeated in the election by opposition-backed Chobyo Yara, who sought the immediate reversion of Okinawa to Japan without precondition.

The United States had also urged the governing LDP to provide sufficient funds to Nishime, according to the documents declassified by the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

According to a top-secret document dated June 7, 1968, the United States expressed willingness during its Embassy staffer's conversations with the Japanese side to use long-held hopes in Okinawa for suffrage in Japan as leverage to propel Nishime to victory.

The U.S. side also proposed that the two countries secretly agree to grant the suffrage while outwardly maintaining it would be very difficult to do so, and announce the plan a month before the November election after having Nishime present the idea as his own.

Then Japanese Foreign Minister Takeo Miki (1907-1988) agreed to the U.S. proposal the following month and confirmed a plan to let Nishime make the request and the two governments announce the agreement at a time effective for the election during his talks July 25 with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Alexis Johnson (1908-1997), a document on the talks showed.

Prior to the talks, the then U.S. high commissioner of the Ryukyu Islands, Ferdinand Unger, briefed Nishime about the timing to announce a plan for the request as his own idea.

In line with the proposal, Nishime asked the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to give the people of Okinawa suffrage in Japan's national elections, and the two governments announced on Oct. 9, 1968 their accord that participation by elected representatives from Okinawa in Japan's parliamentary deliberations was desirable and useful.

Meanwhile, the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Takeso Shimoda, sent an official cable, dated June 18, 1968, stating that senior U.S. State Department officials expressed concerns about an election funds shortage at Nishime's camp and urged the LDP to improve the fund supply.

Despite the efforts, Yara, backed by opposition parties, beat Nishime to become the first elected head of the government of the Ryukyu Islands.

Yara also served as the first Okinawa governor from 1972 to 1976 after Okinawa's return to Japan in May 1972.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Dec 27, 2010
Words:470
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