Naotoshi Sakonjo Oral HistoryInterview

Conducted by Koji Murata

April 4, 1996

(Comments in parentheses were added later by Adm. Sakonjo)

Murata: First of all, I would like to confirm your tour of duty in the Joint Staff. In . . .

Sakonjo: I was there from July 1, 1978, to November 20, 1979, just over a year and a half.

Murata: During that time, the three chairmen were Raisu, Takashina, and Takeda.

Sakonjo: That's right.

Murata: Around this time, the U.S.-Japan Defense Guideline (1978) was agreed to in the Cabinet meeting at the end of November of 1978, and you were in attendance at the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Sub-Committee Meeting. As far as I know, the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Sub-Committee Meetings, which were created at the time of the Sakata-Schlesinger discussions, were held eight times after that; in your memory, how many times out of the eight were you in attendance?

Sakonjo: Well, I went to the last one in July, and in November the Cabinet agreed, so I don't really remember.

Murata: How many times did you go to the Defense Cooperation Sub-Committee meeting?

Sakonjo: Oh, maybe once or twice, I think.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: Before the last Cabinet meeting, there was a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty Conference Committee. So, before it was finally decided [in the Cabinet], it was OK'd in the Security Treaty Conference Committee.

Murata: It was then given to the Cabinet.

Sakonjo: That's right. At the Security Treaty Conference Committee at that time, I remember the American side. CINCPAC Weisner was there. Then there was the Ambassador at the time, what was his name--

Murata: Ambassador Mansfield.

Sakonjo: Mansfield--that's right.

Murata: Did you also participate in the SCC?

Sakonjo: I was there. As an observer; that is to say, I was simply in attendance.

Murata: What about the Japanese side?

Sakonjo: The Foreign Minister and the Defense Agency Chief. The Defense Chief was Mr. Kanemaru.

Murata: So Mr. Kanemaru was in the Fukuda Cabinet?

Sakonjo: That's right.

Murata: The Foreign Minister was Mr. Sonoda.

Sakonjo: I think so. It was just before the change from Mr. Fukuda to Mr. Ohira.

Murata: That's right.

Sakonjo: There was a memo that came out in the middle of the meeting that confused everything. I remember that it was a memo that said Mr. Fukuda would be replaced by Mr. Ohira.

Murata: Is that so?

Sakonjo: When I came to the Joint Staff on July 1st, the Chairman was Mr. Kurisu, but on the 28th, Mr. Takashina became Chairman. So when the guideline was decided, it was Takashina.

Murata: Was this SCC meeting before the Cabinet agreement held in Japan?

Sakonjo: Yes, Japan. It was held in Tokyo. On the top of the Foreign Ministry on the 6th or 7th floor there is a large meeting room, and I think it was held there.

Murata: In that case, did the SDF Chairman also attend?

Sakonjo: The Chairman and myself.

Murata: Besides those people, other members were people like the Defense Vice-Minister, the Defense Bureau Chief . . .

Sakonjo: That's right. I think the Defense Vice-Minister and the Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister attended.

Murata: What kind of people were the members of the Defense Cooperation Sub-Committee?

Sakonjo: I'm very sorry . . . I don't really remember that well.

Murata: The Minister's didn't attend, right?

Sakonjo: Right, they didn't. That might have been the Defense Bureau Director class.

Murata: I see. Did the Chairmen attend?

Sakonjo: The Chairmen did not attend.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: Because it was working-level. There's one more thing. This isn't directly related, but what meeting was it . . . every year in Hawaii . . .

Murata: The Working-level Conference.

Sakonjo: At that time, the Working-level Conference was for the Vice-Minister class on this side. The Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency. The Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency Vice-Minister class. I don't think the Chairmen attended. I attended along with the public relations councilor. At this time, it was Councilor Okazaki. On the American side, the Ambassador from here attended. Ambassador Mansfield. Also, since it was local for him, the CINCPAC attended, and from the U.S. mainland, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The Deputy Secretary responsible for International Security Treaties.

Murata: Was that West?

Sakonjo: No, not West, the one before him. I forgot his name.

Murata: So, you attended the Security Treaty Conference Committee held before the Cabinet meeting, and at that time the guideline was unanimously approved, with the formal--

Sakonjo: Yes, the [Cabinet] meeting was for show, and everything was already prepared--

Murata: Basically just acknowledgment, right?

Sakonjo: That's correct.

Murata: So the most practical business was in this Defense Cooperation Sub-Committee--

Sakonjo: I think the Sub-Committee was held only occasionally. The Command Regulatory Group met with the U.S. Commander-in-chief in Japan, its counterpart, and brought issues to the Sub-committee, and then to the Defense Bureau. I think the Defense Section chief was Ikeda Hisaei. There were several occasions that the adjusted plan was brought to the U.S. military in Japan. In Japan, that can be handled within the defense agency, but as for the U.S. Commander-in-chief in Japan, it is a satellite office, so they can answer to the Japanese side only after asking for instructions from Hawaii or Washington. On that point, Japan was a bit different.

Murata: In your memory, when working with a draft or negotiating on the working level, what was the biggest difference of ideas between the U.S. and Japan?

Sakonjo: When I went, I think that all the points of contention had been resolved.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: I don't recall of any points of contention. As I just said, there were a number of points where the Defense Agency consulted and made proposals to the U.S., and there was some give and take, but I'm very sorry that I don't remember what points they were. Maybe I don't remember because there were no big problems.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: This is a private discussion, so I'd like you to keep it off the record, but every year the Joint Staff makes an Annual Joint Defense Plan, which is classified. The 3 separate SDF plans are made, and this may be rude to say, but I think the 3 SDF defense plans were very hurried and rough. I guess that was all right. However, when the guideline was done, the issue of how to coordinate with the U.S. in time of contingency was that the army, navy and air force had to act in unison. For example, there is something called a situation estimate; this was standardized within the 3 SDF, and on top of that, it had to be coordinated with the American estimate. The thing that left the strongest impression on me was when the U.S. Commander-in-chief in Japan said that the SDF estimate of how many divisions the USSR could bring into Hokkaido was too big. I felt the same way, but as the chief of the Ground SDF, it was a big issue in terms of the existence of the SDF, so I could not admit to it. The information chief of the U.S. force in Japan was the colonel of the army. In the end, I seem to recall that it was the U.S. military in Japan that acquiesced.

Murata: Related to this discussion, there was an Asahi Shimbun article in which a David Roman, who held the title of Pacific and Northeast Asia Section Chief, and with whom I am not familiar, was quoted. Like you just mentioned, Hokkaido was closely guarded by the ground SDF, and the Hokkaido contingency and strategy was studied even though a land assault by the USSR was unthinkable. Meanwhile, the possibility of an assault at places like Niigata existed. Roman was quoted as saying, "The SDF has strong enough political power so as to be intractable"--do you have this impression?

Sakonjo: Well, I don't know if it's right to call it political power. Before the Asahi story, I gave Mr. Sasaki a copy, but in 1983 or 1984 I was at Sankei, and they called together various people from America for a technical-related symposium. At that time the present Defense Secretary William Perry came. He was Undersecretary for Development Studies in the Carter Administration. At the time that the Hokkaido invasion discussion came out, he said "the Soviet Union doesn't have that kind of power. However many divisions they have, they have no way of transporting them." He also said "they can't get air superiority." He may have exaggerated a little when he said that "if Hokkaido is invaded by the Soviets, the Japanese police could hold them off." I thought that was interesting, and after that I transcribed the tape at Sankei, and made English and Japanese copies. The U.S. didn't think that the Soviets had the capability to land in Hokkaido with 50,000 SDF troops there. I think that's exactly right. That's because their landing and amphibious assault capability was extremely low. It couldn't compare with America, so whatever land forces they had, they couldn't transport that much.

Murata: So, even in Japan, the Maritime SDF and Air SDF didn't see the Soviets landing capability as much of a threat. Until that point, the U.S. and Japan had separate strategies, which was fine, but that needed to change when working with the U.S.

Sakonjo: That's right. That left a strong impression with me.

Murata: From 1978, when the guideline was completed, until 1981, the first Japanese Emergency Study was done; its code name was in the Asahi Shimbun article as "5051"--

Sakonjo: I don't know about that.

Murata: Oh, really?

Sakonjo: I quit, and then it began again after a little while. So I didn't really touch on it.

Murata: O.K., so you weren't involved with the detailed Emergency Study at the bottom of the guideline?

Sakonjo: That's right.

Murata: I see. In an Asahi article, the study of the Japanese contingency that was wrapped up in 1981 said that in the first wave, a Soviet air division would invade Wakkanai from 3 directions, and in the second wave a week later, 2 divisions would be brought into Hokkaido by ship. U.S. reinforcements of 2 to 3 divisions would come in, but this would take over two weeks. One point was whether or not the SDF could hold out independently for 2 weeks. This kind of scenario came out, but regarding these contents . . .

Sakonjo: I don't remember any of those figures. That's because the study began after I quit.

Murata: Oh, is that so?

Sakonjo: If I could interrupt, I'll talk about one more thing I remember. My impression of when the guideline was finished and the study began is that, and this is repetitive, I don't think that they had anything on their mind about the Japan contingency. I had the strong impression that they did the Far East contingency at the end of the guideline. Basically, this was a Foreign Ministry matter more than a Defense Agency matter, and since it was an irritating problem the Foreign Ministry didn't do anything with it after that. That is just a little--

Murata: Related to what you just said, the study of whether the Korea contingency would reach Japan was, in the end, never held; do you have any memory of this?

Sakonjo: No, that was after I had left. Only to the degree that I read here and there in the newspaper. I didn't touch it directly at all.

Murata: Excuse me for this being so rough from newspaper information, but a scenario like you just mentioned, where 2 divisions landed and the U.S. military response took over 2 weeks, looking at it from the perspective of a military specialist, was this discussion realistic to any degree?

Sakonjo: Not really.

Murata: Not at all?

Sakonjo: If you ask me, not really. In short, that's because they had no landing capability. The landing craft that they had were Ivan Rogov class LPD, 12,600 tons fully loaded, and about a dozen LST, which were 3400-4000 tons.(An LPD can carry 500 troops and 20 tanks, while an LST carries 190 troops and 10 tanks.) Assuming all of them were operational, there's no way they had the capability to land 2 divisions. (The U.S. Navy had about 60 large amphibious ships with about 800,000 tons, the average of which was larger than that of the Ivan Rogov class LPD, the largest in the Soviet Navy. Their tonnage was more than 13 times that of the Soviet Pacific Fleet amphibious fleet. According to the U.S. Navy, they could land 1.5 divisions with this large amphibious force.)

What the Land SDF was saying was that fishing boats could be brought in temporarily; I said that there was no chance for such a stupid idea. They said that if the harbor was secured, then regular transport ships and freighters could be brought in, but to begin with, whether they had the ability to secure the port was the real problem, a problem announced by Perry and one I think has merit.

The Land SDF also argued that the Soviets would secure Wakkanai Port at the Northern tip of Hokkaido and then would send transport and cargo ships to reinforce troops already landed at Hokkaido. I didn't think the Soviets could land the first wave enough to occupy and secure Wakkanai Port or wherever. But, if my or the U.S. argument on threat perception was accepted by the public, they may have wondered why we needed Land SDF with 180,000 troops. We had to understand the position of the Land SDF, so I didn't push them too hard with regards to this issue.

Murata: To put it sarcastically, research on the Japanese contingency went forward concerning an imagined, unlikely situation.

Sakonjo: Yes. It's different by the way you look at it, but I thought it was that way.

Murata: So even in the SDF and in the military, it wasn't strange to have opinions on its likelihood depending on their position?

Sakonjo: That was the Ground SDF thinking. (Even those in the same SDF could have different views, but generally speaking, it can be said that each SDF has its own view. It is natural you like or love the community you belong to. The Land SDF was inclined to see the Soviet threat of invasion as much more serious than the Maritime SDF or the Air SD, and as I just said, I fully understood their position.)

Murata: The Ground SDF thinking?

Sakonjo: At any rate, be it Iwo Jima or Okinawa, to raise one or two divisions, they needed to mobilize their so-called amphibious ships, and since they have to supply them, they needed to mobilize a great naval and air capability. So if you say that, the Soviet's didn't have a landing strategy capability. We saw that as very unlikely.

Murata: After that, the Soviet Union fell apart, but after 1979 or 1980, was there ever a period where the Soviet Union that you saw had the capability to carry out a landing assault on Hokkaido?

Sakonjo: In my opinion, not at all. (Here are some figures you might be interested in. In April 1945, the U.S. invaded Okinawa guarded with 78,000 Japanese troops. They mobilized a huge number of ships, aircraft and troops. Forty aircraft carriers, 150 destroyer-type ships, 430 transport ships, 50 submarines, hundreds of support ships, and amphibious ships--1457 ships in total. Three hundred B-29 heavy bombers and thousands of tactical aircraft. They landed 75,000 troops with tanks and artillery on the first day, and eventually 194,000 combat and support troops with 1,256,000 tons of supplies. Still they lost 7,000 lives in fighting with relatively ill-equipped Japanese troops. Please remember that Hokkaido is three and a half times as large as Okinawa and defended by 50,000 well-equipped and well trained Land SDF troops.)

Murata: I see. Once, there was a report of a few troops in the Northern territories. Even though the Northern territories were more or less developed, did that matter at all?

Sakonjo: It didn't matter.

Murata: Really, it didn't matter?

Sakonjo: (Just one rifle division and one fighter squadron were on Etorofu island. They were defensive and could be called a "garrison." Please recall the Soviets had deployed an army corps with two rifle divisions until early the early 1960s, and as far as I remember, the Japanese didn't see them as a potential threat to Japan at that time. When I attended a conference at Yerevan, Armenia in 1980, I raised a question. "Why do you maintain troops on our Northern Territories?" One of the Russian participants replied, "Because we have to be prepared for a possible landed of your troops in Hokkaido." I didn't know if he really meant that, but I was confident that their troops on Etorofu Island were just a garrison and not a threat to Hokkaido.)

If you ask me, Japan is very blessed because it is an island nation. If hostile nations contemplate a landing, then the ocean, even though it may not be a large distance, is still a big problem. (Were the Southern Sakhalin still a part of Japan, we might have had to deploy considerable Land SDF troops there.)

Murata: I see. You mentioned before the Far East contingency; this perhaps is written in your valuable book, called "Sea Defense Theory" (Kaijoboeiron) --

Sakonjo: I had to write it in a short time.

Murata: What you say in the book in the section on the guidelines is that thinking strictly of the guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, Japanese cooperation with the U.S. military in Far East Defense is, to borrow your expression, irrelevant.

Sakonjo: Yes, I felt that way.

Murata: In that case, as I first asked, in July of 1978 when you came in, the guideline was almost completed. Discussing whether to include or exclude the Far East Article that you have called irrelevant did not take place at this stage.

Sakonjo: At that point it (the last section, Section III) was all included. I think it was included from the beginning.

Murata: So it was not a problem? Japan was rather reluctant according to the news reports. On the American side there was much eagerness over whether to include the Far East article.

Sakonjo: Well, when I was there it was included. I don't know. I just said that it wasn't a defense matter, but a Foreign Ministry matter, so it didn't really go anywhere. It related not just the Foreign Ministry, but spread out over all the Ministries. I don't know if the rough draft that had the Far East article was put out first by the U.S. or Japan. (Section III of the Guidelines deals with "The scope and modalities of facilitative assistance to be extended by Japan to U.S. forces." The reason I thought that Section III was irrelevant was "the facilitative assistance" seemed to me to have little relation with 'defense' cooperation.)

Murata: Oh, really? Who else can I speak to about this?

Sakonjo: Where could you find that out, I wonder . . . My predecessor, Mr. Tsunehiro Eichi. I told Mr. Sasaki about Mr. Tsunehiro, and he called him, but he says he doesn't remember at all, either . . .

Murata: Was he in the Army, Navy, or Air Force?

Sakonjo: Navy.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: Obata Kiyoyuki was working directly on it at the Joint Chiefs.

Murata: What type of position did this person have?

Sakonjo: He was the Command Coordination Chief in the Joint Chiefs Council. He was a Navy man. He was directly involved, so he might remember.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: Besides, anything else--

Murata: It's almost 20 years ago . . .

Sakonjo: Yes, it is.

Murata: So, the guideline was given to the Cabinet in the Spring of 1978, and you left in January of 1979. It was nearly a year that the guideline was circulated; what kind of movements went on in that year?

Sakonjo: In my memory, it was Japan's desire to start with the Japanese contingency, which was not unlikely to happen. So it was done before the Korean contingency . . . How was it in the Asahi Shimbun--I've read it as well. It started with . . .

Murata: The Japan contingency.

Sakonjo: Yes, the Japan contingency. The U.S. had said that they could not think solely of Japan, so they wanted to start with the Korean Peninsula contingency. In other words, the Far East contingency. Japan wanted to start with the Japan contingency because it wanted the U.S. to show its reinforcements; how much of the armed forces, and especially of the army and the Air Force, would they bring in. That is what we wanted.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: Japan wanted to start with the Japan contingency, and America definitely wanted to start with the Korean contingency; I think the U.S. accepted to do the Korean contingency second. Just as Japan wanted . . .

Murata: You wanted to see the American reinforcements.

Sakonjo: That's right. How much would be available (would indicate whether the U.S. saw the defense of Japan as a serious issue).

Murata: I think you have written about this somewhere, the expression 'limited, small scale aggression' in the outline. That is also in the guideline, with words that say, for example, if the Soviets were to invade, by repelling 'limited small-size aggression' itself, Japan could say in principle that it was within the scope of self-supporting resistance.

Sakonjo: Yes, I feel that way.

Murata: In the guideline, was this idea of U.S.-Japan Cooperative resistance from the beginning through U.S.-Japan joint planning clearly written?

Sakonjo: No, that wasn't in the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the words 'limited, small-scale aggression.' (Under the treaty, the U.S. is obliged to act to meet the common danger with Japan regardless of the scale of the attacking force. With the stipulation in the Guidelines and also in the Outline, at least theoretically, the U.S. could say to Japan that "we think the aggression is limited and small-scale, and therefore you repel it yourself," even though we think otherwise.)

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: However, it was in the defense plan outline that came out before the guideline, so I thought the outline was the problem.

Murata: I see. The words 'limited, small-scale'.

Sakonjo: It was put in the outline, which is the basic report of Japanese defense. One point on creating the defense plan outline is how much Japanese defense power will expand, and where to put the brakes on expansion. To show that the brakes would be put on somewhere, we had no choice but to say that Japan would independently oppose a limited, small scale invasion.

Murata: So as you say, with the detailed estimate of American reinforcements coming out in the study of the Japanese contingency, from the very early stages of an emergency there was this outlook of American reinforcements, even with a minimum size limit (on SDF forces).

Sakonjo: That is right. That 'minimum size' had appeared in the newspaper. Four divisions, or five divisions, came out in the newspaper.

Murata: Was there a consensus within the government on the details regarding this ?

Sakonjo: Well, I don't know whether or not the defense outline completed in 1976 had any detailed numbers, but 2 or 3 years after I retired, I remember that a defense vice minister announced in the newspaper that the limited minimum size requirement was 4 or 5 divisions.

Murata: The outline is a report of the Japanese government. The guideline is a report of both the U.S. and Japan. The term minimum size requirement is used in the guideline; when you were there, were there ever any discussions between the U.S. and Japan about what the minimum size requirement was, or was there more or less a consensus on the issue?

Sakonjo: As I recall, there were no problems regarding minimum size requirement.

Murata: No problems?

Sakonjo: I wrote somewhere that there was a concern that they would not come for anything less than 4 divisions because of Japan's minimum size requirement. Theoretically, this was true, but it was just as worrisome. The reality was that the U.S. would come if it was just one division, or anything. America had bases in Japan, and if these bases were attacked (in other words, if the U.S. was attacked), even with the words minimum size requirement used in the outline or in the guideline, the reality was that be it one division, or an air force division like I said earlier, then it would become an operation under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Even now, I don't really understand; what form would the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty operations take? What formal procedures would the U.S. take, and would Japan make a request to America? I don't really know about those things. I wonder how it would turn out. In this case, the mobilization of Japan is decided. One way is to stand guard--

Murata: Like orders to stand by.

Sakonjo: Like orders to stand by. But this was an internal issue. What kind of procedures would the Americans follow? They would probably act in accordance to their Constitution.

Murata: You were in office when the debate over wanting to start the Japan contingency research went on--

Sakonjo: That's right. I just recall that the Japan side wanted the U.S. to show what their reinforcements would be, so they did the Japan contingency.

Murata: In actuality, I've heard that the research for the Far East contingency was delayed until 1982. Was there any specific talk at all of starting the Far East contingency while you were there?

Sakonjo: No, nothing at all. Like I said before, they wanted to do the Far East contingency first, but Japan wanted to do the Japan contingency first. (I don't know about Far East Contingency studies you said started in 1982. According to 1988 Defense White Paper: "Studies on the Japan Contingency was tentatively completed in 1984, studies on sea-lane defense in 1986, studies on interoperability were being conducted, and studies on the rapid reinforcement of U.S. Forces were scheduled to be completed." Thus no mentioned about studies on the Far East Contingency. The paper also said in effect: "Studies on the scope and modalities and of facilitative assistance were underway between Japan and the U.S." Now they have been studying for 19 years. Recently, Mr. Yanagizawa, a high-ranking official of the JDA admitted that the studies have made little progress. "Little progress" might mean "no progress.")

Murata: From news reports in the Asahi Shimbun, Ambassador Asakai, who was North American Bureau Chief in the Foreign Ministry from 1980, said that there may have been a difference in the plans of the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency, and that might have caused the difficulties in the Far East contingency research. He also said an even greater problem was that other related ministries, such as the Ministry of Transport, had their differences as well. I actually spoke with Ambassador Asakai yesterday, and even when he was there from 1980 to 1982, there were communication related issues in the Transport Ministry, or the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The Ministry of Health and Welfare would have a say if U.S. troops were put in the hospital--he said they could not have discussions with these Ministries. When you were there, did you have to contact agencies other than the Defense and Foreign Ministries or look at their response on contingency?

Sakonjo: (No, I nor the uniform as a whole was in the position to talk with agencies other than the JDA. The facilities assistance to U.S. Forces is not a matter of the SDF or even of the JDA, but of MOFA. MOFA is supposed to consult and coordinate with government agencies, including the JDA. Then the Defense Bureau of the JDA would consult with the Joint Staff.)

I think this is also in the defense handbook--the issue of research on contingency legislation. This has been in the defense white paper for over 10 years; the Defense Agency proper has certain legislation where certain things have to be made, but outside of that which relates to other agencies, it didn't go anywhere. The reason it didn't progress, maybe, is that the people in the other agencies resist it. As you know, in an article of the Self Defense Force Law, it says that in times of emergency, the Maritime Security Agency is put under the direction of the Defense Agency Secretary. This is like the U.S. Coast Guard, and is decided by law. A lower government ordinance needs to spell out specifically how that works, but for decades there has been nothing. Probably because of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications' opposition.

(The above-mentioned Defense White Paper of 1988 said: "Study requires a lengthy period because on legal problems concerning emergencies [so and so], and also because it contains affairs overlapping the jurisdiction of government offices other than the JDA." It also said: "Fortunately, the international situation surrounding Japan at present is not so acute that concrete legislative steps against emergency situations should be formulated immediately." Please remember we were in the Cold War Era in 1988 when this was stated. They may say that the international situation at present is much less acute than in 1988. The last paragraph said: "The results of the current study may be made public as the occasion calls to obtain their consensus as soon as they are compiled to a certain extent." I know nothing about "the results of the current study, or the extent of their compilation in the last 20 years. I have an impression that government agencies are generally reluctant to deal with the two issues--I mean one on the facilitative assistance to U.S. Forces, and the other contingency legislation.)

Murata: There actually weren't any, but supposing there were detailed negotiations with other ministries, would they be something that took place within the agency, with no military people being involved?

Sakonjo: Yes, they inevitably were involved. It's just that the Defense Agency . . . in other words, at the end of the guideline, it says that U.S.-Japan cooperation in case of a Far East contingency is a Foreign Ministry matter. So, the Foreign Ministry must take the lead. In the case of Japanese contingency legislation, the Defense Agency must be the focal point, but the with the guideline as a framework, the Foreign Ministry says how much the Japanese government can do regarding the U.S. military. The reason why it doesn't get anywhere is either the Foreign Ministry is passive, or they are trying but other agencies don't accept them.

Murata: Speaking from your experience when you were bureau director, were the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency unable to keep the pace in preparing the guideline? At that point, wasn't the route decided, so there weren't any big differences?

Sakonjo: I don't recall the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency as being unable to keep the pace in regards to the guideline. They had a little fight over whether to continue the Defense Cooperation committee or not. I wonder why they disagreed with each other. The Foreign Ministry tried to participate in the Defense Cooperation Sub-committee, but the Defense Agency and the U.S. military did not upset them. In other words, the military didn't want to put the Foreign Ministry in the plan of operations. I think the Foreign Ministry wanted to be in it, though; I have no memory of a controversy with them.

Murata: The Foreign Ministry is included in the Defense Cooperation Sub-committee, in this first step of creating the guideline.

Sakonjo: Yes, they are.

Murata: That's right. The North American Bureau Chief should be included, too.

Sakonjo: After that. The latter one . . . That's right, the Foreign Ministry wanted to preserve the Sub-committee--

Murata: The Defense Agency and the SDF had stopped, and they wanted to quit and go on in a different form.

Sakonjo: Yes, perhaps that is correct. I don't know what happened to the Sub-committee after that. After that, it was about the plan of operations, so the Joint Chiefs and the U.S. troops in Japan went ahead. The U.S. troops in Japan had work with the Pacific command and the Secretary of Defense. They wanted to preserve the Sub-committee because the Foreign Ministry would join it. I think that is right.

Murata: I see.

Sakonjo: I think that is what happened. So if you know what happened to the Sub-committee and when it ended, it might be related to this discussion.

Murata: Understood.

Sakonjo: I'm sorry, it is such a long time ago.

Murata: Since I am a novice, I don't really know, but I would like to ask you about your memory and opinion of the results of the guideline. I have here a report on the actual conditions of U.S.-Japan cooperation training. It is all numbers, and the scale is not written, but the guideline is dated 1978. So, anything after 1979 is after the guideline, but comparing 1978 and 1979, there is a big change. This is because in 1978, there were only 3 instances of Joint Air SDF and U.S. Air Force training, whereas in 1979 it increased to 11, and in 1980 there were 10, and it continued at 10 from then on. In 1978 there were 3, and after the guideline there 11, 10, and 12. Looking just at the numbers, this is the most dramatic change--was there a reason for this?

Sakonjo: In the guideline, cooperation in various areas like training, maneuvers, information, and other aspects must be done, and the strengthening of the Air SDF and the U.S. Air Force may have been tied into that. As you know, since 1955 a main strategy of the Maritime SDF has been Joint Training with the U.S. Navy, with ASW as its principle part. The Ground SDF came later . . .

Murata: That's right. It was later.

Sakonjo: The guideline may have had a partial influence on the public's comprehension. The Maritime SDF train on the open seas, away from the public's view, so there wasn't really any problem. However, the Air SDF and the Ground SDF Joint training and maneuvers was done in Japan, so there was some so-called political friction, and so nothing could be done without an understanding and support of the public regarding maneuvers. At the time, there came a very deep understanding, and the opposition from the residents of the training regions stopped complaining--my impression of that is big. After the guideline was completed, that may have partially helped. My impression is that the public and the local residents' understanding toward the Joint U.S.-Japan maneuvers was heightened, and support was attained. Then, first the Air SDF, then the most visible--

Murata: The Ground SDF.

Sakonjo: That is correct.

Murata: As you say, the relationship between the Maritime SDF and the U.S. Navy is an old one, with Joint maneuvers being done continuously. Mr. Jim Auer has said that the Maritime SDF and the U.S. Navy are twins, and that the guideline didn't bring about that much of a change. He says that since our cooperation goes way back, the guideline's policies have no qualitative difference. Do you feel that way, in regards to the Navy?

Sakonjo: One might say that. About the Joint training again, I made sure that the public and the local residents' understanding was so that there was no opposition to the Air SDF, and that we had the consent of the locals. I think that the biggest thing was for the public's understanding toward the SDF, U.S.-Japan cooperation, and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to deepen, so that after a few years it would be all right for the Ground SDF and the Navy train together, or a adequate land force could come from America or Hawaii. So I don't think that the role that the guideline fulfilled was all that big. The Ground SDF maneuvers were some years later.

Murata: The Joint maneuvers began in 1981, with two.

Sakonjo: It started in 1981? The scale of them didn't get bigger until later on.

Murata: Probably. I think after 1985. Speaker Takashina said in a speech of some sort that the guideline finally gave the Security Treaty teeth. There were quite a few people, critics and scholars, who said things like the guideline is a third Security Treaty, or it is actually a reworking of the Treaty. In that case, the political meaning is taken out; from a military specialist's point of view, what was the actual effect of the guideline?

Sakonjo: Only the most fundamental things are written in the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The 4th and 5th articles, once they are broken down, say nothing specifically about the role the U.S. or Japan would play in an emergency. For example, Japan definitely had a major role in defense, but it was mainly a defensive strategy; America's role was to bring in supplementary troops. It was vaguely understood in that way until the guideline, which clearly stated it. (Besides, the U.S. nuclear umbrella over Japan was documented in the Guidelines.) Information and supply cooperation were also distinctly stated. Information had already been given, but it was strengthened. Through the guideline, the SDF and the U.S. military were brought closer together. By sharing various information which hadn't been passed from the U.S. to Japan before. Even with the logistics issue, I have heard that the U.S. military in Japan has continued to study it out, as the Joint Council was in charge of it. In this way it was not an empty agreement, but something with teeth; in times of emergency, the U.S. cooperation with Japan and the SDF for the defense of Japan was specifically decided. The extremely vague U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was broken down, and a number of items were concretely decided. I think this had great significance; one way of saying it is that it gave it teeth.

Murata: Not a sudden change in the numbers, but a more substantive in unseen parts.

Sakonjo: That's right. If there is cooperation in those areas, it is clearly stated in the guideline which information Japan is to be given. Then, using the guideline as a base, I think that various details came out, like supplying Japan with information.

Murata: What about command coordination? Did it not really work in an emergency?

Sakonjo: That was a very difficult problem. In contrast to the Korean situation, Japan had a huge political problem, in that no matter how small the SDF unit, if it was under U.S. command--this was something that could not be brought up for discussion. This was just as the U.S. was cooperating with the UN, but kept insisting that their forces would not fall under the command of forces elsewhere. South Korea would form a US- South Korean Joint Force in times of emergency. South Korea would not automatically be put under U.S. command all the time; in some situations, American troops would fall under Korean command. This was a taboo in Japan--you couldn't even look into it. I had said in some meeting that it wasn't "under the command," but meant "technical control" or " operational control." Let's say there is a naval group within the Maritime SDF. Also suppose that there are 3 (Japanese) escort groups with the purpose of anti-submarine activities. Then suppose that in response to a submarine report, 2 (American) P-3Cs are dispatched from the 4th Air Group in Atsugi. In that case, the command system is totally different; Above the Escort Group Command is the Rear Admiral, and below it is the Vice Admiral. Above the 4th Air Group is the Air Group Command. However, in situations like those, it is established that the naval command would have operational control over the P-3Cs. In the case of the U.S. and Japan, U.S. anti-submarine equipment would go to the location of the Japanese escort vessels, or vice versa, and the anti-submarine equipment would take operational control. Without that, no strategy could be made. It is fine to think of "operational control" as the command over the operation. So, there is no real problem as far as local spots and the Navy goes.

I don't know if that kind of situation would arise in an emergency, but if Maritime SDF ships go to Hawaii to participate in the RIMPAC, and they are made escort ships to an American aircraft carrier, then the operational control would fall to the tactical commander in the Aircraft Carrier Group Command. So essentially, it is under their command. Through this, the operation is able to run smoothly. But it is more difficult when thinking about the Ground and Air situations. For example, there are 54 American F-15s in Okinawa. I think ours have gone from F-4s to F-15s. They are both interceptors. They used to have more, but now there are also 36 F-16s in Misawa, which have offensive capability. Japan has the offensive F-1, and is awaiting the coming F-2. I think the question of how this will be done is a difficult one. I think perhaps we will wrestle with it while using the term "tactical control." Or, there may already be a settlement. This isn't under command; it's about equal position and the issue is adjustment.

(The relationship between large ground forces may be different. When, for instance, three Ground SDF divisions operate with a U.S. division in the same battle field, a Ground SDF army commander may not control a U.S. division operationally. However, there may be a case in which Ground SDF or U.S. commander puts a part of his force under his counterparts' operational control.) In the case of the Ground SDF, supposing for example that one U.S. division came, I think that the shape that the command would take is quite a problematic one.

Murata: One more thing about the guideline--did cooperation between the Japanese armed services follow U.S.-Japan relations in coming closer together, so that after the guideline, the 3 services proceeded with cooperative regulation?

Sakonjo: Yes. They had to. Talking about the number of divisions in Hokkaido made it suitable for everyone in Japan to earnestly achieve an estimate from the Defense Agency and the 3 SDF, not just the Ground SDF. So like you say, it was inevitable.

Murata: Just two more things--one is very detailed. In the guideline, the roles of the U.S. and Japan are clearly laid out. A Mr. Chuma of the Asahi Shimbun wrote a while ago that Japan took a defensive strategy, while the U.S. took an aggressive strategy. Mr. Chuma also mentioned one example that using the word defensive, which hadn't been used before, in the guideline changed policy. What do you recall about this, the usage of the word defensive?

Sakonjo: I use it quite a bit.

Murata: Oh, really? It's a commonly used word?

Sakonjo: I do say defensive and aggressive. I use them a lot in writing. Defensive is used when talking about an entire operation, or a large operation. In a regional or small theater they are not used, but are regarding large movements. For example, this may not be accurate, but for 6 months after the start of the Pacific War, Japan was able to carry out an aggressive strategy, but after that it was mainly defensive. It has a wider meaning than a term like offense; it is used in relation to a total, full campaign.

(We use both "defensive" and "offensive," or "aggressive" for a strategy, a campaign, an operation, a military posture and a weapons system. The Guideline says "JSDF will primarily conduct defensive operations." I cannot tell you the difference between "offensive" and "aggressive" exactly, but while "aggressive" sounds stronger than "offensive," "offensive" is used much more often than "aggressive." I think we can use "aggressive" for strategy, military posture or campaign, but not for operation or weapons systems.

The ASW operations to protect Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) can be called "defensive," while submarine operations to interdict SLOC as "offensive." Some operations, however, may be called either "defensive" or "offensive." For instance, when we conduct ASW operations in a certain area to hunt and destroy an enemy submarine, we call it "defensive" because it is a part of SLOC protection, but the enemy will see it as "offensive."

As I just said, the terms "defensive" and "offensive" are sometimes used for weapons systems. The government declared that Japan will never have such offensive weapons as attack aircraft carriers, long range missiles or bombers. Again, some weapons systems can be called both "defensive" and "offensive." Submarines are an example.

I would like to add that the term "power projection" often used by the U.S. Navy definitely means "offensive." They say they would discourage Japan from having "power projection" capabilities.)

Murata: So among military specialists, it is usually used a lot--

Sakonjo: Yes. We use it often.

Murata: Then it isn't a word that's especially new to speak of.

Sakonjo: That's right. What I just said is one example. For six months, Japan had a chiefly aggressive strategy, but after that it became mainly a defensive strategy.

Murata: The last thing I would like to ask is about "RIMPAC 80" in 1980 , where for the first time the Maritime SDF participated in joint training with not just the U.S., but a number of countries. Was Japan's participation in the "RIMPAC 80" decided while you were still bureau chief?

Sakonjo: That was the Maritime SDF proper, so I don't have a recollection of it at the Joint Chiefs . I may have heard about it. It was the year after I quit--it may have started in 1981.

Murata: I think it was RIMPAC 80.

Sakonjo: Oh, the year after I quit, so 1980. When I met CINCPAC Long in Hawaii that year, we discussed it. That's right, it was the same time as the F16 deployment in Misawa. We talked about that as well . . . The RIMPAC discussions were supposed to have been held several years earlier. Until then, there was negotiation with the U.S. side, and I think it actually started around the period.

Murata: Participation in the RIMPAC meant a lot to the Maritime SDF, then?

Sakonjo: Yes, it did.

Murata: Is that so?

Sakonjo: We were able to study the operation of the U.S. Navy. Also, as an incidental benefit, there were several military facilities in the area. We can't really shoot off missiles in Japan, so I thought that being able to use the testing sites there was a very big plus. That continued for over 10 years.

Murata: The U.S. and Japan were involved in joint training; did the significance increase when training with other countries?

Sakonjo: The maneuvers were larger than with just the U.S. and Japan.

Murata: So it was a matter of size?

Sakonjo: That's right. There was the issue of size. Australia, and later on South Korea joined, but this didn't really benefit the Maritime SDF too much (from a military perspective). I think that participating in large scale maneuvers with the U.S. has merit.

Murata: In that case, the Maritime SDF intently asked within the Agency to cooperate.

Sakonjo: Of course, that's right. They also went to the Foreign Ministry.

Murata: Was there any friction there? The Maritime SDF wanted to do it, but due to political considerations, was the Defense Agency or the Foreign Ministry negative towards it?

Sakonjo: I wasn't directly over that--it was a Maritime SDF matter. It began a number of years ago. I didn't feel at all like the Defense Agency or the Foreign Ministry was hesitant about it. I think that the Foreign Ministry has a good understanding of defense. U.S.-Japan relations and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty are very important, so it is proper to welcome an emphasis on cooperation between the U.S. military and the SDF. This is a bit of a tangent, but every year the Maritime SDF has an Extended Training Voyage. I had that experience; we were looked after at the Japanese embassy at every port, but the visit of the fleet to the ports was a big plus for the embassies, as well. I heard several times that especially in the case of developing countries where the military had a lot of political power, the power of visiting with the maneuvering fleets was enormous. An exchange route was opened with the top class of the visiting group. I heard about a diplomat who received the expedition fleet when he was young, and welcomed it again after he had moved on to a higher post. Returning to the RIMPAC, I wasn't in charge, but I think that though there may have been some waiting, the Foreign Ministry worked hard for us on the main points.

(The Internal Bureau and MOFA must have had to consider the political impact you just mentioned. The Maritime SDF, as you well know, has been conducting joint exercises with the U.S. many times since the 1950s. RIMPAC differs in only one point--it involves third countries. I may have said this before, but in the latter half of the 1970s, more Japanese recognized and understood the necessity of SDF and the Security Treaty. I recall that I discussed the issues of RIMPAC and the recent development of USAF F-16 fighters in Misawa with Admiral Long, CINCPAC then at his headquarters in April 1980. I would say the time was ripe by 1980 for Maritime SDF to participate in RIMPAC in view of the political atmosphere in Japan.)

Murata: When you were bureau chief, the situation was one where preparations proceeded with no problems.

Sakonjo: That's right. I didn't have much interest at the time, because it was a Maritime SDF matter.

Murata: Thank you for you time.