TOKYO, June 17 (WP).— The United States formally pledged today to return Okinawa to Japan in a controversial agreement reaffirming the continued role of the island as the pivotal American base complex in the western Pacific.
Demonstrators protesting the military provisions of the accord snake-danced through the streets here while Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Foreign Minister Kiichi Aichi put the final seal on 18 months of delicate negotiations in simultaneous televised ceremonies linked by satellite relay.
Japanese officials made no secret of their irritation that President Nixon had decided against attending the White House signing ceremonies. The general belief here is that Mr. Nixon meant to convey continuing displeasure with Japanese trade policies.
[In the Washington ceremony, Mr. Rogers read a statement by Mr. Nixon saying both nations “have much to be proud of this day.”
[The President said: “The friendship and mutual respect which enabled our negotiators to resolve the many difficult issues will, I am sure, enable us to work together for the continued progress of our two countries and for that of the entire world.”
[Addressing “our friends in Okinawa,” Mr. Rogers said: “Today’s agreement signals the next to the last step leading to your reunification with Japan. We share your anticipation of that day. We are grateful for the friendship and cooperation which have marked our relations throughout these last 26 years and which we sincerely hope will continue in the years ahead.”]
In the Tokyo proceedings, the ghost at the banquet was Okinawa’s popular governor, Chobyo Yara, who politely but firmly rejected an invitation from Premier Eisaku Sato to attend the signing.
Gov. Yara won a landslide election victory in 1968 on a platform demanding a nuclear-free Okinawa. He voiced regret in a statement today that the agreement left most key U.S. bases on Okinawa.
Mr. Sato and his entire cabinet watched the signing in the grand hall of his heavily guarded official residence. Unsmiling, Mr. Sato said in a brief speech that he hoped ratification of the agreement by the Japanese Diet and the U.S. Congress would “take place at the earliest opportunity in 1972.”
— The International Herald Tribune, Jun. 18, 1971.