Keiji Ohmori Oral History Interview

Conducted by Koji Murata

December 20, 1996

Murata: Today I would like to ask you about your involvement in the 1978 Guideline for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation. When you were the deputy chief, you were a member of the Defense Section at the Japan Defense Agency. I assume you were involved in the policy-making process of the Guideline.

Ohmori: Yes. I was assigned to the Defense Section around June 1976. Mr. Nishihiro was the section head then, and I remember him telling me personally that I would work on the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation issue. Also, around the time Budget Committee was meeting in 1976, or perhaps it was before that, there was the Sakata-Schlesinger meeting, and both sides had already agreed on the framework for defense cooperation. When I went to work at the Defense Section I think it was rather the Operation Section who was involved in the process. I remember section chief Nishihiro telling me to take care of the Guideline issue, but it was a person from the Operation Section who explained to me what had happened until then. In that sense, I did not succeed from my colleagues at the Defense Section.

Murata: Can you remember the name of the official at the Operation Section?

Ohmori: His name was Kuri, and he was two years younger than me. We worked together closely on this until he left the Agency. I think he is a lawyer now.

Murata: Who was the Operating chief?

Ohmori: His name was Hiroshi Hasegawa. He has already retired, but I think he came in 1958 or 1959. Back then it seemed as if Nishihiro served for a long time, and before Nishihiro it was Natsume, I think. Perhaps Natsume was the Defense Section chief, went to Operation Division and came back to Defense after a while. Unfortunately, I do not remember the details.

Murata: So is it all right to assume that the Guideline process was in the final stage when you became the deputy chief at the Headquarters?

Ohmori: No, it was still at the developing the framework stage. Around the time I became the deputy chief, a sub-committee for Defense Cooperation was created. I need to look up to get the exact date, but I think it was around the time when there was a meeting for Security Cooperation Committee and the SDC was established. So with the SDC in place the work for the Guideline began. I think I attended the first SDC meeting as a note-taker, and I wrote reports and recorded the procedures.

Murata: Before we get any further, I would like to ask you briefly about the Sakata-Schlesinger talks and also about Sakata being questioned by a Socialist Diet member at the Diet, where he talked about the necessity of U.S.-Japan defense cooperation.

Ohmori: Yes, it was Tetsu Ueda's questioning.

Murata: The common explanation is that it was the Japanese who took the initiative about the Guideline and U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. You were probably not aware about the situation from the very beginning, but was that the impression you got when you were at the Defense Section? Did you understand it as Japan proposing the idea and the U.S. agreeing to it?

Ohmori: Yes, after I went to the Defense Section, and even during the 1960s and 1970s, there was a heated debate at the Diet about the inclusion of Japan in the American Far East Strategy. There was also the debate about the progress in emergency research between the two defense staffs, and that Socialist Diet member from Hokkaido.....

Murata: Maruo Okada.

Ohmori: Okada said that defense staff from both countries has cooperated without civilian control under the code name of Flying Dragon. His comments froze the Diet. I remember things like that even before I went to the Division. Also, during that time Maruyama was the Director-General of the Defense Policy Bureau. He formed a line with Nishihiro and Hojuyama, and there was discussion within the Defense Section about who will do the new research on the Guideline. We came to the conclusion that the director-general and section chief will do the bulk of it while I organize the resources. There were many debates, but I remember Maruyama saying that while Article Five of the US-Japan Security Treaty states that the two countries should cooperate in times of crisis, there is no mentioning of when such defensive action can officially take place. I often heard that since the Diet felt that aspect was very problematic for Japan, the cooperation must be done under civilian control, and the Americans should understand that. That type of argument was quite common, but I do not exactly know how and when it came about. I do think that the JDA initiated it, and discussions with the Americans began after that.

Murata: When I talked to Maruyama and Natsume, both said that Takuya Kubo was relatively cold toward the Guideline. Do you remember anything about that?

Ohmori: Let's see, I don't remember if Maruyama said anything about that.

Murata: I see.

Ohmori: But Nishihiro said that Maruyama placed a lot of importance on strengthening U.S.-Japan relations from the military side. Nishihiro also felt that way, and he tended to think that it must be done within a large framework. As for Kubo's opinion, I had many discussions with him when he was the director-general of the Defense Policy Bureau and I was at the Bureau's First Research Division. I also heard Kubo debating with younger Bureau members when Nishihiro gathered people to discuss Kubo's paper, the so-called KB paper. I don't know if Kubo was enthusiastic about the Guideline, but I do think he was not as aggressive about it as Maruyama was. Maruyama was the one who was most supportive of drafting a U.S.-Japan cooperative strategic plan.

Murata: So at the JDA back then, Maruyama's position stood out.

Ohmori: It wasn't obvious, but Maruyama-Nishihiro line was aggressive about the Guideline. Back then the Guideline was developed with the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nishihiro and Yukio Sato, who was the head of Security Division under the Bureau of North American Affairs and is now the Ambassador to Australia, were both enthusiastic about making the cooperative action clause under Article Five more substantial. So as far as I know, Maruyama did not stand out.

Murata: When the subcommittee for Defense Cooperation (SDC) started to meet, what was the biggest issue between the U.S. and Japan? It is often said that Japan wanted a study on Japanese emergency matters first, while the U.S. stuck to the study on Far Eastern emergency matters. Was there that kind of differences between the U.S. and Japan?

Ohmori: I am not sure because I was not involved in it from the beginning, but I suppose there were many debates during the process of creating the SDC when Maruyama, Natsume and Nishihiro were there. When I went, the SDC was already in place but there was no agenda yet. The understanding, however, was that the Japanese will take initiative and lead the process. But the U.S. did have a tendency to simply divide the issue into Article Five and Article Six matters. I went around and asked for section chief's and director-general's instructions. But the bureau chiefs and vice ministers rarely became involved when I was at the Defense Section.

Murata: So what kinds of issues about the Guideline were discussed when you were there?

Ohmori: Since the SDC was already in place, we discussed the issues to talk about at SDC. Therefore, we talked about the situation with Article Five, and then situation with Article Six. But it wasn't possible to have a study saying it was about Article Five, so we said it was to consider the possibility of damage being inflicted on our country directly or forming an agenda. We also started off by making it clear that SDC was a place to develop the Guideline, not where we debate Japan's basic defense strategy, constitutional issues, or basic framework of the Security Treaty. My first task was to coordinate the opinions, so I went to the Bureau Chief and Division Chief to organize their arguments, organized discussed topics at SDC, and took them to the Foreign Ministry.

Murata: About the content of the Guideline, which you just said did not mention constitutional issues or nuclear issues, Asahi Shimbun reported on a special article about emergency studies that while Maruyama and Nishihiro thought of it along that line, those who wore uniforms opposed it because they felt they couldn't discuss issues if such framework existed. Do you remember anything about that?

Ohmori: No. When the Guideline was finished, there were references about the conditions for the study. Those were the same preconditions attached when the issue was discussed at SDC. And those were the preconditions when we actually started the study on the Guideline.

Murata: Did the Defense Agency propose that?

Ohmori: Yes.

Murata: Maruyama-Nishihiro line.

Ohmori: Yes. Like I just said, there were many preparations going on for the first meeting of SDC. Before debating on the substance, we set the precondition for the debates and discussed how to set the agenda for discussion topics. These included considering Japan's constitutional constraints, but not including issues related to the Security Treaty or nuclear issues. Agenda centered on the Article Five issue, and we discussed how similar it was to the Guideline, and how to cooperate during the peacetime as well as during emergencies. We also discussed the specifics in joint actions. I think it was around July or August when we wrote those things and cooperation related to Article Six and formed the agenda. Keiichi Ito was the Director-General of the Bureau representing the Defense Agency. I think Maruyama was already a vice minister.

Murata: So about the conditions you just mentioned, neither the U.S. nor the Foreign Ministry said anything about attaching preconditions at the SDC?

Ohmori: No, they didn't. Defense Agency wanted to add the constitutional restraints as a condition, and the Foreign Ministry wanted to mention both the basic framework of the Security Treaty and the issue of prior consultations. So while the constitutional constraints clause did come from the Defense Agency, on the whole it was a collaboration between the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency.

Murata: The U.S. didn't resist?

Ohmori: I don't recall the U.S. side mentioning anything, both before and during the first SDC meeting.

Murata: When you joined as the deputy chief at the Headquarters, were there many differences in opinions between the U.S. and Japan at SDC?

Ohmori: No, not officially at the SDC. But actually, we devoted two or three sessions to the constitutional constraint issue. We explained to the Americans about Japanese defense policy and emphasized that the Diet should debate the principal objective. In other words, the U.S. is the spear and Japan is the shield, and we should reaffirm that and clarify the role of the SDF before we study plans for joint strategic plan. After that debate we created three panels below the SDC, each dealing with information, strategy, and backup supplies. We then tried to develop a guideline for each of these sections, but it was a difficult process not only because of the general differences in the roles of SDF and U.S. troops, but also because the issue was highly political. For instance, the strategic panel or sectional meeting was led by the head of the Operational Section and a uniform official from the Joint Staff Council. Members of the Committee included Defense Agency officials from the Defense Policy Bureau such as the section chief of Defense. Three office heads represented the Joint Staff Council, and three division heads represented the U.S. military. The three U.S. military officials said it is unacceptable that U.S. forces are the hitters and the SDF are the defenders, and said both sides must do the job together. Therefore, the discussion of dividing the role between the two parties as we originally intended did not go very far. As for information, it was not difficult to agree to exchange information more closely. In that sense, as the process of guideline developing shifted down below the SDC and became more specialized, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the notion of SDF as the shield and U.S. troops as the spear. This was especially true with strategy. I remember the discussions facing difficulties there.

Murata: Was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved at the panel level?

Ohmori: Yes, they were. Division chief of Security was involved. So Nishihiro and Sato tried to do what they could, but since the issue of dividing roles was also strategic and political, the involvement of Department of Defense and Department of State was increasingly thought to be as necessary. I think that happened a year after SDC started to meet, in 1976.

Murata: I see. So in other words, panels were created after SDC started to meet. And panels were organized into specialty sections.

Ohmori: That is right. Three specialized sections were created, strategy, information, and backup support.

Murata: Since discussions on division of roles did not reach a conclusion, it was decided that the issues should be discussed at a higher level such as the Defense Department or State Department.

Ohmori: Yes. I think people felt that a decision had to be made at that level.

Murata: Was that what happened, that a decision was made in Washington?

Ohmori: Yes. The process began in 1976, and a draft of the Guideline was submitted in 1978, at .......

Murata: The Cabinet approved it in November 1978.

Ohmori: In the spring of that year, I remember Nishihiro being angry that the Guideline was not finished even after two years. I left JDA in January 1979, but when the Guideline was close to completion, I handed my job over to Mr. Niigai, who is now the vice-director of PKO Preparation in the Cabinet. I think that was in June or July.

Murata: In 1978.

Ohmori: Yes. I think the original draft of the Guideline was written in late 1977 or spring 1978. But if I may repeat, what we wanted was that U.S. will handle strategic aspects such as mobile troops and mobile air forces, and SDF will be involved with support. Incorporating those ideas in the plan was the main theme, and it was difficult to solve it at the administrative level or involving only the U.S. military forces in Japan. We even went to Hawaii to negotiate. Later, section chief-level officials from the Joint Staff Council came to help us, and Foreign Ministry officials also went to the State Department to talk things over with them.

Murata: I see. Who was the American counterpart that you worked with most often during this time?

Ohmori: I forgot his name, but he was an Army Colonel at the Third Division of U.S. military in Japan. Below him was a Lieutenant Colonel of the Army, Mr. Miyamoto, who was a second-generation Japanese-American. I mainly dealt with him. In the Fifth Division of the Pacific Forces, there was a Navy Ensign. I think his name was Shelton. Below Shelton there was an officer named Shikata. He was either a second- or third-generation Japanese-American who could speak Japanese but couldn't read it. At the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there was that Army Colonel from the Fifth Division. He and I acted as liaisons for both sides, and the director-general of the bureau, Vice Minister Maruyama and Section Head Nishihiro relayed their opinions through Lt. Colonel Miyamoto.

Murata: Did you have any direct contact with the Pentagon?

Ohmori: No, I didn't have direct contact with Department of International Security Affairs.

Murata: How about direct contact with officials at the section head level?

Ohmori: It wasn't like today, where ISA and Defense Policy Bureau have regular contacts.

Murata: Jim Auer was at the Pentagon back then, wasn't he?

Ohmori: Was he?

Murata: Was he there later then?

Ohmori: I think he was there much later.

Murata: Excuse me. You didn't have contact with officials such as Jim Auer's predecessor who was in charge of Japanese affairs at the Pentagon?

Ohmori: At Hawaii, Deputy Assistant Secretary McGiffert talked with Maruyama a lot, and that representative for the Deputy Assistant Secretary, was it Abramowitz.....

Murata: Abramowitz, I think that was him.

Ohmori: Yes, Abramowitz was the representative. Abramowitz, Nishihiro, and Sato had many discussions. So I don't think I directly dealt with Abramowitz or officials below him.

Murata: At any rate, you could say that the extent of interaction among civilian officials back then compared to today was much lower.

Ohmori: Yes. But Sato and Abramowitz knew each other well, and Nishihiro also became acquainted with Abramowitz because of his closeness with Sato. As for me, I was instructed to act along that line, dealing with Japan's Strategic defense posture and dependence on American preventive ability and creating a framework along that line. Along the Nishihiro-Sato line, we dealt with Abramowitz and who was that person from the State Department....

Murata: Holbrooke was at the State Department. Armacost was also there.

Ohmori: Armacost might have been at the National Security Council. I think the U.S. side was represented by Armacost, Holbrooke and Abramowitz. So Sato and Nishihiro dealt with Japan's basic position. As for me, I helped developing the Guidelines in English and my American counterpart was someone from the U.S. military in Japan. Head of the Fifth Division of the Pacific Forces attended the SDC meetings, and his name was Shleton, a Navy Ensign. But the head of the strategic panel was Miyamoto, who was from the Air Force and head of the Third Division. U.S. forces in Japan always went to the Pacific Force Commander and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff complaining about Japan's position. So and Army Colonel from JCS would come to discuss things. The debates at the panel level went on for a while, but after we had the substance we only had the negotiation with the Americans. I think both sides agreed to the substance of the Guideline around late 1977 or spring 1978.

Murata: Was the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo involved?

Ohmori: Deming was not there and Seligmannn was either ministerial counsel or a councilor, so let's see... I think Blair was the First Secretary at the Embassy, and he ran many errands. He went back and forth between the Security Division in the Foreign Ministry and us. I think the U.S. Embassy delivered many political messages, but I am not sure how much they were involved in developing the substance of the Guideline. Our regular route was to go through the U.S. forces in Japan, Pacific Forces and the JCS. We let Nishihiro know what was happening, and he went back and forth between the Foreign Ministry and Sato.

Murata: So if it was agreed that the SDF will be the shield and the U.S. will be the spear, were there any disagreements about that within the SDF, specifically about the fact that Japan's role will be limited to acting as a shield? Did they accept it as reality?

Ohmori: When I was at the Defense Division during this process, there was a Command Control Force within the three sections of the Joint Staff Council, and they served as the liaison for the Guideline research. In addition, the SDF Operational Division had officials who had either Commander or Lt. Colonel ranks. These officials from both groups debated at joint meetings and reported to their respective superiors. As for the objections within the SDF, as I said before the Diet debate formulated the explanations and understandings, so the study for strategic plan was conducted to reaffirm those understandings. There may have been those who did not like the basic policy of SDF taking a strategic defense position or acting as the shield, but I have never heard that kind of opinion among the mainstream of Defense officials. It is true that there were debates within each service branch when we were drafting the defense plans of the Guideline and deciding the details. But I don't think there were many differences in opinions. Ground SDF for example seems to take the position of waiting for American help, so the new idea was not to have the GSDF fight on their own. I think the Maritime SDF and Air SDF's ideas were to have joint strategic plans.

Murata: Invasion by the Soviet Union of Hokkaido was one aspect of strategic planning. In reality chances of the Soviets entering Hokkaido was not very realistic given their lack of ability to launch a fierce invasion by the ground. Some say that reflected GSDF's desire for such scenario to occur, but did you sense anything like that?

Ohmori: That kind of scenario is one step more specific as a debate. Since discussions for a Guideline were in general carried on aiming at developing a common agenda when making strategic plans, specifics such as what to do when Soviets invade Hokkaido were not discussed. Those were a matter of common principles being applied.

Murata: So you were not involved when specific scenarios of the strategic plan were considered.

Ohmori: No, I had left the Defense Division in January or February 1979. But Japan's argument was that it was necessary not only to include general principles but also specifics. For the GSDF, it was about how to act, whether in abstract terms or in general terms, and about whether it should act to defend itself. MSDF was more concerned with joint action in the sealanes. The domestic debate was heated. As you can see the Guideline was written in general terms and does not concern with specific scenarios. So I do not recall the topic coming up at panel discussions.

Murata: So the opinions of the Defense Agency and the Foreign Ministry about what the panels drafted did not diverge a lot.

Ohmori: No, I don't think they were in conflict. Well, since it was about developing joint strategic action between the SDF and the U.S. forces, I don't think the Foreign Ministry complained about it too much.

Murata: Did the idea of studying possible emergencies in the Far East develop later? Or was it already being considered during the Guideline developing process?

Ohmori: Yes. So when we wrote the agenda we decided that we will discuss the Article Five situation first and then Article Six. Emergency in the Far East was also a topic of discussion. As I mentioned before, the Article Five issue was being discussed at the panel. But we decided that the manner should be sent to the higher level, although it was not because we ran into a wall at the panel. Much time was spent doing this, so there was less time for discussion of Article Six. So the Article Six issue mentioned in the Guideline was not discussed at the panel. The Guideline process was already in progress for two years, so there was a need to speed up the process. Nishihiro said to wrap things up at the panels and the strategic ideas being discussed which was based on Diet debates, so we did that. Then the question of what to do with Article Six came up, so we drafted a Status of Force Agreement and took it to the Foreign Ministry, even though one part was written in detail and other was not. Sato was no longer there, so we dealt with Tamba, who is now the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. At that time the situation with Article Six such as the pre-consultation issue attracted attention among Foreign Ministry officials and us. We decided to be flexible and include the joint use of facilities during emergencies in the Agreement. The existing regulations included the Status of Force Agreement, so we noted in the Guideline that we will follow the existing regulations. Then in June or July we tried to get an agreement at the Security Committee. Nishihiro instructed us to do that.

Murata: The Guideline was finished in late 1978. I counted the number of joint U.S.-Japan military exercises conducted by each service branch in a year, and if we only look at the numbers, the Air SDF conducted three exercises in 1978 while it increased to 11 in 1979. The numbers of exercise in the following years were all in the double-digit. Jim Auer says the Navy and MSDF had a very close relationship even before the Guideline, so the cooperative relationship did not change dramatically after the Guideline was enacted. But the numbers for the ASDF increased after 1978. So can we say that this increase is the direct result of the enactment of the Guideline?

Ohmori: Yes, that is exactly right. As Jim Auer said, the relationship between the two naval services was always close, but I think the Guideline was the deciding factor in allowing Japan to participate in RIMPAC. The ASDF began to conduct joint exercises using a combat scenario after the Guideline was in place. So it is true that the ASDF had very high hopes for the Guideline. Before that, the joint exercises for the ASDF involved learning combating techniques from the U.S., and did not involve training to fight the enemy together using certain formations. I don't know what exactly the joint exercises involved, whether the U.S. dragged Japan along, but I do know that the extent of ASDF and Navy doing things together was very limited. The explanation to the Diet was that the purpose of the joint exercises was for Japan to learn advanced techniques and not to conduct a scenario-based combat training. The explanations for MSDF exercises were basically the same. But I do not know whether that kind of explanation was acceptable for RIMPAC. I recall that the ideas for RIMPAC were already there before the Guideline came out.

Murata: When I talked to Maruyama about Japan's participation in RIMPAC in 1980, he said that Japan had the basic preparations to join the previous exercise, but could not participate because advance groundwork was not laid in time.

Ohmori: I think that is what happened. I think the reason for the delayed political behind-the-scenes negotiations was that there was not enough time for political persuasion. Participation in RIMPAC was possible only because we had the Guideline, so I think the Guideline played a role in the persuasion process.

Murata: When the Guideline was being drafted, did the officials have in mind the MSDF participating in RIMPAC?

Ohmori: I am not sure if there was a clear motivation like that. But some officials in charge of this matter wanted to have high-intensity trainings using a scenario. That training is based on U.S.-Japan joint strategic plan, not merely confirming that such plan exists, so it is true that the MSDF had high hopes for it. If we rank the aggressiveness of the attitude toward the new arrangement among the three branches, MSDF and ASDF were most aggressive. ASDF was especially earnest about it. MSDF ranked next, and GSDF last, since it was least likely to have a close relationship with the U.S. forces. But I think at the end the GSDF's number of joint exercises also increased.

Murata: GSDF became involved later beginning in 1981, when they conducted two exercises. In subsequent years, they had four, three, five, seven, and seven exercises. After 1985, the numbers begin to increase.

Ohmori: In my opinion, GSDF was not very interested in joint exercises. But when the MSDF and ASDF started to have more exercises, GSDF started to do it as well. But a lot of us were saying that the Guideline can be confusing. ASDF argued the strongest in saying that they cannot train with the U.S. forces unless there was a study for a strategic plan.

Murata: Did the GSDF say that they can do the job on their own?

Ohmori: Yes. GSDF basically said that they do not mind assistance but they are capable of defending themselves, that unnecessary assistance will not help them. Representatives from the GSDF were aware of this. They felt that they would not object to joint action with the U.S. if the action by GSDF was part of a security structure, but generally their mindset was different from both Maritime and Air. So in drafting the Guideline, they placed more importance on the U.S. assisting them when GSDF needed it, rather than on developing a joint strategy. So Japan and the U.S. had big differences in opinion on basic ideas of the Guideline as a whole. Also, when Japan and the U.S. were negotiating, Japan's idea was to set up the Guideline to allow it to become aggressive about the exercises. The SDF officials, both administrative and uniform, wanted to expand the structure to cope with emergencies. So they wanted to make sure they will be able to work with the U.S. before taking a direct strategic action during emergencies. I think the study of joint strategic plan refers to this core. Another thing I would like to say is that the joint strategy would not basically stand up unless the U.S. has an outlook for the future. So we noted the importance of America's future development in the section about preventing an invasion from happening. Another issue was what to do with structure of the strategic plan. Still another issue was the logistics of the supply structure. It is said that the U.S. had many demands about this, but we stopped at mentioning the balance of the structure rather than focusing on just the Japanese structure. As for your questions in the beginning about Articles Five and Six, Japan's defense and emergencies in the Far East, we acted based on Maruyama and Nishihiro's opinions. Our position was that if we agreed to Article Five, we can do it as an application of Article Six. Therefore, we included things such as information exchange and logistics in Article Five. Even though more specifics were discussed, Maruyama and Nishihiro were content to fill the holes later, so I think Japan was unable to involve itself further with the Americans.

Murata: Thank you very much.