Nautilus Institute Digital Library
july 19, 1999


U.S. Navy Rejects State Department Proposal To Offload Nuclear Weapons Before Entering Japan

During preparations for homeporting the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) to Yokosuka in 1972, the U.S. State Department proposed offloading the carrier's nuclear weapons prior to entering Japan. This proposal was rejected by the Chief of Naval Operations, however, as "operationally unacceptable." The Japanese government nonetheless has assured publicly that U.S. aircraft carriers homeported in Japan respected Japan's prohibition against nuclear weapons.

Obtained under the provisions of the
U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
by the Nautilus Institute
March 1997


FOIA Documents

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "CINCPAC Command History for 1972," August 31, 1973, Volume I, p. 66.

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In the matter of homeporting ships at Yokosuka, Phase I provided for initial deployment of six destroyers followed by the Phase II deployment of an aircraft carrier (a CVA), with an on-board air wing using Atsugi Air Base intermittently during in-port and maintenance periods. The homeporting was considered dependent on the retention of Drydocks 4, 5, and 6 at Yokosuka. The homeporting of the six destroyers had been approved by Japanese government officials in August 1971. When the homeporting had been accomplished, the Chief of Naval Operations, in March 1972, asked CINCPAC for his views on homeporting the carrier (homeporting was called "extended deployment"). CINCPAC replied that there were on-going issues between the two governments that should be resolved prior to beginning discussions. CINCPAC, however, continued to support the homeporting of the carrier in Japan; he recommended that a determination of when the subject should be broached with the Japanese should be left to the judgement of the Country Team. Nevertheless, he, said, prudence dictated that the United States not delay initiating discussions on this matter past the summer of 1972 in order to insure sufficient lead time to accommodate USN planning and operational actions.

The carrier plan had still not been briefed to the Japanese government when key Foreign Office officials were advised of the deployment possibility at the Hawaii talks on 31 August 1972. Some conflict continued, however, between the State Department and the CNO regarding housing of added personnel in the Yokosuka area and treatment of nuclear weapons problems. While the Japanese government had tacitly accepted nuclear weapons on ships entering and departing Japanese ports in the past, homeporting could surface the issue to a degree that would not permit continued tacit approval. The State Department had indicated that carrier weapons should be removed prior to entry into a port; this suggestion was operationally unacceptable to the CNO.

In mid-September 1972 the Japanese Foreign Minister acknowledged receipt of the U.S. request for extended deployment of the CVA and stated that it was being studied in accordance with security treaty obligations. The U.S. request had been based on more effectively meeting the U.S. obligations under the Mutual Security Treaty in the face of growing manpower and budgetary constraints. The Major of Yokosuka, formerly opposed to the deployment, has publicly stated his readiness to conditionally permit U.S. carriers to use Yokosuka as their "mother port." The JDA Director General has stated that the carrier homeporting was inevitable and indicated that the Japanese government would yield to the U.S. request. Opposition parties were expected to attack the proposal bitterly, however.

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, "CINCPAC Command History for 1972," August 31, 1973, Volume I, p. 66. Secret. Partially declassified and released under FOIA. Emphasis added.

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