From right: Moderator Kimberly Reed leads a discussion on U.S.-Japan relations with Robert C. O’Brien and Mary Kissel.

By TOMOKO NAGAI, Rafu Staff Writer

YORBA LINDA — Fifty years after the signing of the Okinawa Reversion Agreement in June 1971, the Richard Nixon Foundation held a commemorative event at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda on June 17.

After the end of World War II, Okinawa Prefecture, as it is known today, remained under U.S. occupation for 27 years, long after the U.S. occupation of the Japanese mainland ended in 1952.

Koji Tomita, Japanese ambassador to the U.S., gave the keynote speech. This was the first time the ambassador had visited California since his arrival in January this year. Robert O’Brien, national security advisor to President Donald Trump (2019-2021), gave the opening remarks and participated in the panel discussion.

Tomita emphasized that “the tremendous efforts made by those involved in the reversion of Okinawa have led to the strong Japan-U.S. alliance that exists today.”

O’Brien said, “The U.S.-Japan national security alliance is the most important security relationship in the world,”

Panelists included Mary Kissel, senior advisor to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Richard Allen, national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan (1981-1982); Dr. Luke Nichter, James H. Cavanaugh Professor of Presidential Studies at Chapman University; and Dr. Michael Austin, Payson J. Treat Distinguished Research Fellow in Contemporary Asia at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

From Japan, Professor Nobumasa Akiyama of Hitotsubashi University’s School of International and Public Policy, and Matake Kamiya, professor of international studies at National Defense Academy of Japan, participated as speakers through video conferencing.

The Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both Japan and China, were also included in the agenda. Kamiya said that the islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, are historically Japanese territory.

Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Koji Tomita was among the speakers.

A joint statement by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden in April reaffirmed that Article V of the treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands. The U.S. and Japan together oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the islands.

The reversion of Okinawa’s administration was agreed upon in November 1969 by President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. Based on the agreement signed on June 17, 1971, the return to the mainland was realized on May 15, 1972.

Nixon (1913-1994), an Orange County native who served as president from January 1968 to August 1974, not only returned Okinawa to Japan but also withdrew the U.S. military from the Vietnam War and surprised the world with a sudden visit to China. He was profiled during the program as a president who had the foresight to realize the importance of Asia 50 years ago.

Approximately 150 people attended the event. Eddie Kamiya, chairman of the North American Okinawa Kenjinkai, said, “Next year, the 50th anniversary of the return to the mainland, there will be a big celebration at the Okinawa Kenjinkai.”

Photos by JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo

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  1. Correction for the article: Trump’s term of office as POTUS was from 2016 to 2020.