Detailed deglacial and Holocene records of planktonic ?18O and Mg/Ca–based sea surface temperature (SST) from the Okinawa Trough suggest that at ?18 to 17 thousand years before present (kyr B.P.), late spring/early summer SSTs were approximately 3°C cooler than today, while surface waters were up to 1 practical salinity unit saltier. These conditions are consistent with a weaker influence of the summer East Asian Monsoon (EAM) than today. The timing of suborbital SST oscillations suggests a close link with abrupt changes in the EAM and North Atlantic climate. A tropical influence, however, may have resulted in subtle decoupling between the North Atlantic and the Okinawa Trough/EAM during the deglaciation. Okinawa Trough surface water trends in the Holocene are consistent with model simulations of an inland shift of intense EAM precipitation during the middle Holocene. Millennial-scale alternations between relatively warm, salty conditions and relatively cold, fresh conditions suggest varying influence of the Kuroshio during the Holocene.