323 Forsyth to Ball

Cablegram 826 WASHINGTON, 21 June 1946


1. Your telegram dealing with Japanese Constitution [1] was relayed from Canberra and Minister (Dr. Evatt) has instructed me to cable you as follows:-

Minister spoke to Acheson of State Department shortly after receipt of your message. Acheson said he would act immediately and try to stop any pressure to force the Constitution through while the matter was before the Far Eastern Commission.

Minister desires you to see MacArthur personally and inform him that Dr. Evatt agrees that it is a matter of some urgency to obtain the adoption of a new Constitution but that he also feels that it is important not to make the new Constitution final at present. Dr. Evatt agrees with the views expressed by General MacArthur to the Far Eastern Commission [2] that the fluid situation in Japan should be stabilized and that it is undesirable that the old Constitution should continue in effect. If in adopting the new Constitution there were provisions for its revision in from eighteen months to two years time, with popular approval, this might remove much difficulty. In such revision the people should have a chance to vote on the Constitution and on any amendments thought desirable by the Diet or a Constituent Assembly.

Minister stresses the importance of conveying this in an absolutely informal and very friendly manner.

2. For your information, at meeting of Far Eastern Commission 20th June, before receipt of your telegram, Dr. Evatt suggested that the new Constitution should be subject to revision as above and the suggestion was referred to the Constitutional Committee of F.E.C. for early report. Plimsoll tabled a motion this morning 21st June in the Constitutional Committee, to this effect. A majority of the Committee, including Russian member, adopted the motion-U.S. and U.K. reserving their position. The question will probably be considered by the Commission at next meeting, 27th June. Our feeling is that the proposal should meet both the legitimate desire of SCAP for as early a replacement of the old Constitution as possible, and the obligation of the Far Eastern Commission to satisfy itself that the new Constitution is acceptable and adopted in accordance with Potsdam. It would give the Japanese people an opportunity to judge the Constitution in the light of their experience of its working. [3]

1 On 19 June Ball had sought Evatt's instructions regarding Derevyanko's claim that the new constitution would be rushed through the Diet on 21 or 22 June.

2 In the document presented to the F.E.C. on 5 June. See Document 293 and note 1 thereto.

3 The Constitutional Committee's draft policy Statement of 21 June, embodying Evatt's proposal, provided for a specially convened representative body to review and, if necessary, amend the constitution between one and two years after its promulgation.

It was then to be submitted to the Japanese people for approval by referendum. In its final form, passed by the F.E.C. on 17 October, the policy statement provided for review by both Diet and F.E.C., and merely for the possibility that the F.E.C. might require a referendum.