357 British Commonwealth Conference
Verbatim Minutes (extract) CANBERRA, 28 August 1947
MR. FRASER: Civil aviation is as integral a part of a country's economy as rail or road transport. The prohibition of the running of civil airlines by the Japanese would create a feeling of great inferiority which, instead of helping to solve our problems, would, in my opinion, only increase them. We cannot put even Japan into a straitjacket. The Chief of the New Zealand Air Force asserts that the possession of civil airlines by Japan would not constitute a real danger because this would require the training of pilots and technical personnel for air transport duties only and not for the many and complex operations needed in war. Of course, anything used in civil life can be turned to war purposes.
The question is whether we shall say to Japan: 'We will form an international airline and run your civil aviation traffic.' We might as well say: 'We will run your railways and your road services.' There is another question, relating to freedom of the air. We must insist on international airlines having terminals or landing places in Japan. It is worth while considering also whether the air over Japan should be internationalised. This might involve discrimination against Japan, but there is a strong argument in favour of the internationalisation of all air. I shall not deal with that argument in detail now. I consider that prohibition of civil aviation would be impracticable and would only constitute the very dangers that we are trying to avoid.
MR. RAFI: I agree with Mr. Fraser. It has been observed that it would be undesirable to allow Japan to manufacture aircraft. The only reason given in support of that observation is that economically it would be unsound because Japan may not require more than a relatively few aircraft. I consider that the decision as to whether the proposition would be economically unsound should be left to Japan. That is not our business. Is there any other objection to the manufacture of aircraft by Japan? MR. CLAXTON: Our experience as aircraft producers shows that any plant which is competent to make civil aircraft can be converted very rapidly to make war aircraft.
MR. RAFI: I appreciate that fact, but that danger would be considerably minimised by the existence of supervisory committees and all sorts of restrictions on the range and power of aircraft.
Having all this in view, I think it would be desirable to allow the manufacture of aircraft in Japan.
DR. EVATT: I do not regard paragraph 94  as having any economic purpose whatever. It is aimed purely at the prevention of the development of war potentials. We should remember what happened in Germany after World War I. Germany was permitted to engage in limited civil aviation, and its manufacturing potential grew until its great aircraft industry was completely re-established. Japan is now very much in the same position. It is worth remembering that sometimes a prohibition can be made effective whereas a regulation cannot be enforced. History shows that civil aviation accompanied by manufacturing rights is inseparable from military aviation. The civil aircraft is a military aircraft. As soon as war starts, the civil plane becomes a transport carrier. It is an essential part of the armed forces. I do not dissent from some of the remarks that have been made about giving the Japanese a chance, but I would not give them a chance in this field.
MR. McNEIL: I make plain the fact that my Government agrees completely with the proposal made by Dr. Evatt in paragraph 94 of his notes in relation to the manufacture of aircraft. So, I gather, does the Canadian Government. We favour a total prohibition of manufacture. We merely argue that certain exemptions might be permitted since, if we agree upon prohibition of manufacture, we can easily control imports.
MR. FRASER: I think the economic ground is incidental.
MR. CLAXTON: Yes. I make clear that it would not work an economic hardship on Japan to impose a prohibition against manufacture. A further point is that convertibility of plant is not the only question involved. There is also the question of the continued existence of research, design, development, teams of skilled workers having the 'know-how', and the assembly of special types of machinery, jigs, and patterns, which all go to make up a military potential. If a country manufactures civil aircraft, a war potential must exist.
DR. EVATT: We were told before the beginning of the war against Japan that the fighter plane used in Malaya, the Brewster Buffalo, was superior to anything that the Japanese might produce, but the whole course of the war in the Pacific was altered by the manoeuvrability of the Zero. We have learned that the Japanese people build wherever possible in secret. The great naval base at Kure was practically prohibited to the people. Workers were not allowed to leave the big machine shops. I feel that, in the interests of other nations, we should not permit the manufacture of aircraft in Japan. I again assure Mr. Rafi that there is no economic reason whatever for my proposal.
MR. RAFI: I fail to appreciate the difficulty of controlling the manufacture of aircraft. If such a difficulty applies to the control of civil aviation, why will not the same difficulty affect the control of other forms of manufacture? DR. EVATT: Mr. Claxton has already dealt with that question. I think you will realise that a prohibition is much more easily enforced than a form of regulation over manufacture. Also, once there is an industrial potential covering the manufacture of aircraft for civil purposes, there is a potential for the manufacture of fighting aircraft.
MR. CLAXTON: As an illustration, I refer to the fact that Canada is developing a civil transport type of jet-propelled aircraft. In the same shop, the same people are working on a long-range jet- propelled fighter. If we wanted to keep the latter work secret we could continue work on the transport machine and at the same time work in secret on the military machine without making any major changes in technique, personnel, patterns, or jigs.
DR. EVATT: The same clause which rejected the suggestion contained in Section 94 of 'Preliminary Notes on Provisional Agenda', circulated by myself, was contained in the Treaty of Versailles, under which the Germans were forbidden to have an air force but were permitted to possess and operate aircraft. We all know how, from glider clubs, they built up a huge military air force.
MR. FRASER: I think that it is almost impossible, and utterly impracticable, to prevent any country from carrying on civil aviation. Either democracy or totalitarianism will predominate in Japan. If the Japanese people are made to feel that democracy unfairly handicaps and restricts them by all sorts of annoying prohibitions, they will inevitably turn to the alternative philosophy. That is the real danger, as I see it. I agree that we should prohibit the manufacture of aircraft, even civil aircraft, for the reasons enumerated by Mr. Claxton. On the other hand our experience during the war taught us that it was not easy to transform civil aviation plants to production of military machines. By all means let us have international control of the air, with international supervision for the time being, but let the Japanese operate their own internal airlines.
MR. DEDMAN: My defence advisers are most emphatically of the opinion that the Japanese should not be allowed to possess or to operate civil aircraft. Their apprehension derives from our experience during the recent war, and some of us who were very close to events feel that if the Japanese, instead of landing in New Guinea, had made straight for Australia, this country would have fallen into their possession. Members of Conference can appreciate, therefore, our very real apprehension of the Japanese being permitted to possess and operate aircraft. Apparently the Conference is unanimously of the opinion that Japan ought not to be allowed to manufacture aircraft, but there seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether it ought be allowed to possess and operate civil aircraft. I acknowledge the force of Mr.
McNeil's argument that for certain purposes civil aircraft may be considered an essential to a modern nation, but perhaps his point could be met if the words, 'Subject to certain exceptions, Japan should be forbidden to possess or operate civil aircraft' were written into the Treaty. If a system were introduced of licensing aircraft imported into Japan complete control could be established. I realise that aircraft are required to carry mails, for use in connection with the agricultural and the fishing industries and to act as air ambulances, and I believe that we must assist Japan by permitting the use of aircraft for these purposes, particularly in regard to her fisheries, which are an important means of supplying food. At the same time, because of the very definite views of myself and my service advisers, I am entirely opposed to the operation of unlimited numbers of aircraft in Japan.
MR. FRASER: There is no question of Japan being permitted to have unlimited numbers of aircraft. As against the advice of Mr.
Dedman's service advisors, we have our service advisors, whose advice is at least equally sound. The real point is, are we to permit other nations' air-lines to operate in Japan, thereby exploiting the Japanese people? I submit that such a view is quite untenable. If we are to have a democratic Japan, is it reasonable for us to say to the Japanese that they cannot be trusted even to operate their own internal air services? SIR RAMA RAU: I am rather impressed by what Mr. Fraser has just said, and I confine my suggested restrictions on Japanese aviation to the manufacture of aircraft. Obviously, such services as air mails and medical services must be permitted.
MR. LAWRENCE: I think Mr. Dedman acceded to that when he suggested some system of licensing aircraft. I agree with the delegates for Canada, India and New Zealand that we should permit civil aviation to operate. The point was made yesterday that opportunities must be given the Japanese of building up their economy because industry means employment and prosperity. I am not advised on the military aspects of the problem, but I have in mind the fifty machines which comprised South Africa's civil aviation aircraft in July 1939. I know that those aircraft were virtually harmless from a military point of view. Therefore, I feel that we are, perhaps, attaching too great a significance to the possession of a fleet of civil aircraft. I do not think that there would be any real danger if the number of planes permitted Japan was restricted. However, I agree that their manufacture should be prohibited. The delegate for Pakistan asked what necessity there is for this prohibition, if we retain control of their operation? I think that the answer to that contention was supplied yesterday when we were told that the Japanese are a patient race. We know from past experience how easy it is for us to be lulled into a false sense of security. If a prohibition on the manufacture of civil aircraft is not included in the Treaty I do not think we shall be able to insist on such a prohibition later.
MR. McNEIL: With the exception of the delegate for Pakistan we all agree, from our experience, that there are very good security reasons for prohibiting the manufacture of aircraft and aircraft components, and I think we should include such a provision in the Treaty. The difference amongst members begins to appear when we consider the views expressed by Mr. Dedman. We all know that nowadays there are multiple air services, and I think that that is something which can scarcely be prohibited. Dr. Evatt remarked yesterday that he thought we were making a Carthaginian peace, and I think he was justified in making that remark. But if we are going to deny to the Japanese people modern services which most countries have been enjoying for the last 25 years, I think we will most assuredly be making a Carthaginian peace. We might as well go on to prohibit the continued existence of the automobile industry. If we permit the operation of a limited number of air services, such as medical transports, 'spotters' for agriculture and fisheries, and mails, we must consider how the Japanese are to staff and operate the services. The only alternative would be the acceptance of Dr. Evatt's proposal that civil aviation should be operated by a non-Japanese concern-an 'international corporation'- but that would involve the employment of an army of non-Japanese nationals, which does not seem practicable. On the other hand, if the air services are to be operated by Japanese, we have to ask ourselves where the Japanese are to be trained? Are we to permit Japan to maintain an air service for the training of the personnel? I think our approach to this problem should be to start with a complete prohibition on the manufacture of aircraft, to insist upon a rigorous scrutiny of aircraft licences, and then to grant permission to the Japanese to train pilots for civil aviation. I realise that there is an apprehension that civil air pilots may easily become pilots of military aircraft, but from our own experience I think that that apprehension is largely unfounded. If this course is followed and an efficient inspectorate is appointed to supervise the operation of Japanese civil airlines and the training of civilian pilots, the requirements of international security should be sufficiently safeguarded. Otherwise I think we shall create in the minds of the Japanese a feeling of social stigma which will produce the greatest resentment. Furthermore, the denial of these facilities to the Japanese people must impose considerable economic burdens on them.
DR. EVATT: Mr. McNeil, I understand, favours the prohibition of any aviation manufacturing industry, but suggests the introduction of a system of control of imports. I am anxious that we should give Japan every opportunity for economic recovery consistent with international security.
MR. FRASER: I think that the advent of international civil aviation is not far distant. The discussions which took place at the Chicago Conference in 1944 support this view, and I suggest that we might make a start with Japan. I have no doubt that civil aviation can be internationalised effectively.
DR. EVATT: We have received a similar suggestion from our civil aviation advisers, who think that Japan might be required to make an unqualified surrender of sovereignty over her air space. I think that the future of Japanese civil aviation is one of the great problems for the Peace Conference to solve. The discussion this morning has been most valuable.