393 Defence Committee Agendum

Agendum 127/1949 [MELBOURNE], 13 October 1949



The Department of External Affairs was recently furnished with a copy of signal Z.69 dated 5th September [1], from the Commander- in-Chief B.C.O.F. concerning a Peace Treaty with Japan. The attention of the Department of External Affairs was also drawn to cablegram 22 dated 26th August, from the Government of South Africa dealing with this subject (copy sent to Chiefs of Staff on 31st August), and the Department was asked for any information which might be in its possession concerning the possibility of a Peace Treaty. The following reply has now been received from the Department of External Affairs.

'Your memorandum refers to a telegram 26th August from the Government of South Africa, which suggested there had been correspondence with the United Kingdom Government on the subject of the Japanese Peace Treaty. There has been no similar exchange of correspondence between the United Kingdom and Australian Government, but there has been a verbal exchange along the same lines between the Deputy High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Canberra and this Department. On 12th August Mr. Price informed me (for my "Top Secret" information) that the United Kingdom Government had been approached informally and orally by the United States Embassy in London and asked what would be the thought of British Commonwealth countries on the following two points in relation to any Peace Treaty with Japan:

(i) The making of U.S.-Japanese security arrangements as part of a "non-punitive Peace Treaty providing for non-excessive post-Treaty controls".

(ii) A withdrawal from the line agreed upon by British Commonwealth countries at the Canberra Conference in 1947, viz., that Peace Conference decisions on matters of substance should be taken by a two-thirds majority.

Mr. Price stressed that the approach had been made quite informally and at the official level, and that so far as he knew nothing had as yet been put to any Ministers in the United Kingdom. Both the above propositions were obviously vague. The first presumably envisaged some sort of arrangement whereby the United States might continue to take some part in the defence of Japan. The second was even more vague, and it was not clear what the Americans had in mind, except that a possible change in the British Commonwealth outlook might be made in the interests of persuading the Soviet Union to join a Peace Conference.

Mr. Price was informed that we did not feel disposed to make any comment, particularly in view of the vagueness of the proposals, and that we would expect that if the United States Government had any firm proposals it would communicate them to us direct. There would have to be consultations among British Commonwealth countries before there could be any departure from the Canberra Agreement. Mr. Price was further informed that we did not believe that the United States really wanted a Japanese Peace Treaty at present.

It was subsequently learned that the United States Embassy in London had gone rather beyond its instructions in the matter. All that the Embassy had been instructed to do was to inform the Foreign Office of the way the State Department was thinking about Japan, particularly in regard to minimum U.S. strategic requirements in that area in the future. There was no intention that the Foreign Office should be asked to canvass the opinion of the British Commonwealth countries.

As you are aware, there has recently been an exchange of views in Washington between Mr. Bevin and Mr. Dean Acheson on the subject, inter alia, of the future of Japan. No comprehensive account of these talks has yet been received, but it appears that the United States Government has still not made up its mind whether to aim at a Peace Treaty with Japan in the near future, and if so, under what conditions a Peace Conference should be convened. It is recognised that the views quoted in the signal from the Commander- in-Chief, British Commonwealth Occupation Force, reflect the thinking of a large part of SCAP Headquarters and of sections of the United States Government. In the view of this Department, however, they should not necessarily be regarded as conclusive evidence of present or future United States policy in the matter.

You will be kept informed of any further developments.' [2]

On 3 July 1951 the United Kingdom and United States Governments circulated the text of an agreed joint draft peace treaty to all countries at war with Japan. A conference for conclusion and signature of the text commenced at San Francisco on 4 September 1951 . The treaty was signed on 8 September 1951 and entered into force on 28 April 1952.

1 Document 392.

2 The Committee decided to inform Robertson that External Affairs regarded the reported views as not necessarily conclusive.

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