137 Letter From Casey To Menzies [1]

24th May, 1956



The Japanese Ambassador, Mr Suzuki, called on me last week and asked if I would suggest to you that the Prime Ministers' Conference in London might consider the question of the admission of Japan into the United Nations. I understand he spoke to you recently along the same lines.

I think there is considerable merit in Suzuki's suggestion. Japan has been trying to get into the United Nations for almost four years, but has been continually blocked by the Soviet veto. The failure of the 'package deal' proposals last December, when Japan was bracketed with Outer Mongolia, deeply hurt the Japanese.

Whilst it was generally conceded in Japan that the blame for Japan's failure to gain admission rested squarely with the U.S.S.R. and Nationalist China, there appeared to be a fairly strong local feeling that the United States and the other free nations, with whom Japan is committed, had not supported Japan's case as strongly as they might. Japan feels most keenly her present situation as a second-rate power and an unequal partner in the Western bloc. Admission to the United Nations would restore to the Japanese a great deal of lost national pride and would, I think, tend to tighten the ties at present linking her to the West. Continued failure to gain admission would appear, on the other hand, to have the dangerous effect of forcing the Japanese, in their frustration, to look elsewhere for a means of national reassertion and would encourage, at the best, a drift towards neutralism or, at the worst, increased flirtation with the Communist bloc.

Australia has consistently supported Japan's admission to the United Nations and will continue to do so. During my speech to the last General Assembly, I went out of my way to stress that Australia wholeheartedly supported Japan's candidature and would do everything possible to ensure Japan gained early admission. Dr Walker spoke similarly before the Security Council last February.

I understand that both statements were very well received in Japan and given most favourable publicity.

Whilst nobody, least of all the Japanese themselves, has yet hit on a solution to the present impasse over Japanese membership, I do feel that it is a subject which might well be canvassed with the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers. You might also consider making special reference to this question in statements you might make during your stay in Japan.

All of the above assumes, of course, that Russia and Japan will not reach a solution to their problem of a termination of the existing state of war over the next month or so. A restoration of normal relations must inevitably carry with it the Soviet Government's support for Japan's admission to the United Nations.

I have no reason to believe that a solution to this problem is probable in the near future, but the Russians do appear to have manoeuvred the Japanese into a position where it will require considerable political strength by the Japanese Government to resist Soviet demands for very much longer.

I would also like to mention briefly here one or two of the more important issues in Australian-Japanese relations which are certain to be raised with you while you are visiting Japan. They are pearl fisheries, trade, admission of Japanese into Australia, war criminals and telecommunications.

On pearl fisheries, the position at present is that the Japanese are awaiting our comments on their latest draft of a Special Agreement for referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice. You will, of course, recall that Cabinet on 21st May authorised you to sound out the Japanese on the possibility of an arrangement for five years or more on pearling operations which might avoid the reference of the dispute to the International Court. There is little to be said about the Provisional Regime, under which the Japanese pearlers can fish for pearl-shell pending the International Court's decision. The Japanese will claim that we have been somewhat unreasonable in our arrangements under the Regime. Your only reply can be that we have been most reasonable and have endeavoured to permit the Japanese the maximum possible catch consonant with conservation requirements.

You will be fully aware of the difficulties surrounding our trade relations with Japan, and the fact that Japan is one of our most valuable export markets, which we cannot afford to lose. The recent decision of Cabinet to commence negotiations [2] which will have the effect of removing some of the more serious discriminations against Japanese imports into Australia should go a long way to satisfying the Japanese. As far as the entry of Japanese into Australia is concerned, our decision last December correcting many of the anomalies which had applied to Japanese nationals since 1952 was a considerable step forward, well received by the Japanese. They are still pressing for a further liberalisation of restrictions, including permission to establish business agencies and branch offices of companies in Australia.

This matter is receiving consideration by the Minister for Immigration and a decision should be available soon.

Cabinet's recent decision on war criminals should enable us to release most of the remaining 100-odd prisoners by the end of this year. [3] The Japanese, however, can be expected to continue their representations until the last war criminal is released. You will almost certainly be petitioned for a general amnesty for the remaining war criminals. I would suggest you simply state that, whilst an amnesty is not possible, the Australian authorities concerned will continue to carefully examine all recommendations on war criminals from the Japanese Government and take whatever action is appropriate. You could perhaps mention the number of war criminals Australia has released on parole since September, 1955, which will be available from the Embassy.

Telecommunications between Australia and Japan has been a minor issue recently given some prominence. The Japanese Government wishes to establish a direct circuit between Japan and Australia instead of the present circuit through Singapore and Hong Kong.

Our telecommunications authorities have denied the need for a direct circuit on the grounds that present arrangements are more than adequate. I understand the real issue is one of revenue-under the present arrangements all revenue goes to our Overseas Telecommunications Commission whereas, if a direct circuit was established, the revenue would be shared with Japan. It is just conceivable that this question may be raised with you. All you could say is that you understand it is in the hands of the Australian and Japanese experts.

1 Menzies was about to leave for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London. He planned to return home via North America and Japan.

2 Document 135.

3 In order to hasten the rate of release of minor war criminals Cabinet had decided, on 18 May (Decision 197), that Japanese war criminals should be eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentence or a maximum of ten years imprisonment.

[AA : A1838/278, 3103/10/1, iv]