Skip to main content

Historical documents

138 Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1337 WASHINGTON, 26 September 1946, 10.14 p.m.


F.E.C.239, Japanese Whaling.

The following is the text of an aide-memoire received today from
the State Department on Japanese whaling. Details of interview are
in F.E.C.240 which follows. [1]

1. The Department of State has studied carefully the aide-memoire
on the subject of Japanese whaling in the Antarctic region left
with the Department on 16th September, 1946, by the Counsellor of
the Australian Embassy on behalf of the Ambassador. [2] The
natural concern of the Australian Government at the proposed
extension of Japanese whaling activities into the waters of the
Antarctic is appreciated, but it is the opinion of the Department
of State that much of this concern is based upon a misconception
as to the purposes of the proposed expedition and the manner in
which it will be carried out.

2. The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers' authorisation of
the expedition was a matter of administrative action taken by him
under directive No.20A of 13th November, 1945, which has been
filed with the Far Eastern Commission in accordance with paragraph
III, 4, of its terms of reference and is also contained in
F.E.C.035. [3] In as much as paragraph D (1) of this directive
provides that Japanese fishing operations should conform strictly
to 'the provisions of agreements relating to whaling to which the
United States is a party', the possibility of the Japanese being
permitted to engage in whaling under the Supreme Commander's
authority was definitely foreseen and as no member of the Far
Eastern Commission had requested the review of this directive as
provided for in paragraph II A, 2 of the terms of reference, the
action of the Supreme Commander in approving the forthcoming
expedition was clearly within his authority. This Japanese whaling
expedition was approved by the Supreme Commander particularly in
the hope that it would help to alleviate the critical world
shortage of fats and oils and that it would also contribute to the
food supplies of Japan where, as distinct from the majority of
nations, whale meat is an accepted portion of the diet. This
latter factor is of particular importance because of the
relationship o[f] the food shortage to the problems of the
occupation. It is, of course, understood that all whale oil
produced by this expedition, not merely the exportable surplus,
will be subject to allocation by the International Emergency Food

3. It is the intention of the United States Government and it has
been so ordered in directives issued to the Japanese Government by
the Supreme Commander that the proposed whaling expedition be
carried out in full conformity with all the international
conventions and regulations pertaining to whaling. All the
pertinent treaties, conventions and protocols governing the
conduct of whaling operations in the Antarctic have been furnished
to the Japanese Government and the Department of State has been
informed by the Supreme Commander that in order to insure that
these regulations are carried out in their entirety, American
inspectors will be assigned to the two factory ships. In addition
there will be Japanese inspectors appointed by the Japanese
Government on direction from the Supreme Commander.

4. With reference to the fourth resolution in the final act of the
International Whaling Conference of November, 1945 [4], it is the
recollection of members of the United States Delegation to that
Conference that this resolution was a recommendation to the
contracting Governments with the purpose and intent of urging
restraint in facilitating the outfitting and equipping of whaling
expeditions which would not operate in conformity with the rules
and standards set forth in the various whaling agreements. In view
of the fact, as stated above, that the Japanese expedition will be
operated in strict conformity with all such international
agreements, it is the belief of the Department of State that the
spirit of the resolution mentioned is not in any way violated.

5. The question of security raised in the memorandum of the
Australian Embassy is one which has been carefully considered both
by the Department of State and the Supreme Commander. [5] The
United States Government has been informed by the Supreme
Commander that all Japanese personnel on the expedition will be
carefully screened by intelligence officers before being allowed
to embark. Furthermore, in the directive issued to the Japanese
Government by the Supreme Commander, Japanese whaling vessels are
prohibited from approaching closer than 12 miles to any land
beyond the home islands. The northern boundary of the area in
which whaling is authorised is several hundred miles distant from
the nearest metropolitan areas of Australia, Tasmania and New
Zealand. Under the Supreme Commander's directive the Japanese
Government is required to furnish him fifteen days prior to the
departure of the expedition, the route which it is proposed to
take to the whaling grounds. This information will be furnished
the Australian Government and if it should desire to provide
security safeguards in addition to those provided by the Supreme
Commander while the vessels are passing Australian territory at a
distance greater than 12 miles, the recommendations of the
Australian Government will be welcome.

6. These restrictions on the expedition were designed by the
Supreme Commander to keep the Japanese from going 'near areas
under Allied jurisdiction' within the meaning of the terms used in
directive No.20A. It was for this reason that consultations were
not believed to be required. However, in view of the strong
interest expressed by the Australian Government in this matter,
the department has been informed by the Supreme Commander that no
authorisation for any possible future Japanese whaling expeditions
in the Antarctic or elsewhere will be given without prior
consultation with the Australian and other interested governments
regarding the security factors that may be involved.

7. The attention of the Supreme Commander has been called to the
directive of 23rd August authorising the conversion of a tanker
which will not be completed before the Spring of 1947. [6] The
Department has been informed by him that permission was granted
for the conversion of this vessel but that it has not been
authorised to whale in the Antarctic and no commitment has been
made as to its future use for this purpose or its exemption from
reparations removals.

8. In this connection the United States Government wishes to point
out that the ultimate disposition of Japanese whaling facilities
and equipment as well as the question of the future of the
Japanese whaling industry is a matter for allied consultation and
decision. The present authorisation is only temporary and the
Japanese have been advised that any equipment they may possess,
whether then available or in process of construction, is subject
to such disposition as may be determined by the allied powers. Nor
does this authorisation in any way commit the United States
Government to support future whaling operations by the Japanese.

9. The opinion has been expressed by the Supreme Commander that,
in view of the unusually small size of quarters, technical
engineering peculiarities and because their equipment is not of
the type ordinarily used by Europeans, it would be inefficient to
operate the ships to be used on the expedition by other than
Japanese crews. It is also believed that it would be impracticable
to attempt to convert these ships for European use in the time
available before the expedition must set out.

10. The Government of the United States wishes to emphasise the
purely [7] nature in connection with the food supply situation in
Japan and throughout the world. This Government is in complete
agreement with the view that any long-range consideration of the
rights of Japanese to conduct whaling operations is a matter for
allied discussion and decision.

11. In view of the temporary and emergency character of this
proposed expedition which in no way constitutes a precedent for
the future, because of the fact that this expedition will be
carried out in full and strict conformity with all international
agreements regarding whaling, because adequate security safeguards
will be established and as arrangements have been made to ensure
prior consultation with the interested Governments, including the
Government of Australia, in connection with any proposals for
future Japanese whaling expeditions it is hoped that the concern
of the Australian Government may have been assuaged.

1 Document 139.

2 See Document 118 Cablegram 1295 from Washington reported that
Oldham and Plimsoll had in fact made representations on 17
September, while Makin was absent on the West Coast, and that
Major-General John H. Hilldring, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
for Occupied Areas, 'appeared very sympathetic to the Australian
case throughout the interview'.

3 See Document 78, note 1.

4 See Document 78, note 2.

5 Paragraph 1(a) of an Australian aide-memoire, left with the U.S.

State Department and dated 16 September, expressed great concern
at the extension of Japanese whaling 'into waters of direct and
permanent security interest to Australia, without prior
consultation . . .'
6 See Document 118, note 2.

7 A sign here indicates 'a portion of text missing'.

[AA:A1067, ER46/13/19/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top