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31 Statement By Spender

Statement, Sydney, 11 January 1951

Japanese Peace Treaty
At the Prime Ministers' Conference in London[1] there has been a full discussion of the various issues involved in a Japanese peace settlement. The discussion covered a number of aspects of the subject, including the countries which would be invited to adhere to a treaty, the question of the extent of Japanese rearmament, which is of such vital concern to Australia, and other relevant questions. No commitment of any kind, however, has been made on behalf of the Government of Australia. All Prime Ministers were of the view that an early peace treaty with Japan was desirable. There is, however, nothing fresh about this.

Each government is now in a position to explore the question further with a better understanding of the point of view of other members of the British Commonwealth. We have always assumed that the Soviet Union would share in the drafting and conclusion of a peace settlement, provided it took its place as only one of the belligerents and claimed no special privileges. I am not aware of any agreement that the Government of the People's Republic of China will be invited to participate in the treaty.

Australia, whilst fully conscious of the dangers of Communist aggression throughout the world, including the Far East, has consistently taken the view that proper safeguards must be provided against the resurgence of Japanese militarism. New Zealand broadly agrees with our view.

We do not desire to prevent the Japanese people from winning their way back to the comity of nations. We know that the time must arrive sooner or later when the military occupation of Japan will come to an end. And it is obvious that the length of time military occupation is to continue will depend not so much upon ourselves, but upon the United States of America.

Australia sees great danger to its own peace in a peace treaty which does not provide adequate safeguards against the revival of an armed and aggressive Japan, or any treaty which imposes no limitation upon Japan's ability to rearm. It is asking too much of us to believe that the forces of militarism in Japan are completely dead.

We agree as to the advisability of an early peace treaty. We acknowledge the wisdom of avoiding a power vacuum in Japan and the need to keep her out of the clutches of the Soviet. We admit the force of the arguments in favour of persuading her to adhere to the non-Communist world. We desire to see her progressively establish her position as a full member in the comity of nations. Some capacity to defend herself against Communist aggression accordingly must be conceded.

But, we are not satisfied that Japan can be trusted with military power without reasonable controls imposed by the countries who suffered so grievously at her hands. In the event of world conflict, it would be, in my view, a gamble - for which Australia might be called upon to pay - whether Japan would believe that with her renewed military strength she could leave it to the Communist and non-Communist worlds to fight it out between themselves, so that she might re-assert herself in the Pacific and in Asia in the exhaustion which such a world conflict would produce.

This is too great a gamble for Australia to be asked to take. We would be left substantially to our own resources and without any effective security system in the Pacific, especially in the South West Pacific. If Australia's views are to receive no sufficient support and she is not afforded effective regional security, her capacity to discharge her international obligations will be impaired.

We must face the fact and I think it is my duty so to inform the public, that the majority of countries who would be entitled to participate in peace treaty discussions, do not see eye to eye with Australia on the need to prevent Japanese militaristic resurgence. The need for a regional pact in the Pacific becomes more urgent.

1 The British Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference opened in London on 4 January and concluded on 12 January. It was attended by the Prime Ministers of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Southern Rhodesia with the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa represented by the Minister for the Interior. Menzies visited Singapore, New Delhi and Karachi en route to London and stopped in Colombo on his return to Australia. In Cablegram Watt 10 (10 January), Watt reported from London that there had been some discussion at the Prime Ministers' Conference of a US guarantee of Australian and New Zealand security. While the United Kingdom and Pakistan had shown 'some friendly interest in the suggestion' Watt reported that 'India made it quite clear that she thought that any pact covering the Pacific was undesirable' and that, by way of illustration, 'an American guarantee of Burma would result only in Chinese Communist pressure against Burma'.

[NAA : A4534, 46/2/4, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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