Skip to main content

Historical documents

274 Annex to Cabinet Submission

Canberra, 28 July 1954


Japanese Participation in the Colombo Plan

Immediately before the Meeting of the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee held at Karachi in 1952, the United Kingdom raised informally the question of Japanese participation and indicated that they would be prepared to support participation. As a result of Australia's adverse reaction the matter was dropped and no formal discussion took place at the meeting.1

2. At the meeting in New Delhi last year a Japanese Government application to the Indian Government for admission as observer was side-tracked on the procedural grounds that the application should have been made to the Consultative Committee itself. This action was taken out of deference to our known views on the question. It was clear that a number of governments such as Canada, Ceylon, the United Kingdom, and the United States favoured Japanese association with the Colombo Plan; that others such as India and Pakistan were not opposed; and that, alone of the members, Australia and Indonesia were opposed to the admission of Japan.

3. The arguments for and against Japan's association with the Colombo Plan might be put as follows:–

Arguments against admission

(a) A possibly adverse effect on public support within Australia for the Plan, in the inception of which Australia and the British Commonwealth took the lead.

(b) Opinion against Japan amongst some Asian members on the grounds of wartime memories and Japan's slowness in agreeing to reparations. Indonesia, the Philippines and possibly Burma may share this unwillingness to welcome Japan into the Colombo Plan (the Philippines is not, however, a full member of the Consultative Committee).

(c) The danger that Japanese participation in the Colombo Plan might lead to commercial competition in United Kingdom or Australian markets. This is not a consideration which weighs with the United Kingdom and, so far as Australia is concerned, our exports differ to a large extent from Japanese exports.

(d) The danger that Colombo Plan aid might facilitate commercial and political exploitation in South and South East Asia. The danger lies, however, not in the economic ties themselves between Japan and South East Asia but in exploitation and domination, and in this respect the new Asian sovereign national states will be jealous to guard their interests.

(e) Japan's balance of payments position would limit the financial and capital aid which she could provide by way of gift to the under-developed countries of the area.

Arguments for admission

(a) The Japanese can make a contribution to the area in technical knowledge and experience, in training facilities, and also in industrial capacity to provide the technical equipment and capital goods required by under-developed countries. Capacity to provide capital aid is, however, limited by (e) above.

(b) We have some interest in seeing a redirection of Japanese interests towards South East Asia as an alternative to China.

(c) Generally, we should encourage Japan's orientation towards the Western democracies. We should help Japan to co-operate with us in our peaceful enterprises and not force her to look elsewhere. This is the most important general factor.

(d) The United States will support Japan strongly and the United Kingdom is tending towards a positive policy of support for Japan. Australia might be isolated among the Western donor countries if we persist in our opposition to Japan.

4. It seems clear that, while no initiative should be taken by Australia in this matter, if the question of Japan's admission as an observer or a full member of the Consultative Committee is raised at the meeting to be held at Ottawa in September, 1954, Australia should not oppose if a majority of the members are in favour and if the Asian countries do not oppose. Japan is not within the Colombo Plan area and therefore would not be a recipient of aid; like the United Kingdom and Canada, it would be a donor.

[NAA: A1838, 2080/13]

1 See Documents 218 and 219.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
Back to top