401 Statement by Makin to the Far Eastern Commission

Enclosure to FEC-231/5 [WASHINGTON], 26 June 1947



Mr. Chairman, my Government's opposition to the resumption of Japanese Antarctic whaling is well-known. It has been stated by Australian representatives at meetings of this Commission and of its Committees, and has been pointed out in aide-memoires to the State Department. Australia's position has been unambiguous from the beginning: we are opposed to any deep-sea whaling by the Japanese before the permanent future of this industry has been decided by the peace conference.

This opposition has been based on many grounds. We consider that the presence of Japanese in Australian or Antarctic waters constitutes a threat to the security and welfare of Australia.

Factory ships are capable of conversion into tankers and submarine refuelling vessels, and chasers can be converted into naval patrol craft. We know that during the war former Japanese whaling vessels were used for naval purposes, and proved of great value to the enemy because they were specially constructed in order to be readily converted into war uses. Moreover, the crews of these ships are given an opportunity to gain valuable experience in Antarctic waters and to make scientific observations. These things should not be permitted before the peace conference has had an opportunity to discuss and determine the whole question of the military disarmament and control of Japan. I would like to point out, Mr. Chairman, that if these arguments seem to carry much more weight in Australia and New Zealand than they apparently do in Washington, it is because both Dominions are exposed and alone in the South Pacific and are the ones most closely affected by these operations of the Japanese. Ninety per cent of the whales captured by the Japanese last year were taken off Australian Antarctic territories.

The Japanese violations of international whaling conventions in the past are well known. Their depredations have done much to reduce the numbers of whales now living in these seas and thus to reduce the quantity of whale oil available to the world. The Japanese ruthlessly killed all the whales they could get, regardless of sex or age, regardless of whether they were with calf or not. A few years of enforced abstinence from whaling would do no more than allow the Japanese to make some recompense to the rest of the world for their past conduct in reducing the total number of whales to its present figure. Moreover, Mr. Chairman we have no confidence that the Japanese in the future will observe the international whaling conventions with any better faith than in the past.

Another Japanese expedition to the Antarctic will not increase the quantity of oil available to the world this year. The international whaling conference has limited the total catch to 16,000 blue whale units. Exclusive of the Japanese, at least sixteen Allied factory ships will be operating in 1947/48, and they will be able to attain the maximum of 16,000 whales.

Therefore, any Japanese catches will be at the expense of Allied vessels. But not only will the total number of whales captured be no greater; the total output of oil will probably be smaller.

Japanese whaling methods before the war were most wasteful and unsatisfactory, and they continued to be so last year. My Government has estimated that, from the whales which were captured by the Japanese last year, at least 3,000 tons more oil could have been obtained, which at the present price of 100 a ton represents a loss of 300,000, or some $1,000,000. I understand that the Norwegian Government has made estimates which are even higher. We are informed that the Supreme Commander intends to take steps to improve the Japanese ships and methods so that this waste will not continue, but we cannot forget that ships were allowed to leave Japan last year obviously unfitted for their job, despite the fact that the Supreme Commander's attention had been drawn to the dangers of waste. I might add, for the information of members who might not have already perused it, that I have had distributed to members, on 11 June, a copy of the official report of the Australian observer who accompanied the last Japanese whaling expedition to the Antarctic-this is document C2-231/2, and fully bears out what I have been saying about waste and infringements of the international conventions.

At this stage, Mr. Chairman, I should like to recapitulate the course of events over the past year. My Government, in common with the Governments of New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom, protested very strongly in 1946 against the Japanese expedition to the Antarctic last year. Our protests were of no avail, and the expedition sailed. However, we did receive certain assurances from the United States Government, one of which was that the question of the future of the Japanese whaling industry was a matter of Allied consultation and decision. We were also assured that the Australian Government would be fully consulted in connection with any future proposals concerning Japanese whaling with which the United States was concerned. I understand that similar assurances were given to the Governments of New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Last December my Government introduced a paper into the Far Eastern Commission-FEC-035/1-which would have had the effect of forbidding Japanese whaling in the Antarctic. This paper was carefully considered in the economic committee, and by the end of February had secured the support of every country represented on the Commission with the exception of the United States. At this stage the American member, finding himself outvoted by 10 to 1, suggested that the committee agree to divide the paper into two separate papers covering fishing and whaling, and the committee was led to believe that the United States was preparing a paper which would have forbidden Japanese Antarctic whaling. On that understanding the committee adjourned its discussion, and whenever members raised questions subsequently they were assured that the papers were being prepared. Suddenly my Government was confronted on 27th May with a statement from General Hilldring that a second Japanese expedition was contemplated, and this was followed swiftly on 9 June with an aide-memoire bluntly announcing that an expedition would definitely be authorized-a unilateral act which disregarded the wishes of every other member of this Commission and every other interested Government. Apparently, Mr. Chairman, the three months' respite which the economic committee gave the United States Government as a matter of courtesy, resulted, not in an American counter-proposal designed to meet the views of other Governments, but in the rest of the Commission being lulled into a sense of false security and in the ultimate frustration of their wishes.

Surely no one could maintain that the assurances given to my Government in 1946 have been fulfilled. There was no real 'Allied consultation and decision'. My Government was not 'fully consulted in connection with future proposals concerning Japanese whaling'.

Apparently General MacArthur's proposal for a second expedition was considered in Washington for some weeks before any other Government was informed. If we had been approached frankly in April and informed of the Supreme Commander's proposals and the United States views, we are confident we could have reached a detailed agreement acceptable to all. My Government proposed last year that the expedition should be manned by Allied crews, and assured the United States of Australia's ability to provide the crew of one factory ship and ancillary craft. I remember very well an interview which I had with Mr. Dean Acheson on 5 October, in which I renewed that offer. But apparently, in all the consideration given to this latest expedition before other Governments were consulted, no consideration was given to the earlier Australian offer to provide crews, or to the possibility of an Allied expedition.

Immediately my Government learned that a second expedition was contemplated, we made an earnest endeavour to find a solution which would not only meet our position but satisfy the United States. The chief argument posed by the United States appears as follows in an aide-memoire to my Government on 9 June of this year: 'The protein food products and whale oil provided by the expedition will be a vitally necessary component of Japanese food and oil supplies during the calendar year 1948 ... If the requisite protein foods and oil for calendar 1948 are not obtained from whaling operations, it will fall upon the United States, which continues in the interest and to the advantage of all the Allies to supply the entire Japanese food deficit, to make up the deficiency, something which, in view of the manifold demands on its fats and oils resources, it can ill afford to do'.

My Government carefully considered this argument. We are not unappreciative of the burdens borne by the United States, and on many occasions in this Commission and in Japan we have shown a willingness to co-operate in sharing or relieving those burdens.

You must remember that we did not have much time to act on this matter. If we had been consulted last April, we could have discussed various proposals in detail. But we did what we could.

Mr. Macmahon Ball discussed the position with General MacArthur and officials of his staff. Here in Washington last week we began to discuss a proposal which I can best summarize by quoting from an aide-memoire which I have since given to the State Department:

'The difficulties of the United States Government in financing relief for Japan and the difficulties of the Supreme Commander in securing adequate supplies are fully appreciated ... If a separate Australian expedition is not considered feasible or desirable, Australia is prepared to conduct the expedition in association with other Allies, in particular the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Norway.' [1]

In putting forward that proposal, Mr. Chairman, my Government deliberately refrained from going into detail because we wished to give full opportunity for the United States to state, and for us to take account of, the practical difficulties and views of the Supreme Commander and the United States Government. There are obviously many courses open in giving effect to our offer, such as allocating a ship as advance reparations deliveries or leasing a ship, and there are many ways of considering the financial problems involved. We feel that details can readily be worked out if agreement is first reached on the fundamental principles: that Japanese Antarctic whaling this year should be forbidden; and that the Allies themselves should be given all rights of operating any emergency expedition for the purpose of obtaining whale meat, and oil for the Japanese, to be allocated by SCAP and the International Emergency Food Committee.

My Government feels this is a matter for decision by the Far Eastern Commission, not for unilateral action by one Government.

My Government's position has been supported at Committee level by nine other Governments, and I hope they will remain firm. I accordingly move the adoption of FEC-231/4. [2]

1 See the full paragraph in Document 400.

2 The proposed statement of policy effectively banned the Japanese from Antarctic whaling. It permitted capture of whales in the Japanese fishing area, but prohibited the use of factory ships or other vessels treating whales at sea.

[AA: A5463/1, 6, ii]