186 Extracts From Record Of Conversation By Plimsoll

4th January, 1957


Uyama called at his own request. He said that the Japanese Ambassador (Suzuki) would be leaving Australia on 18th January to attend a meeting in Tokyo of Heads of Japanese Missions in Asia.

This meeting had originally been scheduled to be held in Ceylon, but the site had been changed to Tokyo because of the recent change in the Japanese Government. Uyama said that during the meeting Suzuki would no doubt have to talk about Japan's present and future relations with Australia and also about Australia's policies, and in addition other matters would come up for discussion in which Suzuki would be able to make some contribution. Uyama said he was therefore calling on me in order to have a general discussion which would help Suzuki prepare for this Tokyo meeting. (Suzuki himself was absent from Canberra in Sydney.)

2. Uyama began then by saying that relations between Australia and Japan had got steadily better, and a large number of differences or points of friction that had existed between us were now cleared away. Japan had originally been sceptical as to how far friendship with Japan had represented a single consistent policy by Australia as distinct from a series of separate decisions on particular issues, but experience over a period of time had convinced Japan that Australian policy was in fact one of developing genuine friendship with Japan and widening our cooperation. (I am reporting this rather more directly than Uyama stated it.) For example, Uyama continued, the Japanese Government had noticed that on nearly all occasions when they had asked for Australian support for Japanese candidates in international bodies, Australia had supported them. Australia had also been very helpful to the Japanese delegation in New York, and the reports which the Japanese Embassy had seen here from Kase (the Japanese representative to the United Nations) indicated that he had benefited greatly from, and relied a good deal on, the assistance he had received from Dr Walker. In the trade field also a lot of progress had been made recently, and Japan had found encouragement in what they had found to be Australia's frame of mind. Uyama hoped that, as the result of the recent change of government in Japan, Japan would now be able to come closer to Australia, particularly as the new Prime Minister (Ishibashi) had never agreed with Kono in letting American surpluses be an obstacle to an agreement on Australian wheat.

3. Uyama continued that other evidence of Australia's friendly attitude to Japan had been provided by the reception given in Australia to Mr Miki [1] and Mr Takasaki when they visited here;

no Japanese Cabinet Minister visiting a foreign country could have received more friendly or warm treatment than Mr Takasaki received from Mr Menzies (he mentioned the dinner in Melbourne [2]) and from the rest of Australia. Japanese athletes at the Olympic Games had also been very well treated; at the end of the Games they had mentioned to the Japanese Embassy that, whereas a booklet issued to them by the Embassy here had warned them that they might on occasion meet some hostility from individuals as a hangover from the war, in point of fact they had met with nothing but friendship, and the war had not been mentioned.

4. I told Uyama that Australia also was very gratified at the steady improvement in the relations between our two countries.

This had naturally taken time because feelings here had naturally been rather bitter after the war. Australia had of necessity been wary in its first dealings with Japan and had wanted evidence that Japan was in fact sincerely embarking on policies in accord with peace and democracy. The fact that our two countries had been able to come so close together in so short a space of time reflected great credit on both our countries.

5. I said that there was another aspect of Australian policy towards Japan in addition to the one that Uyama had mentioned of developing friendly relations between our two countries. Australia also believed that Japan should be given a full opportunity to develop itself and play a role within the family of free democratic nations. For example, Australia had taken the initiative in sponsoring Japan's admission to the Colombo Plan. We had also worked hard to secure Japanese membership of the United Nations.

[matter omitted]

8. Referring to relations with the Communist nations, Uyama said that this presented great difficulties for Japan which was a neighbour of both Russia and mainland China. He did not think that there would be any weakening in Japan's ties with the United States. The new Foreign Minister (Kishi) was an advocate of close relations with the United States; and though Ishibashi had been critical of America on occasions in the past, Uyama thought that he would be less difficult as Prime Minister. In regard to Communist China there would be a development of trade, but Uyama did not think there would be any question of recognition of Peking. He said that in recent years the Communist Chinese had invited many Japanese to visit Peking; the first Japanese visitors had come back very enthusiastic, but subsequent visitors had been more and more critical, and he (Uyama) wondered why the Chinese continued to invite so many Japanese to visit China when they were coming back so critical.

[matter omitted]

11. I said I thought that in the Far East one of the objectives of Communist policy was undoubtedly to absorb Japan. Uyama said that Japan did not think there was much danger of military aggression by the Soviet Union against Japan, but that the Communists would use other means against Japan. I said that it seemed to me that the Communists would work steadily at subversion of Japan from within and would try to detach Japan from its friends. The independence of Japan, like that of Australia, lay in our partnership with other members of the free world, and for both of us the backing of the United States was essential. If Japan ever came into the Communist orbit, I thought that she would cease to have any independence worthy of her ancient traditions, and that the Communists would try to make Japan an appendage of Russia or China.

12. I told Uyama that Australia attached the greatest of importance to SEATO, which we thought had been very valuable and had achieved a lot more than might sometimes appear from the newspapers. The most valuable thing of course had been the assurance which SEATO provided to the member countries that they would have American military support if they were ever the victims of aggression. Military co-operation under the Treaty had proceeded very well up to date.

13. Uyama asked me whether Australia would favour Japanese membership of SEATO. I said I had understood that Japan did not want to be a member. He replied that this was so, since Japan could not at present send military forces outside Japan and there might in any case be some public opposition to Japan's undertaking military obligations in respect of South East Asia. I said I could see some difficulties about Japanese membership of SEATO, partly because of objections of some countries in the region, and partly because it would raise the question of the geographical scope of the pact and thus would immediately raise also the questions of China and of Chinese representation in SEATO. Australia felt that the present pattern of military arrangements in the Pacific was satisfactory: the United States had bilateral defence treaties with Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Formosa, a trilateral pact with Australia and New Zealand, and a multilateral pact with the SEATO countries. The United States, as a common member of all these agreements was in a position to co-ordinate defence arrangements. Consequently, though Australia and Japan did not have a defence agreement between them, nevertheless our defence arrangements did dovetail through the United States.

[matter omitted]

1 Takao Miki, Minister for Transport 1954-55, visited Australia in January 1956 during a tour of South and South-East Asia as a

special envoy of the Japanese Prime Minister.

2 A dinner party given by Suzuki on 29 November was attended by Menzies, McBride, McEwen, Townley, Japanese Olympic delegates and Australian and Japanese officials. A.B. Jamieson recorded that Menzies' address was 'extremely cordial and frequently humorous in tone. As the evening progressed the Prime Minister called on each member of the Government present to speak and later urged the host to have virtually everyone present say something. The atmosphere became increasingly lively and amicable as time went by. Those who spoke on trade expressed the hope that by understanding and goodwill on both sides the present important negotiations would be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.' Minute from Jamieson to Plimsoll, 3 December, on file AA : A1838/278, 3103/10/10/2, ii.

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