187 Cablegram From Watt To Department Of External Affairs

7th January, 1957



Foreign Minister Kishi summoned me today for first formal interview. He referred to his assumption of office and desire to maintain contact and friendly relationships. He expressed thanks for Australian support for Japan's admission to the United Nations and for Australian action last year in speeding up the release of war criminals. He mentioned the Prime Minister's proposed visit last year and its inevitable postponement [1] and expressed the hope that the visit would take place this year. Such personal contacts were, he believed, useful. Takasaki had told him of the valuable contacts and conversations he had had while in Australia recently. In speaking of war criminals he made one reference to the 'shadow' of the war and implied that was a past stage to which had succeeded brighter and happier relationships.

2. I thanked the Minister for the opportunity of personal contact so soon after his assumption of office and expressed hope he would not hesitate to call me in at any time for frank discussions of difficulties which inevitably arose even between friendly countries. I assured him it was the policy of the Australian Government to improve relationships with Japan as far as practicable, taking into account that Australian public opinion was somewhat sensitive on some matters, for instance, war criminals. I added that Australia had gladly supported Japan's entry to the United Nations and only regretted the unjustifiable delay caused by the Soviet Union. As regards personal contacts, I mentioned Mr Casey's strong views on the value of these. At this point Kishi intervened to say the visit to Japan of Mr Casey, as well as by the Prime Minister, would be welcomed. Finally, I referred briefly to the special attention given to Australian relationships with Asian countries since the present Government came to office. I described the opening and strengthening of diplomatic posts in Asia and referred to the Colombo Plan, stressing the significance of the number of Asian students now studying in Australia. I concluded by expressing hope that Japan and Australia in their common interests, could and would co- operate in solving the many difficult international problems with which the world is faced.

3. Kishi spoke throughout in Japanese which was interpreted by official protocol section. Nevertheless I had a strong impression he understood at least the substance of my replies before they were translated. He impressed me as a person of ability, who knows what he wants to do and say. He was very much in charge of the interview and raised specific topics from notes. He seemed at ease throughout the discussion and I suspect his use of Japanese was due to the understandable desire to play safe at first interviews with Heads of Missions until he knows them better. He responded favourably to my reference to desirability of frank discussions, without worrying about protocol. As I judged he had other interviews to follow I felt it unwise to raise particular topics, but think he showed some interest in my general reference to the development of our representation in Asia and the reasons therefore.

[matter omitted]

1 See note 2 to Document 144.

[AA : A1838/283, 759/1, v]