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138 Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1337 WASHINGTON, 26 September 1946, 10.14 p.m.


F.E.C.239, Japanese Whaling.

The following is the text of an aide-memoire received today from the State Department on Japanese whaling. Details of interview are in F.E.C.240 which follows. [1]

1. The Department of State has studied carefully the aide-memoire on the subject of Japanese whaling in the Antarctic region left with the Department on 16th September, 1946, by the Counsellor of the Australian Embassy on behalf of the Ambassador. [2] The natural concern of the Australian Government at the proposed extension of Japanese whaling activities into the waters of the Antarctic is appreciated, but it is the opinion of the Department of State that much of this concern is based upon a misconception as to the purposes of the proposed expedition and the manner in which it will be carried out.

2. The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers' authorisation of the expedition was a matter of administrative action taken by him under directive No.20A of 13th November, 1945, which has been filed with the Far Eastern Commission in accordance with paragraph III, 4, of its terms of reference and is also contained in F.E.C.035. [3] In as much as paragraph D (1) of this directive provides that Japanese fishing operations should conform strictly to 'the provisions of agreements relating to whaling to which the United States is a party', the possibility of the Japanese being permitted to engage in whaling under the Supreme Commander's authority was definitely foreseen and as no member of the Far Eastern Commission had requested the review of this directive as provided for in paragraph II A, 2 of the terms of reference, the action of the Supreme Commander in approving the forthcoming expedition was clearly within his authority. This Japanese whaling expedition was approved by the Supreme Commander particularly in the hope that it would help to alleviate the critical world shortage of fats and oils and that it would also contribute to the food supplies of Japan where, as distinct from the majority of nations, whale meat is an accepted portion of the diet. This latter factor is of particular importance because of the relationship o[f] the food shortage to the problems of the occupation. It is, of course, understood that all whale oil produced by this expedition, not merely the exportable surplus, will be subject to allocation by the International Emergency Food Council.

3. It is the intention of the United States Government and it has been so ordered in directives issued to the Japanese Government by the Supreme Commander that the proposed whaling expedition be carried out in full conformity with all the international conventions and regulations pertaining to whaling. All the pertinent treaties, conventions and protocols governing the conduct of whaling operations in the Antarctic have been furnished to the Japanese Government and the Department of State has been informed by the Supreme Commander that in order to insure that these regulations are carried out in their entirety, American inspectors will be assigned to the two factory ships. In addition there will be Japanese inspectors appointed by the Japanese Government on direction from the Supreme Commander.

4. With reference to the fourth resolution in the final act of the International Whaling Conference of November, 1945 [4], it is the recollection of members of the United States Delegation to that Conference that this resolution was a recommendation to the contracting Governments with the purpose and intent of urging restraint in facilitating the outfitting and equipping of whaling expeditions which would not operate in conformity with the rules and standards set forth in the various whaling agreements. In view of the fact, as stated above, that the Japanese expedition will be operated in strict conformity with all such international agreements, it is the belief of the Department of State that the spirit of the resolution mentioned is not in any way violated.

5. The question of security raised in the memorandum of the Australian Embassy is one which has been carefully considered both by the Department of State and the Supreme Commander. [5] The United States Government has been informed by the Supreme Commander that all Japanese personnel on the expedition will be carefully screened by intelligence officers before being allowed to embark. Furthermore, in the directive issued to the Japanese Government by the Supreme Commander, Japanese whaling vessels are prohibited from approaching closer than 12 miles to any land beyond the home islands. The northern boundary of the area in which whaling is authorised is several hundred miles distant from the nearest metropolitan areas of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Under the Supreme Commander's directive the Japanese Government is required to furnish him fifteen days prior to the departure of the expedition, the route which it is proposed to take to the whaling grounds. This information will be furnished the Australian Government and if it should desire to provide security safeguards in addition to those provided by the Supreme Commander while the vessels are passing Australian territory at a distance greater than 12 miles, the recommendations of the Australian Government will be welcome.

6. These restrictions on the expedition were designed by the Supreme Commander to keep the Japanese from going 'near areas under Allied jurisdiction' within the meaning of the terms used in directive No.20A. It was for this reason that consultations were not believed to be required. However, in view of the strong interest expressed by the Australian Government in this matter, the department has been informed by the Supreme Commander that no authorisation for any possible future Japanese whaling expeditions in the Antarctic or elsewhere will be given without prior consultation with the Australian and other interested governments regarding the security factors that may be involved.

7. The attention of the Supreme Commander has been called to the directive of 23rd August authorising the conversion of a tanker which will not be completed before the Spring of 1947. [6] The Department has been informed by him that permission was granted for the conversion of this vessel but that it has not been authorised to whale in the Antarctic and no commitment has been made as to its future use for this purpose or its exemption from reparations removals.

8. In this connection the United States Government wishes to point out that the ultimate disposition of Japanese whaling facilities and equipment as well as the question of the future of the Japanese whaling industry is a matter for allied consultation and decision. The present authorisation is only temporary and the Japanese have been advised that any equipment they may possess, whether then available or in process of construction, is subject to such disposition as may be determined by the allied powers. Nor does this authorisation in any way commit the United States Government to support future whaling operations by the Japanese.

9. The opinion has been expressed by the Supreme Commander that, in view of the unusually small size of quarters, technical engineering peculiarities and because their equipment is not of the type ordinarily used by Europeans, it would be inefficient to operate the ships to be used on the expedition by other than Japanese crews. It is also believed that it would be impracticable to attempt to convert these ships for European use in the time available before the expedition must set out.

10. The Government of the United States wishes to emphasise the purely [7] nature in connection with the food supply situation in Japan and throughout the world. This Government is in complete agreement with the view that any long-range consideration of the rights of Japanese to conduct whaling operations is a matter for allied discussion and decision.

11. In view of the temporary and emergency character of this proposed expedition which in no way constitutes a precedent for the future, because of the fact that this expedition will be carried out in full and strict conformity with all international agreements regarding whaling, because adequate security safeguards will be established and as arrangements have been made to ensure prior consultation with the interested Governments, including the Government of Australia, in connection with any proposals for future Japanese whaling expeditions it is hoped that the concern of the Australian Government may have been assuaged.

1 Document 139.

2 See Document 118 Cablegram 1295 from Washington reported that Oldham and Plimsoll had in fact made representations on 17 September, while Makin was absent on the West Coast, and that Major-General John H. Hilldring, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas, 'appeared very sympathetic to the Australian case throughout the interview'.

3 See Document 78, note 1.

4 See Document 78, note 2.

5 Paragraph 1(a) of an Australian aide-memoire, left with the U.S.

State Department and dated 16 September, expressed great concern at the extension of Japanese whaling 'into waters of direct and permanent security interest to Australia, without prior consultation . . .' 6 See Document 118, note 2.

7 A sign here indicates 'a portion of text missing'.

[AA:A1067, ER46/13/19/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History