Japan and Colombo Plan
I asked Mr. Nishi to discuss the position of Japan and the Colombo Plan. I told him that we had informally circulated to members of the Plan the suggestion that Japan should be admitted and had received an indication that should Japan apply the following countries would certainly not oppose: the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Indonesia. Burma would be represented in Ottawa by a delegation, as a full member, but Burma had not wished to make a decision on Japanese membership before Ottawa. We had informed the Associated States of Indo-China but had no indication of their views nor whether in fact Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia would be represented at Ottawa. The Thai Government had been informed but had expressed no opinion and in any case Thailand was an observer only. The Philippines had not been approached because the Philippines were not a member of the Plan, although in fact Australia extended some technical assistance to them.
2. I told Mr. Nishi that it was our understanding, if the Japanese Government should come to a decision that they wished to apply, that they should do this formally to the Canadian Government direct. The Canadian Government would then circulate it formally to members with the suggestion that the item be placed on the agenda for the Ottawa meeting of Ministers. What the procedure would be in those circumstances at Ottawa, we could not yet say, but Australia would be prepared to sponsor or co-sponsor Japan. The immediate decision, however, lay with the Japanese Government as to whether they wished to apply.
3. I explained to Mr. Nishi that while it was possible to be a member of the Council for Technical Co-operation without being a member of the Consultative Committee, there was not much point in this. So far as we were concerned, we would not expect that Japan would in fact make a great contribution to economic development, although we thought that they would have something to offer in the way of technical assistance. Membership of the Consultative Committee, however, entailed no obligation to announce a contribution to economic development. There was, however, a political advantage to Japan and possibly an economic advantage also in membership of the Consultative Committee in so far as such membership gave Japan access to the economic planning of a number of countries in which Japan presumably was interested from a commercial point of view. I emphasised also that if the Japanese Government should apply and be admitted to the Plan and if they were to decide on a financial allocation to economic development, the spending of that allocation would depend entirely on the bilateral requests which individual countries might make on Japan and on Japanese readiness to meet them.
4. Mr. Nishi did not make the point apparently made by the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa that the Japanese Government was considering membership of the Technical Council only and not of the Consultative Committee. However, I said that from our point of view it seemed simpler for Japan to apply for full membership of the Consultative Committee and full membership of the Technical Council. The only immediate financial obligation would then be a small contribution to the upkeep of the Bureau in Colombo.
5. Mr. Nishi asked me about press comment on this question. I said that we had had one press report only, from Tokyo. A couple of Australian press men had heard what was going on but we had asked them not to publish a story prematurely. As things stood, Japan had not even decided whether to apply for membership of the Colombo Plan and we would not wish to have advance speculation about our attitude in such an event. We would have to avoid press comment at least until the agenda of the conference had been fixed, which would show Japanese membership as an item for discussion. We were not sure, however, whether prior press discussion could be avoided.
6. Mr. Nishi raised the point as to the status of Japan at the Officials' meetings prior to the Consultative Committee. I told him that so far as Australia is concerned, we would not be too formalistic. My attitude would be that i f the Officials' meeting in Ottawa next week knew that the item of Japanese admission was on the agenda for Ministers to consider on 4th October and knew also the preliminary reaction of member governments, they would surely agree to inviting a Japanese Official to sit with them as an observer. Mr. Nishi repeated that the Japanese Counsellor from Washington and the Japanese Ambassador from Ottawa were the people they had in mind to represent Japan at the Officials' and Ministers' meetings respectively.
7. The only apprehensions Mr. Nishi expressed were, firstly, concerning the Philippines until I made it clear that they would not be represented at Ottawa, and secondly, and to a less extent, about Burma with whom he said Japan was at present conducting reparations discussions in Tokyo, which he said were going well.
8. Mr. Nishi thanked us profusely for our advice and assistance.
[NAA: A1838, 2080/13]