The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State

No. 57

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Acting Secretary’s secret instruction of June 17, 1946,79 addressed to the then Chargé d’Affaires, which enclosed a policy statement regarding Japan, and requested comments and recommendations. I am glad to comply with this request, and I venture to do so freely and frankly.

On page five of the policy statement there is mention of the new draft constitution. Certainly, one of the major steps in the creation of a new order in Japan is the establishment of a constitution fully expressive of the political aspirations and democratic beliefs of the people. Such a law will serve, as our own Constitution has served, as a stable and permanent foundation for the national polity. But by the same token, to embody in such a law, for whatever reason, a principle which is alien to national traditions, repugnant to common sentiment and in the long run unenforceable, would be a grave error. In course of time any such principle is certain to be repudiated and the law expressing that principle is certain to be discredited.

I cannot but feel that Chapter 2, containing Article IX, in which war is renounced forever as a sovereign right of the Japanese nation and the maintenance of land, sea and air forces is denied, is a principle such as I have described above. Even we, who have traditional distaste for things military, are not prepared to subscribe to so revolutionary a principle as a general renunciation of even the means of self-protection. How then can we expect the Japanese people who, like no other people on earth, are steeped in the military tradition and impregnated in their innermost fiber with the spirit of discipline, responsibility and subservience to authority which is a part of that tradition, to adhere to so alien a principle?

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… There is nowhere any mention of one fundamental consideration in our policy toward Japan which, I think, must be present in the mind of anyone engaged in Far Eastern affairs. It is what must we do to fill the vacuum in the Far East which has resulted from the elimination of Japan as the dominant power in that region.

[Page 302]

Let us admit at once that this question leads us into the field of Realpolitik, which we in this postwar world had hoped to abandon in favor of a system of mutual cooperation. However, in view of the disappointing results of our efforts toward cooperation with the U.S.S.R. and in the light of the clearly manifested determination of that Government to impose its system and its will on countries juxtaposed to Soviet territory, we would be remiss if we failed to take into realistic account the effects of the Soviet policy on a region which we have traditionally regarded as important to the United States. We would be equally remiss if we failed to consider the measures necessary to maintain our traditional position in that region.

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Whatever China’s role may be in future years, at the present time the prevailing disorganization renders the country a potential and dangerous storm-center for rival ideologies and influences. Simultaneously with Japan’s elimination as a power, the USSR has reemerged as a major element in the Far Eastern scene. Not yet have the Soviets taken steps in extending their imperium in the Far East comparable with those we have witnessed in the Baltic States, in the Balkans, in the Mediterranean, in Iran and in Turkey. But we should be prepared for such overt moves in the not unlikely event of a general conflict among Chinese factions, offering, as it will, ample opportunity for the Russians to fish in troubled waters. The Soviets have already shown their hand in Manchuria. At one stroke they seized and removed the greatest industrial potential on the Asiatic continent, thereby dealing a set-back of at least a decade to Chinese heavy industry. At the same time, Soviet machinations facilitated the taking over by the Chinese Communists of one of the richest parts of China, strategically located with respect to Soviet territories. It is inconceivable that the Soviets do not intend to use for further maneuvers in the Far East the position they have acquired in the Manchurian provinces of China, as a result of the Yalta Agreement which at one fell swoop limited Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria and restored to Russia almost all of her pre-1905 rights and interests. If it is true as stated* that “China without Manchuria would be no effective counterpart to maintain the balance of power in the Far East”, then by according Russia at Yalta the means of de jure intervention in Manchuria, China’s opportunity to fill the vacuum created by the thunderous crash of Japan was more apparent than real.

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… Fortunately, as far as we can now judge, the war has left a remarkably small aftermath of animosity toward the United States [Page 303] among the Japanese; much less so, we may believe, than there is in the United States toward the Japanese. Their traditional admiration for American achievements has not been diminished by the beating they have received at our hands. Furthermore, what resentment they may bear toward us is far overshadowed by hatred of the Russians, a feeling accentuated by antipathy to the communist system. Japan can be counted on to align herself against Communism in any clash of ideologies in the Far East.

Obviously it behooves us to make the best use in the Far Eastern situation of this potent asset now completely in our hands: how to align Japanese interests with ours; how to offset Russian imperialism and how to compensate for Chinese ineptitude. All of this must, of course, be balanced against the possibility of a resurgence in Japanese militarism equally dangerous to us and to other countries of the Far East.

I have no doubt that these considerations have received the closest study in responsible quarters of our Government. Certainly our armed forces in Asia, only too openly, talk of Japan as our future bulwark in the Far East against Russia. It would be worse than wrong to take steps at this time aimed at building up Japan as a base for strategic operations. To do so would, among other things, certainly bring about countermoves by other powers.

But we have other recourse. In so far as the democratic principles that we advocate take root in Japan, just so far will our own national interests be advanced. The wise administration and policies of General MacArthur have contributed immeasurably toward the objectives we have in mind. American industrial equipment, American techniques, training and education supplied to the Japanese will have far-reaching effects on Japanese life and attitudes. We have unlimited opportunity to link Japanese economy with our own, as indeed it was so linked before the war in an exchange of commodities uniquely complementary, and in general to direct Japanese industry, trade and shipping to the mutual interests of both countries. Much of East Asia’s present economic plight is attributable to the vacuum created by the elimination of Japanese shipping, Japanese management and Japanese trade. Sooner or later a distinction must be made between economic exploitation, such as Japan once imposed by force, and economic services, such as the Japanese are better qualified to render than any other people of the East.

What effect any suggestion of American cooperation with Japan would have on China and the U.S.S.R. would of course have to be carefully considered. So far as the Soviets are concerned, the effect would probably not be pronounced for the reason that such cooperation has, it seems to us here, already been taken into account. With the [Page 304] Chinese, our position would probably in fact be strengthened if in due course they were brought to realize that the United States is not a perennial fount of indiscriminate largesse and that we are prepared to deal with the Japanese as an alternative to a singleminded policy of unlimited support of an unresponsive regime in China. Steps toward cooperation with Japan would tend to bring China into closer relationship with the Soviets only if our traditional friendly policy toward China were reversed, which it need not and should not be.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
W. Walton Butterworth

Minister-Counselor of Embassy
  1. Not printed.
  2. (P 13. Par. 4(b)) State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee paper No. 291/1, dated June 1, 1946, prepared by the Subcommittee for the Far East on the subject “Security Implications in Manchurian Situation.” [Footnote in the original]