S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 125 Series

No. 586
Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Johnson) to the Acting Secretary of State

top secret


  • Briefing Memorandum on NSC 125/1: United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Japan

President’s Request

In approving NSC 125, the “Interim Policy with Respect to Japan” and the “Interim Directive to the Commander-in-Chief, Far East, Concerning the Joint Committee Provided in the Administrative Agreement with Japan”, the President on February 20, 1952 requested the National Security Council as soon as possible, to prepare a policy report on Japan for his consideration.1

State–Defense Collaboration on Drafting

The preparation of the report called for by the President was undertaken jointly by the Departments of State and Defense under the interdepartmental agreement of September, 1951 to review jointly security policies affecting Asia.2 In this connection, NSC 125/1 will supersede paragraph 10 of NSC 48/5, “United States Objectives, Policies and Courses of Action in Asia”.3 The preparation [Page 1297] of the report encountered no serious difficulties other than the still unresolved problem of export controls.

Consequently, a State–Defense draft4 containing the separate views of the two Departments on the question of export control was submitted to the NSC Senior Staff. Discussions in the NSC Senior Staff and among their Staff Assistants resulted in clarification of certain aspects of the paper. The Department accepted the proposal of other participating agencies that the implementation of the courses of action enumerated in the paper should, where suitable, be explored by the Department in consultation with the Departments of Defense and Commerce, the Office of the Director for Mutual Security, the Office of Defense Mobilization and other appropriate agencies, and that the main elements of such a program should be reported back to the National Security Council at the earliest possible time.

The question of export controls remains unresolved and will be discussed in a supplementary memorandum which will be prepared after the meeting of the NSC Senior Staff this afternoon.

Views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

On August 1, 1952,5 the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicated their concurrence in these matters in the draft statement of policy having military implication and called particular attention to the relationship between United States policies toward Japan and United States policies toward Southeast Asia in view of Japan’s dependence upon Southeast Asia for her economic well-being and the effect of the loss of Southeast Asia on Japan.

Summary of NSC 125/16

The Department in preparing the analysis of the problem with respect to Japan considered, in the light of United States security interests, the three possible positions that Japan might assume in the future in the Pacific area: (1) a Japan with little or no military power, dependent upon the United States for defense; (2) a resurgent Japan, rearmed, dominant in the Far East and not allied with the United States; (3) a Japan restored to a position of power, capable of securing its own defenses and of contributing to the security and economic stability of the free countries of the Far East, and allied with the United States. The first course of action was ruled out as impractical. The second was ruled out as potentially dangerous, [Page 1298] and prejudicial to the security of the Far East and United States relations with other nations in the area, in view of the possibility that Japan might try to take advantage of the United States-U.S.S.R. conflict in an effort to restore its influence on the continent of Asia and might conclude that accommodation with Communist-controlled areas in Asia would best serve Japanese interests. Recognizing an initial identity of interests between the United States and Japan, the continuing threat of Soviet and Chinese Communist power in the Far East, Japan’s power potential, Japan’s relationship with the other countries of Asia, the internal situation in Japan, and certain natural limitations on the development of military power by Japan, it was felt desirable to develop courses of action whereby Japan would be assisted in the development of its armed forces, enabling it to secure its own defense and to contribute to the security and economic stability of the free countries of the Far East in alignment with the United States. Because of Japan’s dependence upon the countries of Southeast Asia for raw materials and markets, it was believed that Japan should be encouraged to participate in the economic development of the free nations of the Pacific on the understanding that Japan did not become a dominating influence in the area prejudicial to the independence and security of these nations. It was also recognized that an identity of interests between the United States and Japan could best be retained were the principle and practice of representative government strengthened in Japan and were the United States to respect Japan’s status as a sovereign independent state and to recognize Japan’s legitimate economic needs.


It is recommended that you approve NSC 125/1.

  1. See footnote 1, Document 512.
  2. This agreement is in the form of a joint memorandum from the Secretaries of State and Defense to Lay, dated Sept. 5, 1951, not printed. It is the enclosure to a memorandum dated Sept. 11 from Lay to the Council, also not printed. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 48 Series) For further information, see the Progress Report dated Sept. 25, 1951, Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 1, p. 80.
  3. Dated May 17, 1951. For text, see ibid., p. 33.
  4. State–Defense drafts dated June 19 and June 25, neither printed, were submitted to the NSC Senior Staff. (Both in NA files, lot 58 D 529)
  5. Actually on July 28; see Document 582.
  6. The analysis of alternatives outlined here is actually a summary of part of the Annex to NSC 125/1, an NSC Staff study dated July 23, 1952, not printed. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 125 Series)