Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 642
Memorandum of Discussion at the 139th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, April 8, 1953 1

top secret
eyes only


Present at the 139th meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; and the Director for Mutual Security. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General (for Item 1); the Secretary of the Interior (for Item 1); the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Acting Director of Defense Mobilization; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; the Special Assistant to the President for Cold War Planning; the Military Liaison Officer; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a general account of the main positions taken and the chief points made at this meeting.

. . . . . . .

6. United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Japan (NSC 125/4;2 NSC 125/33 and Annex to NSC 125/3;4 NSC 125/2;5 Annex to NSC 125/1;6 NIE–527)

After Mr. Cutler had briefly summarized the main points in the several reports8 respecting U.S. policy in the Far East, Secretary Humphrey said that he had a query with respect to the proposed [Page 1407] policy on Japan.9 Was it even thinkable, inquired Secretary Humphrey, that Japan can have a Viable economy if, for the indefinite future and with a growing population, it was confined to the home islands? In making this suggestion in the policy statement on Japan, were we not simply kidding ourselves?

In reply to Secretary Humphrey, Mr. Stassen thought that it might be possible to achieve the objective in question if certain trade arrangements and developments in the Far East could be created. But Mr. Stassen admitted that at best it would be very difficult.

The President expressed the belief that there was no future for Japan unless access were provided for it to the markets and raw materials of Manchuria and North China.

Secretary Humphrey returned to the charge that on this point the policy statement did not seem practical, and that the Council should take a new look at the problem.

Both the President and Mr. Cutler noted the very great difficulty of trying to provide for a viable Japanese economy in a few years. It would take a considerable time to secure for Japan what it required to support its population and to stabilize its economy.

Secretary Dulles expressed the opinion that the policy for Japan stated in NSC 125/4 might last for perhaps five years, but after that no policy which separated Japan from the Asiatic mainland would be practical.

The President and Secretary Humphrey agreed with this statement, and the President went further in saying that it was his own belief that even over the short haul a certain amount of Japanese trade with Communist China should be permitted in place of the complete embargo and blockade which now existed.

Secretary Humphrey added that the United States ought now to be “aggressive” in order to see to it that Japan and Germany secured a position in the world in which they would be able to thrive and have scope for their virile populations. In some respects, it seemed to him, we had licked the two wrong nations in the last war.

The President said, “You don’t mean that; you mean we licked these two nations too thoroughly.”

Secretary Dulles expressed the view that it was not practicable to envisage any revival of Japanese sovereignty and physical control over Manchuria, but we could do a lot to assist Japan by encouraging Japanese trade with the Philippines and Malaya. Secretary [Page 1408] Dulles reviewed the history of the Japanese economy since 1930, and concluded that the lesson to be learned from this history was the possibility of a revival of Japanese trade with the various free nations of Asia as at least a temporary substitute for Japanese control of portions of the Chinese mainland. Certainly something must be done to assist the Japanese to overcome the sense of insecurity which they could not escape owing to the fact that their markets and their sources of raw materials were so far distant from the home islands. In the long run, moreover, the Japanese would have to have access again to mainland areas like Manchuria.

Mr. Cutler inquired whether the Council wished to go further than this and adopt a policy which would look to the restoration of Japan’s lost colonial empire. Such an idea, he admitted, was not to be found in the present paper.

The President stated that we do not want to contemplate such a step, but we did wish to open up new trade possibilities for Japan.

Secretary Humphrey concluded the discussion of Japan by saying that we would have to face the fact and realize that we could not hope to keep Japan as a loyal ally of the West if it became dependent economically on Communist China. Such dependence would provide the Chinese Communists with a terrible club to hold over Japan.

. . . . . . .

Action on Item 6:

The National Security Council:10

Discussed the reference report on the subject (NSC 125/4) and agreed that it should be revised to take account of the question of the long-term viability of the economy of a Japan deprived of the raw materials and markets of the Chinese mainland.
Deferred further action on this report pending further study.

. . . . . . .

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Gleason on Apr. 16.
  2. Dated Mar. 30, not printed. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 125 Series) For additional comment on its substance, see Robertson’s memorandum to the Secretary, Document 652.
  3. Dated Feb. 19, not printed. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 125 Series)
  4. Dated Feb. 19, not printed. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 125 Series) But see Document 646.
  5. Document 588.
  6. Dated July 23, 1952, not printed. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 125 Series) But see footnote 6, Document 586.
  7. Document 567.
  8. Several other NSC papers were discussed conjointly with NSC 125/4. For other extracts from this section of the memorandum of discussion, see Document 93; vol. xv, Part 1, p. 892; and vol. xii, Part 1, p. 298.
  9. The proposals in NSC 125/4 were additional suggestions for the implementation of the “objectives” stated in NSC 125/2. Hence the economic “objective” for Japan remained that stated in paragraph 6.c of NSC 125/2.
  10. The following paragraphs constitute NSC Action No. 761. (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 65 D 95, “Record of Actions by the National Security Council, 1953”)