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Japan (Peace Treaty)

Volume 476: debated on Monday 26 June 1950

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Delargy.]

11.0 p.m.

The events of yesterday and today in Korea have been as important in many ways as the developments with regard to the Schuman Plan that we have been discussing in the last few hours. I feel that as Korea is less than 100 miles in one part from Japan, it is undoubtedly an apt subject that we are discussing—the question of a possible peace treaty with Japan and what is being done about it.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Prescott) and the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. J. Paton), and myself were probably the last three members of this House who were present in Korea in recent years. We were the guests of the Korean Chamber. We all feel particularly unhappy today when we remember that occasion and feel very sorry for what the Koreans are going through.

There is no doubt that the very fact of this invasion—which looks at the moment unlikely to last for many days so that before we really know where we are, Korea will be completely in the hands of the invaders—brings the question of the peace treaty with Japan more to the fore than ever. Some people would argue perhaps that it makes the peace treaty further away still, and less likely to take place. I take the contrary view because now that the whole of that part of the Asiatic continent comes presumably under the hands of the Communists, we are left on the outskirts of Asia with a population of something not very far short of 100 million people who, we hope, are anti-Communist, and with whom we should come to an agreement.

We are inclined to ask ourselves, "What are we going to do about these 100 million people?" Are we going to sign a peace treaty with them, make friends with them, work with them, and hope they may come to be like ourselves, democratically influenced, or at least work under democratic influences as do some of the European countries? Or are we going to turn round and hold a control over them which, to my mind, seems to be no longer justified, and so make it more easy every day for large numbers of the inhabitants to fall under Communist influences, feeling that that is the only way they can get away from the yoke of the European, and so make them work in with the Communists of Russia and Asia as a whole?

Today we have talked about Germany joining in with us in one way or another in trade or defence or any other way, and we do not seem to think of her as 100 per cent. enemy but as a possible ally. I ask myself why it is that we should not do the same with regard to Japan. Why should it not be equally possible to bring Japan in as an ally, and, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) with regard to Germany, that she should forge her steel for peace and not for war? If you look into it and study the problem, you will find that Japan has carried out, as far as we can see, all the demands of the armistice up to date. She has done all that has been asked of her, and now asks why she should not have a peace treaty herself.

I think the answer really is that there is a great fear of Russia which prevents a peace treaty from being made now. But if that is the case, there is no country traditionally more afraid of Russia than Japan herself. Her whole history has been anti-Russian. Today the vast majority of her people are anti-Russian and anti-Communist. Why then should we not bring her in and work with her?

This country seems to say nothing at all. Time and time again we have had Debates on foreign affairs, and time and time again Japan and the Far East have been ruled out. Not so long ago we had a Debate on the Far East—it took quite a long time to get that Debate—and Japan was only perfunctorily referred to, and before we knew where we were we were back discussing Malaya. Japan, and the peace treaty with her, was dismissed in a few sentences because it was implied that this was really more a matter for the United States, and it was for the United States eventually to decide.

Why must it be only for the United States to decide? For years we have asked various Questions on the subject in this House, and I have more than once been told that it was far from embarrassing to the Government, but helping them, because they have been able to say to Washington "Look at the nuisance value of these Questions; we must do something about it." It is about the only strength we can give the Government with regard to Washington. They keep on telling us that the United States have more or less complete control of the situation, and therefore they can do little or nothing about it. From my information on Japan, and that of other people who know Japan very well, that is far from the case. There are still nearly 100 million Japanese, and many of them are capable of reading English, and of reading HANSARD, and they say, "Why is this subject never referred to?" We could at least make the people of Japan realise that we think of them, are studying them, have not forgotten them. Up to now it has been left to the United States. Both the United States and the United Kingdom could so easily complement each other in helping Japan to get on her feet, and to be a useful nation among the democracies of the world.

We do not realise the influence we have got from the past. Because of the last war, and because of the lack of interest taken in this House, and elsewhere, we are only looking at the worst side of Japan. We forget that during the 2,000 years before the Russo-Japanese war, Japan took part in only two small wars of her own, one against Korea and another against China. For nearly 300 years she was completely cut off from the outside world. Then, in the middle of last century, thanks to American pressure, she gave up her isolation and came back into the world again. She started to industrialise, and as a result of that and the success of her copying different nations, Japan's population vastly increased and she became a country like ours—that is, a nation with a large population unable to look after that population from the production of her own country. She bought raw materials from abroad and turned them into goods to sell to other countries, and in that way managed to buy the rice and other necessities needed to keep her people alive.

Today, Japan is in the same boat as Great Britain, looking for markets. That being so, Japan cannot be left to starve. Japan accomplished this advance up to a point with the assistance of this country and our Empire. We must not forget that Great Britain was the first to recognise Japan as an ally, at the beginning of the century, and as an ally she went through the 1914–19 War. Only afterwards, because of the Washington Treaty and because we refused to renew our treaty with Japan because of pressure from the United States, we started that competition and enmity which brought us to the tragic days of the 'forties. That is a long story which we cannot go into here.

There was always a strong element of liberalism in Japan. Many Japanese were educated in this country and many of them and their sons are alive today. The militarist element which caused all the trouble was crushed at the end of the last war and are gone, for the time being any way, and the element now in control are those people who are friendly to this country. It seems to me that we have a link with Japan which could be renewed.

From my information, it appears that the United States do not seem to be able to understand the Japanese mind, and the Japanese Government themselves find the greatest difficulty in explaining their attitude and position to members of the Japanese Control. I do not refer to General MacArthur, who I believe really does understand. But the Japanese feel that they are understood by a number of British traders who were out there before and also by those in this country who are interested in their culture. I would refer to those who, like Edmund Blunden, have been sent out from this country. Blunden has done wonders in Japan in making many Japanese who felt that they were ostracised from civilisation feel that this is not so, and that there are possibilities for the future. The United States can supply the forces and money to keep Japan going. There is no reason why we should not supply the civilisation.

Undoubtedly Japan is looking to the Western world for some kind of democracy, for some new way of living, but she rather spurns the American way of life because she cannot afford it. She is never going to be as rich as the United States and her people will never live the life of the Americans, not even as the Americans are living it in Japan today. She looks for the civilisation that is at the back of or at the start of America and finds it in ours; she finds that it is more on her level, financially and economically. She is anxious to copy from us. But in preparing for the peace treaty are we doing anything about that? I am inclined to think we are not doing anything at all.

Alas, we have on the other side from Blunden's constructive efforts some other people. I do not wish to go into details, today, of the trouble going on at present in Japan over "The Times" correspondent. I know full well, and I fully agree, that every Press representative should have the fullest freedom to say what he likes about what he sees, but I think it is sometimes up to a newspaper to make sure that its representative is at any rate someone who is likely to give an objective view and possibly a constructive view of what is going on in a country. I, and fellow members of Parliament with me, met "The Times" correspondent on more than one occasion, and I can only say that I know he is a most sincere and honest man working very, very hard to tell what he thinks is right.

But his background must also be remembered, and that is that he was a prisoner of the Japanese during the war and suffered considerably as a result. The impression which I got myself, certainly when I was there after the war, was that he was an embittered man and saw at every corner, and under almost every table, the possibility of the old Japanese militarist element coming up again. He watches the Communist advance, and to my mind he has tremendously exaggerated the Communist position. He has not, to my mind, always been very fair in his judgment of the Japanese Prime Minister and the Japanese Government, and of what they are actually trying to do. Nor has he always been accurate. I am not the only one who has ever said that. I know many others who feel this, including our own Ambassador who was in Japan until war was declared. In a letter to "The Times" only the other day, Sir Robert Craigie, a very tactful man, commented on one of the reports of the correspondent and said,
"This piece of news is as unexpected as it is inexplicable."
The main worry about it is that "The Times" is read everywhere, but most especially in Japan. That being so, the Japanese, who are trying to be friendly to us, feel that they are unfairly reported here by the paper they respect most of all. This disheartens them. It is particularly unfortunate when the Japanese Government are trying to do its best to make friendship with our country.

What can we do? I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman who is to reply what is the result of the Study Group which has been working on the Japanese treaty? Is it true that the Study Group, as has been reported to me, has reported unanimously almost, in fact I believe entirely unanimously, in favour of a soft peace treaty with Japan? What will happen? Is the Foreign Secretary going to take that to Washington and press it from our point of view, because, as I see it, it is vital now, especially since the Korea issue has come to a head, that some kind of peace treaty should be made. We need not necessarily have what is called an old-fashioned peace treaty. There is no necessity to have, as in the old days, a Treaty of Vienna. There are different ways of doing things these days.

Only last Tuesday, in the "Financial Times" there appeared a letter from the Finance Minister of Japan which he wrote with regard to the payment of the Japanese Bonds debt. He said the debts due to the foreign countries are
"to be finally disposed of when the peace treaty, or any other international arrangement is made. Therefore, they are justified in considering that the payment of interest accrued would be decided at that time."
He was writing with regard to the Japanese Bonds about which people feel very strongly in this country. The words I particularly want to stress are "when the peace treaty or any other international arrangement is made." Those words, "any other international arrangement is made," as I see it, mean the sort of arrangement which could be made now, and which quite probably will be made as a result of this Korean issue.

I feel that it has not been pointed out to the United States as forcibly as it should have been, that the longer one waits for a peace treaty with Japan, once Japan has carried out the requirements of the Armistice, the more one will give a chance to the Communist elements to undermine the Government as it is at present. Take Mr. Yoshida, the Prime Minister. He is known to be friendly to this country. He was Ambassador in London and was chosen for this post because of his friendship to this country, and he suffered during the war because of his friendship towards us. Why should a peace treaty not be made while, in a sense, the going is good, while Mr. Yoshida is still there, particularly since if we and America delay it too long it will make Japan stronger and more powerful? Remember that as things get worse and worse on the Asiatic continent, she is going to become the only bulwark in the East and it is going to be more difficult to make a peace treaty with her except on her own terms.

A treaty should be made which would result in a treaty of alliance also being concluded with her to enable the United States to keep forces in Japan and on her outskirts. This is absolutely essential, and becomes more essential after what has happened in Korea yesterday and today. If we are going to continue on the way we are, it will make it difficult for industries in Lanes and Yorks, as well as other industries in the country, to get some kind of fair trading agreement with Japan with regard to the Colonies. There is no doubt we should have had some agreement years ago, but we have now to arrange with Japan about the Colonies and about the markets and areas in which we can both trade and work. It will be easy to do this thing if we allow Japan enough sterling and money to carry on her trade. If we go on indefinitely without making a peace treaty, it will give Japan the opportunity of becoming a stronger bargainer.

I beg the Minister of State to answer anything he can on a day like this. I fully realise it is not possible to say much in the short time at his disposal and in the present situation, but it is many weeks since I got the Adjournment, and the position in Japan is not well understood and I wanted to make it known that there are few people who are following with sympathy what is going on in Japan and hoping that we are going to have a friendly Japan in the future.

11.23 p.m.

Although I support what my hon. Friend has said about the importance of combating the new secular Imperialist religion of Communism and welding a democratic circle of defence, I must ask the Minister of State whether he will assure the House that, in the probability of such a peace treaty, consideration will be paid to two classes of people who suffered greatly from the war of aggression nine years ago. Those are the people who lost their houses, chattels and virtually everything they possessed and those prisoners of war who were forced to live on the most inadequate of diets and suffered in their medical and physical health so that now, in many cases, they are wrecks.

11.24 p.m.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling), is very assiduous in his pursuit of questions relating to Japan. I welcome that fact, because there is only a small group of hon. Members who take a detailed interest in this matter. I am entirely at one with him in the opinion that it is desirable that there should be a peace treaty with Japan as early as one can be achieved. That has been the opinion of the Government for a long time. I agree that the reaching of a preparatory stage is taking much longer than we would like.

I think we all recognise—and indeed I said this on the Far Eastern Debate recently—that Japan, on account of its large population, its skill, and its unique position in the Far East as the one highly-industrialised country, is bound to be an element of immense importance, and cannot be left indefinitely, as it were, in cold storage following the war.

At the same time, I feel that what may be described as the hon. Member's panegyric of Japan was a bit exaggerated, if not exactly misplaced, and the intervention of the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) shows that there are at least two opinions about Japan. We all recognise her ancient virtues. We would not even deny that there have been some actual symptoms of liberalism; but, after all, the recent history—and this applies to the German analogy—is one of aggression, and is very far from being one of liberalism. It is difficult to believe that a transformation such as the hon. Member's speech seemed to indicate could really have taken place in so short a time.

We have to accept the realities of the situation and one of the great realities is that in fighting the war, in the peace settlement and in the occupation of Japan, it is the United States who are bearing the greatest responsibility. It is not His Majesty's Government's view that this is wholly a matter for the United States, but I think we must appreciate that no satisfactory settlement can be achieved until the United States are prepared to decide upon what lines they can reach a settlement. We and the Commonwealth have a great interest in the matter and that has always been fully recognised by the United States, but I do not think we should be blamed if we say, as we have repeatedly been compelled to say in the House when this question of the peace treaty has been raised, that while we are urging that there should be a peace treaty, we really cannot move unilaterally in the matter.

The hon. Gentleman knows the history. There have been at least two Commonwealth conferences, the most recent of which was the Colombo Conference, as a result of which a working party was set up. I am afraid I cannot tell him at this stage what the views expressed by the working party were. They were a body of officials who were reporting back to their Governments, and at this stage it would be wrong of me to reveal anything. I do not really much like the phrase he used about a "soft" peace treaty, which he said he understood they had recommended. I have always disliked the distinction between "hard" and "soft" in regard to treaties with Japan and Germany.

We have to be realistic and appreciate that, although no doubt there have been great improvements in the Japanese situation, the past cannot be entirely forgotten and we have to consider, not only defence against possible Japanese aggressiveness, but also now, more recently, defence of Japan, which has in its new constitution, agreed not to maintain armed forces. The events announced yesterday and today show just how delicate and dangerous the security situation in that region can be, and while I hope that on this ground it will not be necessary to hold up a peace treaty very much longer, the hon. Member will, I hope, realise that it is not a simple question of coming to some soft and easy and friendly arrangement with an entirely resurrected Japanese democracy such as I think his speech, in some parts, tended to suggest.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes past Eleven o'clock.