HC Deb 15 March 1951 vol 485 cc1955-64

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

1.24 a.m.

Mr. Hamilton (Fife, West)

Naturally I apologise for raising this matter at this hour, but what I wish to deal with is infinitely more important than what has been discussed, and certainly I am more sincere in mentioning it than were hon. Members opposite in what they were doing in the last few hours. I should say at the outset that this is the third night in succession that I have been kept here until six o'Clock in the morning by the tactics of the Opposition.

The issue I wish to raise is the making of a Japanese Peace Treaty. When we look at the international situation, it is rather surprising that the question of the future of Japan has seemed to be rather in the background. What action has been taken in the last few months has been taken entirely by America. There is a growing feeling in the country that our silence indicates certain consent to what is being said in the United States and by the United States representatives.

Technically the position is that Japan is still at war with 49 nations. She is still occupied by United States forces after more than five years of so-called peace. In that time the population has increased by 1,500,000 annually. She has a Government which is relatively stable, although there are internal economic difficulties. Although the country is not divided into zones as Germany is, we still have no peace treaty. The reason for that is, of course, that for four years or more we have been suffering from Soviet obstruction. I believe that there is a genuine feeling in the country that a peace treaty now is really essential both for the prosperity of Japan and for victory, as I see it, for ourselves in the war of ideas which is going on at the moment in the international field.

I think we all agree that we want to stop the spread of Communism and we believe, on this side of the House at any rate, that Communism is feeding on mass poverty and nationalism. Although in Japan at the moment I do not think that Communism is a strong force, there is a continued occupation by United States forces, and those forces are being used for the exploitation of the occupation in their own political interest. Moreover, the prosperity of Japan depends, like our own, to an enormous extent on international trade and I believe that the elimination of poverty in Asia generally can be expedited by allowing Japan to trade freely.

Japan is the only Asiatic nation with an immediate industrial potential and that being so, the future of Asia must be based on a free and prosperous Japan. In paragraph II of the Potsdam Declaration, it is stated: Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted. I should like to ask if that paragraph of the Potsdam Declaration is, in fact, still the policy of our Government. Do we want to see a Japan with a viable economy playing its part in Japanese and Asian prosperity, helping to eliminate poverty and helping to defeat the spread of Communism, without encouraging a resurgence of Japanese militarism?

That brings me to the whole point of Japanese re-armament. At the moment the Japanese question is in the background but there is a body of opinion in this country which is watching events in Japan, and particularly watching the utterances of Mr. Dulles and General MacArthur on this question. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution expressly forbids the maintenance of any kind of military force in Japan. Yet only last year General MacArthur authorised the formation of a National Police Reserve in Japan. Its approximate strength at the moment is about 75,000, and rumours in Tokyo are that it will be increased eventually to 500,000.

According to the American magazine "Life" of 5th February, this police force is now vigorously training throughout Japan, and it is strictly comparable to the police force that we are condemning in Eastern Germany. If that is the case, I should like to have the Minister's views. Were the Government consulted before the formation of that police force reserve or were they informed after the event? It is important that we should know that. It is as well to say in this House that there are many people in this country, and I must say that I share their view, who think that one of the greatest menaces to world peace is General MacArthur himself.

Australia and New Zealand fear Japanese re-armament. I believe most of the Japanese people do not want it. The Japanese Socialists not only reject re-armament but also the retention of United States bases in that country. I believe that there is a strong feeling of neutralism in Japan, and those sentiments reflect a pacifism we cannot ignore, or deplore either, because we all want to develop a sense of pacifism in Japan, Germany and throughout the world. Only in that way shall we eliminate the prospect of world war.

On the other hand, we are right to see to it that Japan must not become what Mr. Dulles called "a power vacuum," because we know from Korea what happens in a power vacuum with Communism on the march. The Soviet-Chinese Treaty of military alliance in February last year specifically designated the enemy as Japan or any other State which would unite with it. I believe that an entirely defenceless Japan would be an invitation to Communist imperialism. Therefore, the problem to me seems to be how we are to get security (a)for the allies, and (b)for Japan.

I feel that control of the imports of raw materials into Japan could quite easily prevent a resurgence of any kind of aggressive Japanese militarism, if we want to do that. I am not sure that General MacArthur wants that, but if we do, we can prevent that resurgence, and in that respect there is no real menace from Japan. The real menace is to Japan, and the question is how we can build up the defences of Japan and at the same time prevent the rise of militarism and also give assurance to Australia and New Zealand that they will be in no way endangered as a result.

I would ask the Minister a few questions. First, can he give any assurance that we will go on towards making a peace treaty with the Japanese, if need be, without the Soviet and the Communist countries? Secondly, will the Government undertake to ensure that there is no rebirth of Japanese militarism, while also ensuring that there is no power vacuum that would invite Communist aggression, and that we go into any peace conference free from any kind of domination by what I would call the negative militarism of MacArthur and without being unduly influenced by what Mr. Dulles has got to say?

Thirdly, will the Government assure the country at large that, in seeking to make Japan prosperous—we all agree that she has somehow to be brought into the comity of nations, that she has got to be allowed to trade freely—we shall do everything in our power to prevent the repetition of unfair Japanese competition in foreign markets? Fourthly, have any steps been taken or any contemplated to bring Mr. Dulles here to engage in conversations and to give his personal views on his visit to the Far East, to Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia? Lastly, will the Government undertake in all its negotiations to keep in the very closest contact with Australia and New Zealand, both of whom will want firm guarantees of security against any possible future Japanese aggression?

We hear a lot of talk from General MacArthur and the Americans that the Japanese have been re-educated. I am sceptical about that kind of claim. I refuse to believe that in five years Japan can change from a dictatorship or Fascist régime to a full-blooded democracy. I wonder whether the Government are fully convinced that Japan has turned over a new leaf, that the old clique has finally been ousted, and that we can leave Japan entirely to herself without danger from the old régime that is still very much in existence.

Finally, we want to eliminate the impression that our country is taking a back seat. The country wants to hear the Government's views on this issue now. As the present Minister of Labour said of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition: "His greatest enemy is time." Our greatest enemy on this question is time. I urge the Government to try and do what they can to expedite the formulation of a Japanese peace treaty.

1.40 a.m.

Mr. William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)

We ought to be grateful to the hon. Member for bringing this matter forward. It does give the Government an opportunity to tell the country, if only briefly, something of what they are doing. I have always been in favour of as rapid a peace treaty as possible with Japan, but recently I have become more nervous about that, in view of the actions of the United States in regard to Korea and the Far East. When I am told that this treaty is being pressed forward rapidly by the United States, I become still more alarmed, and I should like an assurance from the British Government that they are doing as much as they can to put a brake on some of the things that are happening. I think it is no exaggeration to say that if things go wrong with this treaty, it may well be the real cause of the third world war.

The United States are about to make a peace treaty with Japan. We are about to go in with them on that. What is going to happen with regard to Russia and China? It seems to me to be unprecedented historically. There will be two countries making a peace treaty with Japan, and Russia and China will have the full right to say that they have not made a treaty with her and have the full right to take over. Indeed, it has been reported that. General MacArthur would be prepared to remain and take control of the Russian and Chinese forces. That would indeed be ridiculous, and I should like some line from the Government on what their attitude would be if it were to happen.

There also arises the possibility of rearmament. I remember so well in Japan, not so long ago, talking to members of the present Government there, who in the old days were very pro-British and sympathetically inclined towards us. They were pushed out before the war because of the increasing strength of the Army and Navy. When the war was over, the Army and Navy were pushed out of the picture, and the officers and men were sent back to their homes and not given any pension, and they had to be absorbed by their families. There is no doubt that a great deal of bitterness arose against General MacArthur and the Americans for forcing that on them. The Emperor and the Court were nervous that these troops might have become Communistically-inclined because of it. What steps are the Government taking to make sure that this possibility of rearmament is not going to put back into power people who have become Russian-minded? This is a grave danger that the Japanese Government foresee. They are in a dangerous position and might find themselves forced into a peace which would give an army back to their country which would in the end push them out.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what is happening to our representative, Sir Alvary Gascoigne, out there? I understand he has left Japan. Has he gone on leave? Is he coming home? Or where has he gone? Why at this critical moment is he not there? How recently has he seen General MacArthur? Is it not possibly true that one of the reasons why he is going is because he has not seen General MacArthur and sees no point in staying on? What steps are to be taken with regard to the financial clauses of the treaty? We should have reparations for British citizens, poor as well as rich, who have lost not only their homes but pretty well everything they had got. Those are the points I should like to put.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

I should like to emphasise the great danger that there is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) pointed out, in the National Police Reserve. The peace treaty with Japan will be the point at which it will be possible for the National Police Reserve to become an actual military force. It is now being very actively built up, as he said. It is being organised by the Americans on American lines and armed by them with every sort of weapon up to machine-guns. That seems to many of us, probably on both sides of the House, rather a serious danger in view of the pacific tendencies which were supposed to be commended to the Japanese at the end of the war. So I hope that my hon. Friend will say something about that.

1.46 a.m.

The Minister of State (Mr. Younger)

I am afraid that I have a very brief time in which to deal with this very important matter. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) on the way in which he raised the subject and the extremely reasonable and balanced point of view which he expressed. I hope I shall not seem boastful in saying that it represents very much the point of view of His Majesty's Government in most respects.

My hon. Friend said that the British case seemed to be going by default and that the impression was that we were doing nothing about this. It may be true that we have not been able to be as specific as we would have liked—the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) knows that in the past I have not been able to be as specific about this as he would have liked or as I would have liked—but it is well known that not only we but also the other members of the Commonwealth have been expressing, at any rate through the diplomatic channel, if not very much in public, our views on this matter ever since the Canberra Conference of 1947 and the later Conference of 1950. It is, in fact, from our side that the pressure has come throughout that period for an early peace treaty. It is only relatively lately that the United States have appeared to feel the same sense of urgency, and, quite frankly, we have welcomed that, but we realise that there are certain dangers in moving very fast, having started rather late in trying to get a peace treaty.

In relation particularly to these matters of possible re-armament and so on, obviously there are very grave dangers involved. We feel that the first objective of the peace treaty must be to try to get a Japan which is viable and can offer her people a reasonable standard of living and can see some future for herself in association with all the democratic Powers. That is a very broad general statement which is very often very hard to apply. At the same time we appreciate that it is impossible to contemplate leaving a power vacuum.

Whatever our intentions may have been about the permanent and complete disarmament of Japan to go on indefinitely as expressed in the article of the Constitution—I think we visualised it at the time as being perhaps possible in the context of a world also largely disarming—inevitably that conception must be to some extent reviewed when we see the level of armaments about us and the dangerous situation in the Far East, and when we contemplate the possibility that there might no longer be occupying forces in Japan, as there will presumably not be after a peace treaty, and that unless we make some provision for Japanese security she will be at the mercy of forces whom we should not like to see in charge of Japan.

As regards the police force created, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) made the essential point when he indicated that this, like almost any other police force, might become a military force after a peace treaty. It is true to say that it could not fairly be described as a military force now. It is a genuine police force. What should be the future of the force or of any other armed forces after a peace treaty is, as I have said, a matter for very careful consideration, and one of the things we take into account is the fact that we know that there are many—if I may say so—respectable forces in Japan which are not in favour of re-armament.

We have to ask in whose hands Japanese armaments would be, and we must clearly face the alternative if, as might happen and as the hon. Member suggested, we could not get participation from Russia and Chinese China in the peace treaty. They would still be in a state of war. We would have to be careful about what would happen about Japanese security. It would be asking a lot to ask our United States allies, who have borne the burden of this position since the end of the war, to contemplate going on indefinitely defending Japan entirely with American troops. This is an inescapable dilemma forced on us, as in the case of Germany in Europe, by the unfortunate fact that, instead of having disarmament we have had an increasing level of armaments in the brief period since the end of the war.

I was asked half a dozen questions by my hon. Friend, but I am afraid I have not time to answer more than one of them. He referred to Mr. Dulles. I should like to say here that Mr. Dulles has co-operated most fully with us ever since he was associated with this matter. We were very fully consulted and our representatives have frequently spoken to him. Mr. Dulles has told us that the United States could not contemplate any one Power putting a permanent veto on a Japanese treaty. We cannot allow the Soviet Union to hold up this matter indefinitely.

The hon. Member asked us to see that any settlement prevented the rebirth of militarism. We certainly hope to see to that. He asked whether we were not consulting together with Australia and New Zealand. The answer is certainly, "Yes." We are fully aware of their great interest in the security aspect of this peace treaty. The interest of our people in the commercial side of the peace treaty must be for free trade but we hope to include provisions to safeguard our people against the malpractices which were only too common before the war.

Mr. Teeling

Sir Alvary Gascoigne?

Mr. Younger

Sir Alvary Gascoigne has left permanently, but not at all because he was unable to see General MacArthur. I am afraid I cannot give the name of his successor, but we are represented there still.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Seven Minutes to Two o'Clock a.m.