Postwar Japanese and Southeast Asian History - A New Viewpoint
Hiroyuki Hoshiro

    Two books were published in 1997 by the same editor and the same publisher, with the subtitles "Japan and Asia" and "Germany in Europe" (italics mine).1 A single preposition thus gives a clear indication of how the two nations which lost the Second World War have resumed relations with their neighbours in the postwar period. It is my impression that compared with Germany, Japan is still considered to be outside the framework of Asia. In other words, it has not yet become dissolved into the solution that is "Asia".

     I would like in this short article to discuss Japan's postwar diplomatic history vis-a-vis the countries of Southeast Asia, which are now the central component of "Asia". Constraints on length compel me to confine my discussion to events up to 1974, which (I consider) represents a great turning point in their relationship.

   Rather than simply reiterate the commonly-accepted theory about that history which has pertained until now, I would like to present a new viewpoint that goes against that theory. What appears below is simply a suggestion, my own provisional theory, and it may contain elements which cannot be substantiated or which may be disproved. I would however be happy if it serves to make readers aware of the necessity of taking a new look at the relations between Japan and Southeast Asia, not just in the past, but in the present and future as well.

    In the prewar period, Japan occupied countries in Southeast Asia under the banner of the "Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere". Today there are two strong and mutually opposing views concerning the relationship between that occupation and the fostering of nationalism in those countries. One is what we might term the "liberation" view, that is, it was because of Japan's intervention that Southeast Asian countries were able to liberate themselves from western colonialism, and the other is the expiatory view, which unreservedly condemns the Japanese invasion. Neither argument can be reconciled with the other, and neither seems capable of being developed into any constructive discussion. This is because those who hold to one or the other view persist in their own opinions and choose only those examples which serve to illustrate their own stance.

     For instance, it is well known that there was widespread anti-Japanese feeling in the Philippines after the war. This tends to be emphasized by those who hold the expiatory view. On the other hand, proponents of the liberation view pay attention to those Japanophiles in Asia who were positive about the Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. Each group focuses only on a particular direction, with the result that barren dispute is repeated over and over again.

    Masao Maruyama (1914-1996), the political theorist and intellectual historian, recognized the growing need to analyze, on the basis of concrete documentation, the role of Japan in the nationalist movements of Southeast Asia,2 but even now virtually no empirical research has been done in that direction covering Southeast Asia as a whole. Though valuable academic work has been done, concerning for example, the forms of government and internal structures in the former colonies of Southeast Asia and the forms of the Japanese occupation seen as independent variables, supporting either the view that popular movements were shaped which bore goodwill towards Japan, or conversely that the result of occupation was hatred towards Japan, an overall study has not yet been attempted.

     The San Francisco Treaty, which officially ended the Second World War, was signed in September 1951 and came into force the following year, restoring Japan's sovereignty. As a result Japan resumed diplomatic relations with more than fifty countries. However, the Soviet Union declined to sign the treaty, the governments of Taiwan and Mainland China were not invited, Burma and India did not attend, and Indonesia did not ratify the treaty. Thus the resumption of diplomatic relations with these countries remained a task for the future as far as Japan was concerned. The resumption of relations with the Soviet Union is a widely cited example of the latter process, but such is the focus of academic attention that has been paid to it, the study of the resumption of relations with other countries, especially those in Southeast Asia, has been tended to be overshadowed and neglected.

    It is generally considered that Japan's diplomatic horizon began gradually to expand away from unquestioning pro-Americanism from the time of the Hatoyama Cabinet (1954-1956), under which relations with the Soviet Union were recommenced. This view is however incorrect, since the Yoshida Cabinet (1946-1947, 1948-1954) had already succeeded in setting up diplomatic ties with non-aligned countries like India and Burma. There are many excellent empirical studies concerning the history of relations between Japan and the Philippines and Indonesia, but it is fair to say little has been done concerning Japan's diplomatic ties with India and Burma. (Let me add here that though today we call India and Pakistan "Southern Asia", until the middle of the 1960s these countries were included in the region of "Southeast Asia".) Here too there lies buried a valuable subject for research.

   In 1957 the government of Nobusuke Kishi achieved two things in quick succession. One was the announcement of a formula to create a "Southeast Asian Development Fund" and the other was to restore diplomatic relations with Indonesia by means of resolving the reparations issue with that country. The reparations issue has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, and so I will concentrate my attention here on the Southeast Asian Development Fund. Kishi's intention was that the fund be a vehicle for Japan to expand its influence in Asia, giving it a bargaining chip with which to confront the United States. The Fund therefore is widely regarded as an expression of Kishi's desire to take an independent diplomatic stance away from the United States.

   In my opinion, this interpretation is mistaken. It is based on Kishi's own memoirs, written in his later years, which tend to be self-congratulatory and not very reliable. For a start, the plan had been initially proposed by the United States, and Kishi himself did not contribute very much to its conception. In fact it was arranged entirely according to the suggestions of financiers. A number of studies on this topic appeared around 2000, including one of my own, on which I base the above observations.3

      The common view about the government of Hayato Ikeda (1960-1964) is that it was preoccupied with domestic issues and the economy, and that it did not have a strong international and political role. However it has been shown in recent years that this view needs to be revised. The most outstanding example of its international stance is the plan for a West Pacific Organization, which Ikeda broached in 1963. From what is clear today, five countries excluding the United States (the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia) met in Tokyo with what appeared to be the political aim of leading Indonesia, then in the midst of a policy of confrontation with Malaysia, towards the liberal camp.4 There is no doubt that this plan, which demonstrated the Ikeda government's intention to pursue an independent diplomatic policy, contains ramifications that could overturn the common understanding. However, as of 2005 (when this article was written), its details are still not clear (even at the time, it was not made public and the countries concerned were sounded out secretly, behind the scenes). We look forward to the appearance of empirical research on this subject.

     When Ikeda visited Indonesia at that time, President Sukarno sought "heart-to-heart talks" (Yomiuri shinbun, September 27, 1963; the headline read "Emphasis on a rapport between hearts"). What is interesting about this phrase is that it was reiterated in the so-called "Manila Speech" in 1977 by the then Japanese Prime Minister, Takeo Fukuda, where he stated that Japan would build relations of mutual trust through "heart-to-heart" communication. This in turn became one of the three clauses of what became known as the Fukuda doctrine, which asserted that relations between Japan and the nations of Southeast Asia should be based on strong ties of friendship and cooperation. Whether Fukuda remembered Sukarno's words from this time, or whether he came up with the expression independently is very difficult to confirm one way or the other, but at the very least it raises a question mark against the commonly-held notion that the phrase was Fukuda's creation.

   Another event associated with the Ikeda government was the attempt in 1962 to set up the OAEC (Organization for Asian Economic Cooperation), a regional trade framework consisting only of Asian nations through the UN organ ECAFE (Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East). Several people in the Japanese government supported this plan privately but opposed it publicly. The Japanese attitude of the time remains an enigma in light of this self-contradiction (the plan ended in failure).5

   It goes without saying that contradictions within a country's policy are often connected with internal politics. I consider that it was the Minister of Agriculture of the time, the powerful Liberal Democrat politician Ichiro Kono (1898-1965) who disapproved of the plan and was behind government's official opposition. If such a regional trade framework had come into being, it would have been difficult to avoid the flow of cheap Southeast Asian agricultural products into Japan. Kono was the leader of a powerful faction of the ruling party and at the forefront of those who wanted to protect Japanese agricultural interests and he would have been the most likely person to develop arguments against the proposed OAEC in Cabinet discussions, speaking from a protectionist standpoint. Problems like those arising in the current Free Trade Association negotiations where international talks are delayed by the necessity to protect domestic agriculture may already have arisen at that time.

   I would like to add that for similar reasons, and in the present as in the past, Japan has consistently opposed regional agreements promoting trade with Southeast Asia. The plan of the Kishi government and the two regional frameworks that I will discuss below were all couched as "developmental aid", not "trade". This distinction is very important. What is of vital importance when analysing regionalism is to examine both the structure of the framework and domestic politics, rather than understanding moves to create regional frameworks simply as "regionalism".

     Ikeda contracted laryngeal cancer and left office soon after the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He was succeeded by Eisaku Sato. Of Japan's Southeast Asian policy during Sato's premiership, special mention should be made of the country's participation in the Asian Development Bank and the holding of a ministerial level conference on Southeast Asian development. Following the failure of the OAEC plan, the Asian Development Bank was set up in 1966 through ECAFE (the predecessor of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific [ESCAP]). Japan wanted the headquarters to be located in Tokyo but a vote gave the decision to the Philippines; Japan was mollified however by being given the office of President of the Bank. The afore-mentioned ministerial level conference was begun in 1966, and lasted eight years until it spontaneously vanished; its existence is therefore not widely known, but it is worth special mention because it was the first international conference sponsored by the Japanese government in the postwar period.

   It is generally considered that Japan wanted to broaden its aid positively to Southeast Asia through its participation in these two regional frameworks, since this was a time of very high economic growth for the country, just when it had begun to reach a balance-of-trade surplus with the United States. However, setting aside the ADB, to which Japan had contributed 200,000,000 dollars, it is difficult to be satisfied with the explanation that the instigation of a ministerial level conference was its expression of an increase in aid, for there is no firm proof to back this view. My own view is that the conference was not started with the view of increasing Japan's developmental aid to Southeast Asia but with the aim of being in a position to be in a position of strength in light of a recently stated US plan to increase Southeast Asian aid. I would argue that this conference was an experiment born in a period of transition between the dominant way of thinking of the 1950s, that Southeast Asian development should be carried out through a combination of American capital and Japanese technical skill, and that of the 1970s, when overseas development assistance was increased voluntarily.

     A large problem associated with the government of Kakuei Tanaka, as far as Southeast Asia was concerned, was the anti-Japanese demonstrations that took place in Indonesia on the occasion of his visit there in 1974, the so-called Malari Affair. (Anti-Japanese demonstrations also occurred in Thailand, chiefly among students.) Large-scale Japanese business expansion abroad that did not take into consideration local conditions has been held to blame for the problem. However, compared with the large number of studies that have been done on the "Fukuda Doctrine", not much empirical research has appeared concerning Tanaka's Southeast Asian visit, despite its importance as a turning point in the history of Japanese-Southeast Asian relations.

    Until this time, Japan's sentiment regarding the countries of Southeast Asia was influenced by an historical view that was liberationist rather than expiatory. It is well known for example that Yoshida kept on delaying negotiations with the Philippines over reparations because he considered the money to be an investment for Japan's own economic development rather than an atonement for a crime. Also, when the Kishi government put forward its Southeast Asian development fund plan, it was ruled by the idea that Japan should act as an intermediary, since the granting by the US of direct capital aid to Southeast Asian countries would only fuel nationalism there. There was no fundamental change in the 1960s, and plans to increase aid through the ADB and the ministerial level conference were, it may be confidently said, not inspired by any idea of atonement for crimes.

    The plainly anti-Japanese demonstrations shocked the Japanese and led directly, I believe, to repentance over Japan's wartime behaviour, with which the demonstrations actually had no connection. After that, a sense of atonement began to occupy a large position as a factor in determining Japanese policy in Southeast Asia. This incidentally was the very time that people who had been educated after the war were beginning to take up positions of importance where they were able to determine policy.

    I believe therefore that this incident can be said to have been crucial in transforming the relationship between Japan and Southeast Asia, and it is from this point of view that I will continue my studies in the future.

     I have described here my research interest, the postwar history of Japan and Southeast Asia. I have included topics that I am at present studying and that I hope to study in the future. There are as well of course many important subjects that I have not mentioned, including issues related to the time period from the second half of the 1970s down to the present. What I wanted to point out here in particular is that there is much that we still do not know about Japanese and Southeast Asian postwar history, and much which we continue to misunderstand. I hope that significant studies that seek to overturn generally held views will appear in ever greater numbers in the future.

1 Peter J. Katzenstein and Takashi Shiraishi eds., Network Power: Japan and Asia (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997) and Peter J. Katzenstein ed., Tamed Power: Germany in Europe (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997).
2 Maruyama, Masao. Gendai seiji no shiso to kodo (revised and expanded version), Tokyo: Miraisha, 1964, p. 500.
3 Hoshiro, Hiroyuki, "Kishi gaiko hyoka no saikosaku - Tonan Ajia kaihatsu kikin koso no teisho to zasetsu". Kokusai kankei ron kenkyu 17 (2001).
4 Miyagi, Taizo, Sengo Ajia chitsujo no mosaku to Nihon. Tokyo: Sobunsha, 2004, pp. 60-63.
5 Oniwa, Miki. Ajia Taiheiyo chiiki keisei a no michinori - kyokai kokka Nichi-Go no aidenteitei mosaku to chiikisugi. Kyoto: Mineruva shobo, 2004, p. 128.


Hiroyuki Hoshiro

Doctoral candidate Department of Advanced Social and International Studies, University of Tokyo