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Series Two: British Foreign Office Files for Post-War Japan, 1952-1980
(Public Record Office Classes FO 371 and FCO 21)

Part 6: Complete Files for 1966-1968
(PRO Classes FO 371/187076-187142 & FCO 21/238-299)

"These British Archives provide invaluable analyses of Japan’s social, economic and political development, and fully document her changing relations with Britain and the Commonwealth."
Dr Gordon Daniels, Reader in Modern Far Eastern History, University of Sheffield
and President of the European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists

Continuing the microfilm collection of Foreign Office Files for Japan Series Two, Part 6 documents the years 1966, 1967 and 1968 and contains a wealth of information from the British Foreign Office Central Political Files. Drawing on reports, memoranda, despatches, official instructions and regular communications between the Foreign Office and the British Embassy and Consulates in Japan, many of the most pressing issues of the day are discussed and appraised. Subjects covered range in scope from Annual reports and fortnightly summaries of events in Japan, to foreign relations and Japanese political, social and economic issues.

During this period, Japan was still governed by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and, after the resignation of Hayato Ikeda in November 1964, was under the premiership of Eisaku Sato. Building upon the success and prosperity of the Ikeda years, Japan had emerged from its post-war seclusion to become one of the world’s major industrial countries; in the financial year 1965-66, its GNP had become the third largest in the world. As file FCO 21/242 documents, "The Japanese people will probably continue to get richer faster than the people of any other country."

As the 1960s progressed, trading with both western and eastern nations became important in order for Japan to maintain its high profile on the world economic stage. The Sato administration was well aware that their continued industrial growth depended heavily on good foreign relations. Although full diplomatic links with the People’s Republic of China were not established until 1972, the signing of a five-year trade memorandum in November 1962 had ushered in a period of trade and ‘semi-official’ relations between the two nations. By 1966, Japan’s two-way trade with Communist China had reached the record figure of $620 million (US), but the files show an insight into Japan’s deep concern over the rise and threat of communism in the East. FCO 21/251 questions whether Japan "could help to prevent communist China from dominating the area," and also confirms contemporary Japanese academic thinking. To enable scholars to study the wider implications of Japan’s role in the Eastern political climate, this section also includes Foreign Office Files relating to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaya.

Japan’s association with Western nations is also documented, most notably with the UK and the US, and also with the Soviet Union. The Foreign Policy of 1967 (FCO 21/251) documents Japan’s necessity of greater co-operation with the US and Canada in particular. Several files from 1967 and 1968 document meetings between Mr Takeo Miki (Japan’s Foreign Minister) and Britain’s Secretary of State where the signing of the trade agreement between Japan and the UK had formed the basis of a valuable political and economic relationship.

1966-1968 witnessed the international increase in nuclear warheads, the escalation of the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile crisis. This encouraged a radical change on the Western world’s cultural scene with the emergence of flower power, drug use and the general hippy spirit of ‘make love not war’. Seen as a leader on the world economic stage, the traditional history and culture of Japan contrasted dramatically with this era of amity and ‘free-love’. During this period Sir John Pilcher replaced Sir Francis Rundall as Britain’s Ambassador to Japan. FCO 21/246 contains de-briefing notes as Sir Francis retires from political office. He comments on the "strong sense of national consciousness" and the delicate issue of balancing the deep-rooted culture of a nation such as Japan, together with its economic prosperity. To compliment this, FCO 21/242 records Sir John’s first impressions and FO 371/187125 gives an interesting insight into the impact of a visit by The Beatles pop group.

The effect of the Vietnam War is discussed in several files. In a meeting between the Prime Minister and Mr Miki in July 1968, file FCO 21/278 reports that the Vietnam conflict had caused political and economic "stagnation throughout Asia and had had a significant affect on the policies of communist China." Concerning east/west relations, it also states that the hostilities "poisoned the US/Soviet Union relationship."

In Japan, there seemed to be general disagreement about Vietnam:

"Mr Miki said that there was not, as in Britain, a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy. There were radical disagreements between the Government and the opposition parties and not merely in regard to Vietnam. The opposition wished to terminate the US/Japan security treaty. The Government were determined to maintain it. The opposition were very anti-American over Vietnam. The Government, while not supporting everything the Americans did there, could see no benefit in public condemnation of US policies. There was, on the contrary, a need to understand what the Americans were trying to do."

Part 6 also documents the domestic political situation in Japan. The ruling Liberal Democrat Party was seen to be in disarray due to accusations of corruption. Democracy was questioned and the ‘black mist’ needed to be dispersed in order to gain a ‘cleaner government.’ FCO 21/238 also reports Japan’s economic difficulties leading up to 1967; profits fell, small firms suffered bankruptcy and many workers saw their real wages slightly decline. But this was "seen as only a pause in a generally upward movement towards greater prosperity." During this period, Britain "should not seek to deny her the markets on which her prosperity depends… we can help prevent a relapse into isolation and xenophobia tendencies endemic in Japan by maintaining good political relations."

Also included in this section are documents that cover all the major events affecting Japan in 1965, 1966 and 1967. They include:

- Political and commercial relations with Eastern and Western nations
- Defence and the armed forces
- Various Japanese political parties
- The Second World War (Claims for losses, compensation for prisoners of war, shipping and relics)
- Annual reviews for 1965, 1966 and 1967
- The Boeing 707 plane crash and typhoon disaster of 1966

Study of these documents will help illuminate not only how Japan came to be one of the dominant global economies, but also how her relations developed with her regional neighbours, trading partners and allies. They will also enable scholars to question at what length did the Vietnam war threaten Japan’s relations with the US and UK? Was Japan becoming less reliant on USA support? What role did Japan play on the rise of communism in the East?

Digital Guide
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