In 1955, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu told U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that Japan could send its Self-Defense Forces overseas to protect the U.S. territory of Guam, Japanese diplomatic records showed Wednesday.
Such an SDF dispatch for the purpose of defense would be considered justified under the Constitution, Shigemitsu said. His remarks came decades before Japan enacted national security laws in 2015 to allow the country to exercise collective self-defense in some cases.
In his meeting with Dulles in August 1955, Shigemitsu described the Japan-U.S. security treaty that had taken effect in April 1952 as an “incomplete” pact, according to the newly disclosed records.
Shigemitsu called on the United States to enter negotiations to conclude a new security treaty that would allow mutual protection in the western Pacific region.
The first bilateral security treaty, which was later scrapped, did not stipulate a U.S. obligation to protect Japan or treat the two countries equally.
Shigemitsu said that under the proposed security treaty, each country would recognize an armed attack on its counterpart or a region under the counterpart’s jurisdiction in the western Pacific as a threat to its own peace and security, and would declare it would take action for the common danger in accordance with constitutional procedures.
Dulles asked whether Japan could conclude a mutual defense pact under the existing Constitution and whether Japan could protect the United States if Guam were attacked.
Shigemitsu replied that the two countries would discuss how to respond if such a situation occurred.
Dulles said he had thought that the widest interpretation of the Japanese Constitution justified the use of the country’s defense capabilities only to protect itself, the records showed.
Although the use of Japan’s defense capabilities is limited to self-defense, Tokyo’s interpretation was that it would be able to discuss the use of its troops with the United States, Shigemitsu said.
Dulles replied that Shigemitsu’s explanation of Japan’s stance was news to him and he had not previously known that Japan could send troops overseas if it first negotiated with the United States.
Meanwhile, he said it would be too early to consider a new security treaty, adding that it was not the time to discuss the matter seriously.