Our Over-all Responsibility in the Pacific


By HAROLD S. STASSEN, Former Governor of Minnesota

Delivered at the New York Herald Tribune Forum, New York City, October 29, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, pp. 121-123.

ON the 2d of August as the 3d Fleet withdrew a short distance from the shores of Japan to rendezvous with its service force and re-provision on the high seas, a destroyer steamed up alongside Admiral Halsey's flagship, the U. S. S. Missouri, and passed over many bags of mail for the officers and crew of the ship and the staff. Included in the mail was a letter from the distinguished manager of the New York Herald Tribune Forum, inviting me to speak this year if I were then in the United States. I conditionally accepted and the rapid sequence of subsequent events results in my pleasure in being with you today.

I speak upon the assigned subject, "Our Over-all Responsibility in the Pacific," at a time when I have not quite completed my active naval service, and hence the tenor of my remarks will be appropriate to my status in uniform, although, of course, I speak as an individual officer and the views I express are not to be taken as the view of the Navy or of the government.

There has been an increasing awareness in the United States of the magnitude of the problems of the western Pacific. This vast quarter of the globe has within it, linked together by the Pacific Ocean and its adjacent Japanese, Yellow, and South China Seas, more than one-third of the population of the world and, in uneven locations, a large portion of the natural resources and raw-material sources of the globe.

Problem Most Difficult

The mere recitation of the principal areas involved, from the Soviet Union's Siberia area to the north, through Japan, Korea, Manchuria, China, Formosa, the Philippines, Indo-China, Malaya, on down to the Netherlands Indies, Australia, and New Zealand, with the multitude of smaller islands in between, including the bitter battlegrounds of the recent war and the Hawaiian Islands at the eastern extremity, serves immediately to emphasize in our minds the fact that each of the major powers of the world have very active interests in this part of the globe, and that the problems of the area, historically, currently, and prophetically, are among the most difficult and acute. At the very outset of the specific discussion of our responsibilities in this quarter I would like to emphasize that while it is an area containing many complex special problems and involving great masses of people, we must never lose sight of the fact that the difficulties that arise there will to an increasing degree be interrelated to the policies and problems of the world.

There is a very real need of an early crystallization of the long-range policy of the United States in this area. To do this requires the earnest attention and study of many elements of our government and of our citizenry. It should be a bi-partisan policy. It should be clearly understood and debated by the people. It should be public and open, and not secret. Such a policy, as I see it, can best be developed with the appointment by the President of a bi-partisan commission consisting of distinguished representatives from both parties in the House and the Senate, from the Departments of State and War and Navy, and of the principal economic groups of our citizenry, labor, agriculture, and commerce. Such a commission, by continuous study and frank discussion, would gradually evolve and keep up to date the most clear-cut policies possible, contribute to their implementation and their continuity under our democratic system, and increase the understanding of our people as a whole.

Concepts and Objectives

It is my tentative view, which within the limits of one brief address, I expose now to provoke discussion and stimulate the search for answers, that that policy should include the following basic concepts and objectives:

(1) The steady, but admittedly very slow improvement in the economic, social, and cultural status of the greatmasses of people who live in this area, and to this end the use of the trusteeship chapters of the United Nations Charter, a constant alert interest in the fulfillment of the pledge of trusteeship toward all dependent peoples, and increased capital investments in the resources of the area.

(2) The maintenance of conditions of stability, security, and peace and for this purpose firm long-term supervision of Japan and the continuance in the western Pacific of a strong United States Fleet and Air, Force, operated entirely in accordance with the United Nations Charter, with an agreed portion of it directly allocated to the Security Council for police activities.

(3) The development of ample naval and air bases throughout the central Pacific from the Ryukyus and Bonins in the north through the Philippines and Palau in the south, in strict accordance with the United Nations Charter, fulfilling the trusteeship requirements as to the peoples and the natural resources, taking sovereign title only to such of the central Pacific islands as have no economic value, no population of consequence, and are essential to our key Philippine line of defence.

Insist on Free Decisions

(4) Constant insistence throughout Asia and the western Pacific upon an increasing measure of free decisions through peaceful means by the peoples that are involved, with opposition to the use of excessive force or the violation of basic human rights either as a program of oppression and suppression, or as a weapon of minorities, or as an act of aggression.

(5) Support the emergence of a strong and united China, a China granting a constantly greater measure of political participation and basic human rights to all of its people.

(6) Definitely follow through on the Cairo Declaration including the implementation of the following:

"The three great AlliesóChina, the United Kingdom and the United Statesócovet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion . . . and . . . mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent."

The Potsdam Declaration reaffirmed that the terms of the Cairo Declaration would be carried out.

The Soviet Union in its declaration of war on the 9th of August joined in this commitment and added:

"Loyal to its Allied duty, the Soviet government has accepted the proposal of the Allies and has joined in the declaration of the Allied powers of June 26."

Asks Korea Program

A definite program for a united supervision of a united Korea's progress toward a free and independent status should be implemented, preferably utilizing the trusteeship machinery developed in the United Nations Charter.

(7) A continuing guarantee of the territorial integrity of an independent Allied Philippines.

(8) Opposition to restrictive monopolies upon raw materials and the development of a fair apportionment of their sale to the nations in need of them for peaceful purposes.

(9) The strict avoidance of unilateral action in international affairs in the western Pacific, and the concurring opposition to unilateral action elsewhere in the world.

I recognize full well that many of these principles will be cynically referred to as being idealistic. But permit me to emphasize that the alternative to a reasonable measure of idealism applied in a sound and progressive manner is the recurrence of world-wide warfare. The minds of each of you have already envisaged what that alternative would mean with the development of the atomic bomb and other super methods of destruction. I am equally convinced that the following of a western Pacific policy that has a heavy measure of idealism in it will not result in our own impoverishment. In fact, the development of a very heavy trade with the Orient, with increased investment in its resources and the stimulation of travel and exchange of ideas, will over the future decades result in increased raw materials available for our essential industrial contribution to our own and the world's economy.

Relationship to Natives

The question of our relationship to these people of the western Pacific, particularly those who have not reached the stage of self-government, is of course at the very heart of the entire trusteeship chapters of the United Nations Charter. Those chapters really answered the Biblical question of centuries ago: "Am I my brother's keeper?" with a resounding "Yes!" It is the first time in history that such a definite, sweeping, and significant answer has been given to this very basic world-wide question. Each of the fifty signatories of the charter agree that there is a sacred trust to promote to the utmost the well-being of the inhabitant* of the dependent territories.

This obligation is spelled out as each member agrees to insure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social and educational advancement, their just treatment and their protection against abuses.

They are to be assisted to develop self-government and their own free political institutions.

Then, since there is a trust to civilization for the welfare of the inhabitants of these territories, each member agreed to transmit regularly to the organization for information purposes data relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the territory.

This is an extremely significant provision. Just as we emphasize that this is one world and that therefore all the peoples in it must be interested in the world as a whole, so we also say in this charter that the whole world is interested in what happens to the peoples in each territory. The view of generations past in many instances has been that the conditions of the peoples in these dependent territories was solely a matter between the supervising state and the dependent peoples. But now we say that the whole world is concerned as to what happens to peoples who have not yet reached the stage of self-government.

Of course the inclusion of this declaration in the Charter, significant though that is, is not in and of itself a guaranty that it will be carried out. To breathe life into these trusteeship chapters will require the alert interest of the people of the world and the moral force of public opinion. Efforts can well be anticipated on the part of various governments at various times in the future to evade this obligation of reporting. When epidemics sweep these unfortunate territories due to failure to take proper health and sanitation precautions, there will be reluctance to advise the world about it. If schools are not opened and the rate of literacy does not increase, it will not be pleasant to make reports about it. If there are conditions of semi-slave labor, there will be a feeling that these facts should be kept from the world. But on the other hand, there will be a constant moral pressure if the people of the world inquire about any failure to report. Over the decades ahead these chapters of the Charter will take on extremely significant meaningfar millions of peoples who have thus far been less fortunate in their advancement.

Slow Advancement Seen

The chapters, of course, recognize that the advancement must be slow, orderly, and deserved. There is not a guaranty of independence to every territory, for it is recognized that circumstances vary and that to hold up a false goal of independence prematurely to peoples not yet capable of administering their affairs would actually be an invitation to anarchy and chaos. Under these circumstances human suffering and misery would actually be multiplied. In other instances, where territories are too weak or too small to stand by themselves, the granting of independence would simply be an invitation to aggression or infiltration by a selfish neighbor. But the goal is recognized for all to constantly advance in the measure of their own self-government and their free institutions, and opportunity is definitely afforded for the judgment of the world, in an informed manner, to be passed upon the wisdom of the administration.

These chapters may well become known as the Magna Charta of the little people who were not there. By their very definition, of course, people who were not governing themselves did not have delegates at San Francisco. If they had reached this stage, there would be no need of supervision. Thus on the whole, during the weeks of careful drafting and consultation and revision and amendment (of these chapters), we were writing for millions who were not present.

These chapters have a special significance as we read the reports of the flare-ups in French Indo-China and in the Netherlands Indies. We do not have sufficient information to pass judgment on the situation involved in the Indonesian movement under Soekarno, nor in the Annamite uprising in French Indo-China. But we should seek to be thoroughly informed in preparation for the exercise of our responsibility in the United Nations, and at a very early date after the completion of the organization of the United Nations Trusteeship Council specific reports should be required from these territories.

Let us make it very clear that we recognize that our responsibility in the western Pacific is a heavy one, but we intend to meet it and to do so, not unilaterally, but in close accord with the other United Nations; that it is our wish that the slogan of the future in Asia will be, not the narrow, isolationist, Japanese slogan, "Asia for the Asiatics," but a new slogan of hope, "Asia, a brighter spot in one progressive world."