Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Roderick Macalister Miller QSO: 24 April 1925-1 September 2016

Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Roderick Macalister Miller QSO: 24 April 1925-1 September 2016

Article excerpt

With the passing of Rod Miller, New Zealand has lost one of its pioneering Asian specialists and one of the early-generation diplomats who helped build the New Zealand foreign service. He did much to create the warm relationship New Zealand currently enjoys with its former enemy Japan.

Rods first contact with the East came shortly after the end of the Second World War when he applied to be trained as an interpreter for service in J-Force, the New Zealand contribution to the Allied occupation forces in Japan. With fifteen others, he spent the first six months of 1947 learning colloquial Japanese at a Royal Australian Air Force language school in Melbourne. The acquisition of this skill would be a defining moment in his life.

Rod arrived in Japan in September 1947 and was eventually seconded to the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre in Kure. His tasks included interrogating Japanese officers and on one occasion he succeeded in uncovering a large cache of carefully hidden weapons near Matsue. He also travelled extensively, including to the devastated city of Hiroshima. 'The thing I remember most about it'--I wish I couldn't --was the sight of the people ...', he recounted many decades later', 'kids with no hands, just keloid scars, just lumps of reddish kind of claws and no faces, wandering around.' During his time in Japan, he later recalled, he 'acquired a great admiration for the spirit of the Japanese, their character in general and their interests and avocations'.

Born in Roxburgh, Rod had attended high schools in both Dunedin and Feilding--he was dux of Feilding Agricultural High School in 1941--before going on to study at Auckland University College. He graduated with a first-class masters degree in 1945. With high academic qualifications, linguistic skill and knowledge of Japan at a time when most New Zealanders were Europe-orientated, Alister McIntosh no doubt hesitated not at all when Rod sought to join the fledgling Department of External Affairs following his return from Japan in October 1948.

After attending Victoria University College in 1949, he became a member of External Affairs' Far Eastern Section, where he was involved in the formulation of New Zealand policy relating to the Japanese peace settlement. In early 1951 he was a junior member of the New Zealand delegation that crossed the Tasman for talks in Canberra on the resolution of this issue, on which Australia and New Zealand had been firmly opposed to the American preference for a soft peace treaty. Rod took the notes of the crucial meeting that would lead in time to the conclusion of the ANZUS alliance, providing the security guarantee from the United States that the two South Pacific states believed they needed if Japanese sovereignty was to be restored without restrictions. …

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