Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

By Michael Schaller | Go to book overview

6
SOUTHEAST ASIAN DOMINOS AND JAPANESE-AMERICAN TRADE, 1953-60

THE belief that a Communist advance in Southeast Asia represented a dagger thrust at Japan arose before the Korean War and gained credence during the 1950s. Beginning during the Truman administration and continuing under Eisenhower, officials invoked this specter as a virtual mantra, justifying the deepening American commitment to Vietnam.

Like its predecessor, the Eisenhower administration perceived Southeast Asia's strategic value largely in terms of Japanese economic stability. During his first week in office, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles delivered a radio and television address that stressed this linkage. The "Soviet Russians," he explained,

are making a drive to get Japan, not only through what they are doing in the northern areas of the islands and in Korea but also through what they are doing in Indochina. If they could get this peninsula of Indochina, Siam, Burma, Malaya, they would have what is called the rice bowl of Asia.

The bloodletting in Indochina, he added, posed a double threat, since it limited France's ability to contribute to a "European Army," designed to contain the Soviet threat in the West. 1

Other officials raised similar alarms. At a Pentagon conference held the day after Dulles's broadcast, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Omar Bradley, Mutual Security Program Director Harold Stassen, and several aides held a discussion on Indochina. Bradley predicted French defeat would "lead to the loss of all Southeast Asia." That, Dulles warned, .would lead to the loss of Japan." With "China being Commie" another

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