Part 3 Formulation of the GHQ Draft and Response of the Japanese Government

Formation of the Far Eastern Commission and the Response of the US Government

Agreement to form the Far Eastern Commission (FEC) was reached when the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union met in the tripartite conference in Moscow which started on December 16, 1945. This meeting resulted in a radical change in how the occupation of Japan would be carried out. It was made clear that from February 26 of the following year the commission was to start activities which would inevitably bring constraints on the authority of SCAP regarding the reformation of the Constitution.

On January 7, 1946, the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC), the US government's foreign policy decision making body, approved a document titled "Reform of the Japanese Governmental System" (SWNCC228). This document, which contained suggestions regarding constitutional reform, was sent to MacArthur for his "information."

Formulation of the GHQ Draft

Draft for a Revised Constitution

Draft for a Revised Constitution (April 17, 1946)

On February 1, the Mainichi Shimbun went to press criticizing the draft proposal of the Constitutional Problem Investigation Committee as "Too conservative, favoring maintenance of the status quo." Courtney Whitney, the Chief of the Government Section at GHQ, used this article in a meeting with General MacArthur to advance the idea that if the Far Eastern Commission was yet to determine policy for constitutional reforms then SCAP was under no constraints in regard to reforms of the Constitution.

MacArthur conveyed the requisite elements for constitutional reform ("MacArthur Notes") to Whitney on February 3. On the following day, February 4, a task force was organized within the Government Section and work on the GHQ Draft (MacArthur Draft) was started.

GHQ, while rushing to draft its own proposal, was simultaneously requesting the Japanese government to submit its proposal, and on February 8, Joji Matsumoto, Chairman of the Constitutional Problem Investigation Committee, submitted the "Gist of the Revision of the Constitution," and "General Explanations of the Constitutional Revision" to GHQ.

Acceptance of the GHQ Draft and Creation of the Japanese Government Proposal

On February 13, Whitney met Minister of State Matsumoto and Minister for Foreign Affairs Shigeru Yoshida in the official residence of the minister for foreign affairs to inform them that the plan they had previously submitted was "wholly unacceptable." At that point he personally handed over the GHQ Draft. A few days later, Matsumoto tried to convince GHQ by submitting the "Supplementary Explanation Concerning the Constitutional Revision," but was not able to get GHQ's consent in that regard.

At this stage, the Japanese government convened a meeting of the cabinet on February 22 and decided to go along with the GHQ proposal's policy of "constitutional reform." The work was started on the Japanese government's proposal under the guidance of Toshio Irie, Vice Director General of the Bureau of Legislation, and Tatsuo Sato, Director of the First Department. The draft proposal was finished on March 2 (called March 2 Draft), and Matsumoto and Sato went to GHQ to submit it in the morning of March 4. That evening, Sato and the staff of the Government Section held a meeting to create a final draft of the proposal on which they worked through the night and finally finished in the afternoon of March 5.

The Japanese government put this final draft proposal into plan form, and presented it as the "Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution" on March 6. After that, the document was rewritten in colloquial style and published on March 17, 1946, as the "Draft for a Revised Constitution."

Friction Between MacArthur and the FEC Over Constitutional Revision

The publication on March 6, 1946 of the "Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution" together with MacArthur's statement of support came as a big surprise to the US government. While this outline was announced as the draft of the Government of Japan, the FEC, which had authority over revisions to the Japanese constitution, was extremely upset because it was obvious that GHQ had been deeply involved. Finding itself in the crossfire between MacArthur and the FEC, the Department of State had no choice but to state that the Constitution of Japan would be presented to the FEC prior to its promulgation.

The FEC requested MacArthur to postpone the general election scheduled for April 10, 1946, on the grounds that there could be little time for the Japanese people to consider the draft constitution. The FEC also requested that a member of the GHQ staff be dispatched to meet with the FEC to discuss the revision of the constitution. However, MacArthur refused these requests, and did everything he could to divert involvement by the FEC.

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