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December 1945: Moscow Agreement and American Reflections

The Moscow Agreement of December 27 signified a crucial development in Allied cooperation concerning the occupation of Japan and the more specific issue of transitional justice. Several highly relevant portions of the agreements were solidified during meetings held in Moscow from December 16 to 26. At these meetings, the Allies agreed to establish the FEC, headquartered in Washington, DC.51 The FEC, which held its first meeting on February 26, 1946, replaced the FEAC and had more teeth.52 Participating states endowed the FEC with the authority to review any directive or action the SCAP took within the FEC’s jurisdiction, including the future IMTFE’s operations.53 The Allies also agreed at this conference to establish an Allied Council for Japan (ACJ), chaired by MacArthur as the SCAP, which would consult with and advise the SCAP on his overseeing the occupation of Japan.54 The ACJ would be comprised of one representative each from China, the United States, and the Soviet Union, and one member jointly representing Australia, India, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.55

The Moscow Agreement declared the SCAP to be “the sole executive authority for the Allied Powers in Japan”; instructed the FEC to “respect existing control machinery in Japan, including the chain of command from the [USG] to the [SCAP] and the [SCAP]’s command of occupation forces”; and agreed that the USG would prepare and transfer the FEC’s directives to the SCAP and could, under certain circumstances, issue interim directives directly to the SCAP.56 Consequently, the Moscow Agreement cemented the roles of MacArthur specifically and the USG generally in overseeing the Allied occupation of Japan and related transitional justice issues, including those concerning the IMTFE. In addition to the USG’s already implicit oversight of the Japanese occupation, the United States, along with China, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom, explicitly possessed a disproportionately greater voice in the FEC and the ACJ than the other represented states.57

The December 30 report of U.S. secretary of state James Byrnes regarding the conference and agreement in Moscow earlier that month provides crucial insight into why the USG favored the inclusion of certain states in an unequal decision-making structure for the occupation and transitional justice system in Japan. Byrnes described the USG position that all states that had fought Japan during WWII should participate in the post-conflict peacemaking, including the occupation.58 At the same time, Byrnes conveyed the USG belief, reflected in the roster of permanent members of the recently established UNSC,59 that “greater” powers, which shouldered a disproportionately heavy burden in defeating Japan, should play a greater role in postwar peacemaking.60

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