chapter  27
New Zealand and the Occupation of Japan
Pages 14

DURING the second world war His Majesty’s Dominions, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa shared a common seniority in the British imperial structure. All were virtually independent and co-operated in the struggle against the axis. But among these white-ruled states differences were as apparent as similarities. In particular factors of geography and racial composition gave New Zealand a distinct political economy which shaped its special perspective on the Pacific War. Not only were New Zealanders largely British in racial origin but their economy was effectively colonial.1 New Zealand farmers produced agricultural goods for the mother country and in return absorbed British capital and manufactures. Before 1941 New Zealand looked to the Royal Navy for her defence and in exchange supplied troops to fight alongside British units in both world wars.2 What was more, New Zealand’s prime minister from 1940 to 1949 was Peter Fraser who had been born and reared in Scotland. His deputy, Walter Nash, had also left Britain after reaching adulthood.3 Thus political links between Britons and New Zealanders were reinforced by true threads of Kith and Kin which made identification with the mother country especially potent. These economic and political ties were confirmed by the restricted nature of New Zealand’s diplomatic apparatus which formed the basis of her view of the East Asian world. New Zealand had been a signatory of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations Covenant but at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack her sole overseas diplomatic office was the High Commission building in London.4 As a result virtually all diplomatic information was provided by London and British officials represented New Zealand throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.