Courtesy Reuters

The Japanese Islands: Annexation or Trusteeship?

IN January of this year Admiral Nimitz established a military government over the Marshall Islands, one of the wide-flung groups of Pacific islands mandated to Japan after the last war. The official text of his first proclamation, dated January 31, 1944, included the following paragraphs:

I. All powers of government and jurisdiction in the occupied territory and over inhabitants therein . . . are vested in me as Admiral, USN, commanding the United States forces of occupation, and Military Governor. . . .

II. Exercise of the powers of the Emperor of Japan shall be suspended during the period of military occupation. . . .

Similar proclamations will extend Admiral Nimitz's sway over the Caroline and Mariana Islands, also parts of the Japanese mandate, as well as over the Bonins and the other islands nearer Asia which have been owned outright by Japan for a somewhat longer period.

Although the land surface of the mandated islands, known as Micronesia, is only 836 square miles, about twice the size of New York City, they cover an extent of ocean nearly as great as the land area of the continental United States. They all lie in the southwest Pacific, on the other side of the International Date Line. The nearest of them is 4,000 miles from San Francisco. Together they form either an effective barrier to, or steppingstones for, our communications with the Philippines and China. Australia, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Portugal control islands nearby; all these nations, as well as China and the Soviet Union, are also directly interested in the future of Micronesia. So are the 50,000 native Kanakas and Chamorros. And so are the 100,000 Japanese inhabitants and their countrymen at home.

The rule of the United States Navy over the islands is "for the duration." How will the Atlantic Charter, the Cairo Declaration, and the Covenant of the League of Nations affect their permanent disposition?

II

The islands were discovered in the sixteenth century, mostly by Spaniards, but have acquired political significance only in the last 60 years. Frequent visits to

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