Norman Argues Against Posting to Moscow
CANADIAN LIAISON MISSION
TOKYO, February 6, 1950
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
Mr. Escott Reid,
Assistant Under-Secretary of State
for External Affairs,
O T T A W A, Canada.
Just as I expected, in a visit that was so short and during which there were so many friends and colleagues with whom to talk, there were a number of points which I had wished to discuss especially with you which I was unable to get around to. However, I think even our limited exchange of views was of mutual value and I am confident that the Far East will loom somewhat larger in the minds of the East Block as a result of the visit.
I am writing you as a corollary to the rather brief conversation we had on the matter of my future posting. On a subject like this, I think a certain amount of pondering is prudent and, as a result of some further thinking, I have modified my position somewhat on one aspect of the proposals you made. I would be very grateful if you would bear this in mind when you discuss the matter with Arnold Heeney and others concerned.
If I am to be kept in my present post for another year (a matter on which, naturally, I do not feel I can press), then I certainly feel, as you do, that I should have home leave in the near future. If, however, it is definite that I am to be moved, I would like to be given a few months to wind up various projects as best I can, then return to Ottawa for home leave before another posting or for settling down in Ottawa, if that is the Department’s wish.
Now, on the point of the Moscow posting which you mentioned, I have been giving this considerable thought and I feel that my own attitude (not based simply on personal feelings of some of the well-known difficulties of life in Moscow) is rather strongly inclined against the post unless, of course, the Department has very overriding reasons for sending me there. I am sure, however, that another candidate could be found in time to relieve Watkins and I would distinctly prefer that for these reasons.
Although there is undoubtedly an aspect of diplomatic education to be gained by a posting in Moscow, I do not feel that it would be of any significant value at the present stage of my career. Furthermore, although I appreciate the side that you mention, namely, the Far Eastern interest in Moscow, I wonder whether actually in that post, with our small staff, I would really have enough time to devote to a special study of Soviet Far Eastern policy and allied subjects, particularly when I lack a reading knowledge of the language. I am not intimately acquainted with the translation service there but I would be rather surprised if it would be in a position to supply one with the type of specialized translation necessary for a systematic study of Soviet Far Eastern policy. I am very sceptical indeed, in view of the continual tightening-up processes that have gone on in Moscow particularly as regards foreigners, whether anything very significant about Mao Tse-tung and his cohorts could be gleaned there merely by reading, simply at closer hand, the various party-line journals which, in most cases, are available in due time, either to the world press or to our own Department, through normal reporting channels.
On the other hand, I have felt that at some time in my career some brief posting in Europe would be in order but, in that case, I do not feel that Moscow is necessarily the one. If it is felt in Ottawa that it is time that I had a tour of duty in Ottawa, I am, of course, willing to return any time. In fact, in view of the feeling that you expressed, I think, all things taken into consideration, if I am to be moved this year, I would rather have my tour of duty back in the East Block [Parliament buildings, Ottawa] this year, assuming, that is, that it would be in connection with Far Eastern work. As you know, while I am basically anxious to remain in the Far Eastern field, I do not wish to become classified only in the Japanese field; I would also like to have an opportunity to build a greater, up-to-date knowledge of developments in China, which I feel are going to be extremely complex and important. Therefore, I would like to make the point that my interest in the Far East is by no means confined to Japan; I have always been and still am very much interested in China, although my training is not as adequate for the Chinese field as the Japanese -- that is, I have no spoken knowledge of the language and my knowledge of modern written Chinese is very rusty indeed. I am not suggesting that I should be posted there right now. In fact, I feel strongly that whoever opens up in China (if and when we recognize) should be an officer with very recent and intimate Chinese background. However, whether it be from the Ottawa end or in China itself, I do wish, some time in the future, to have a chance to deepen my knowledge and experience of Chinese affairs.
I should really be very much indebted to you if you would bear these considerations in mind when the question of my posting comes up. I am not writing Arnold Heeney on the matter since you, having seen me, will be in the best position to discuss the matter. However, in view of the fact that the Minister talked it over briefly with me also, I think it only proper that I should write briefly to him along similar lines.
E. H. Norman.