Statement of His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, upon his arrival in Manila, November 13, 1943, from Tokyo, Japan, where he represented the Philippines at the Greater East Asia Congress:

For the first time in history, representatives of free and independent nations in East Asia met to discuss their common problems. The conference was held under the auspices of the Japanese Government, at the Imperial Diet Building in Tokyo, on November 5 and 6, 1943. Japan was represented by her illustrious Premier, General Hideki Tozyo. China was represented by President Wang Ching-wei; Manchoukuo by Prime Minister Chang Ching-hui; Thailand by Prince Wan Waitheyakon; and Burma by Prime Minister Dr. Ba Maw. I represented the Republic of the Philippines. Subhas Chandra Bose, head of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, attended the conference as observer.

The Philippine Delegation which was the smallest, included Claro M. Recto, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Quintin Paredes, Minister of Public Works and Communications, and Assemblyman Jose B. Laurel, Jr. We were met, as were also the other delegations which came one after another between the second and the fourth, by Premier Tozyo, Ministers Shimada, Sigemitsu and Aoki and President Amau of the Board of Information and ranking Japanese Army and Navy officials, all of whom were personally known to me.

Automobiles flying our flag, motorcycle escorts and bodyguard were assigned to us. A big Filipino flag adorned the gateway to the eight-acre Fujiyama Mansion in Shiba District I where we were accommodated.

The two-day conference was marked with an atmosphere of friendship and cordiality. The various representatives and the members of their suites had been introduced to one another at parties given by the Premier and by Ministers Aoki and Sigemitsu and had exchanged their views informally. When the conference opened, they were already familiar with each other. All were pleased to sit together with representatives of peoples with whom they shared a community of purpose and interest, and to notice their respective countries treated on a par with all the rest. Everyone seemed eager to contribute his share to make the conference a success.

Premier Tozyo, the representative of the sponsor nation, after delivering a speech of welcome, was unanimously elected Chairman of the Assembly. After thanking the assembly for the honor bestowed upon him, the Premier allowed the representatives of the participating nations, one after another, to express their general views. Sincerity and a firm resolve to achieve the common goal characterized the utterances of all. All were agreed that the fate of all East Asiatic nations is indissolubly linked together; that the happiness and well-being of the one billion Orientals depend upon the establishment and maintenance of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; and that this, in turn, depends upon the final outcome of the current war.

Translations of speeches prepared in manuscript were transmitted simultaneously by a telephone system which enabled one to listen to a speech in the language with which he is familiar while said speech is being delivered in another language. As I had no ready-made speech, translations first into Japanese and then into Chinese had to be made after I had finished. The need for a common language among East Asians in conferences of the sort appeared very apparent to me. When the second and last day of the conference opened, the Japanese representative submitted to the Assembly for consideration a Joint Declaration which embodies five fundamental principles, to wit: The construction of “an order of common prosperity and well-being based on justice” in the countries of Greater East Asia; fraternity among the nations and peoples of Greater East Asia and mutual respect of “one another’s sovereignty and independence”; the enhancement of “the culture and civilization of Greater East Asia” while at the same time “respecting one another’s traditions and developing the creative faculties of each race”; economic development through close cooperation among the countries of Greater East Asia on the basis of reciprocity and the promotion of the general prosperity of the region; and, the cultivation of friendly relations with all the countries of the world, the abolition of racial discrimination, “the promotion of cultural intercourse and the opening of resources throughout the world, and contribute thereby to the progress of mankind.”

The representatives of all the participating nations commended briefly on the draft of the Resolution and, during the afternoon session i and in the presence of high diplomatic representatives of friendly and neutral powers voted as one man for its adoption. There was general rejoicing. And rightly so. For East Asia had at last been united. Kept apart for centuries by the greed and avarice of Western imperialism, the countries of East Asia have been welded together into one great strong and solid bloc, not for the purpose of provoking the pride of other peoples, as I said in explaining my vote, but in order to announce the natural and God-given right of Oriental peoples to shape their own destiny, unhampered by oppressive and unwarranted interference from without.

The Joint Declaration, judged as a whole or taken piece-meal, is a notable instrument. It is truly a great human charter. Every true Oriental, nay, every one with a full appreciation of the Giver of Things, should be happy to subscribe to the lofty principles which it sets forth. Why should there not be a sphere of common prosperity, a league of independent states bound together by racial, cultural and geographical ties, and governed in their dealings by the spirit of brotherhood and the principles of moral justice? Why should not the nations of East Asia live harmoniously with each other on a broad basis of mutual respect of one another’s sovereignty and independence? Is there any better way than this? Why cannot the East, the cradle of human civilization, enhance its own culture and once again shed light to all the world? Closely cooperating with one another on the basis of reciprocity, should not the economic development of the entire sphere bring about the prosperity of all? And, what else could be more desirable than equality among God’s creatures, the abolition of racial discrimination, and with it and through it, progress, peace and harmony among all the peoples of the earth?

What appealed to me most and greatly influenced the vote I cast in behalf of my dear country, is that portion which guarantees fair and equal treatment to all members of the Co-Prosperity Sphere, irrespective of size or strength. In explaining the Joint Declaration, Premier Tozyo said among other things: The nations of Greater East Asia, while mutually recognizing their autonomy and independence must, as a whole, establish among themselves relations of brotherly amity. Such relations cannot be created if one country should utilize another as a means to an end. I believe that they come into being only when there is mutual respect for one another’s autonomy and independence, when one prospers through another’s prosperity and all countries give expression to their true selves.”

The foregoing statement is a mirror, we might say, which reflects the fundamental principles which will guide and govern the conduct of all the members of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in dealing with one another. It shows, as I said in the conference, that the Co-Prosperity Sphere is not being established for the benefit of any particular member or integral unit. The starting point in the establishment of the Sphere is recognition, respect for the autonomy and independence of each and every member, so that, with that recognition of political independence and territorial integrity, each member-nation may develop in accordance with its own laws and institutions, without any other member monopolizing the resulting prosperity, but with the object in view of extending that prosperity to all the other integral units, on the theory that the prosperity of all is the prosperity of the integral parts, but that the prosperity of any integral part is not necessarily the prosperity of the whole.

At a great sacrifice of life and property, Japan is fighting to enable all Oriental peoples to live and prosper. She is fighting not for the benefit only of her people but also for the well-being, happiness and security of all the peoples of Greater East Asia. She will not be happy to live alone and see her brethren die. She wants to live, co-exist and co-prosper with all her brother Orientals, united with her in obtaining their rightful place under the sun and contributing to the welfare not of Asia and Asiatics alone but also and as well as of the entire world.

Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library