Says this writer: "Japan must move. Forward or bach. She cannot stand still, cannot long play for time"
And Now Japan?
Says this writer: "Japan must move. Forward or bach. She cannot stand still, cannot long play for time"
Editor's Note: llnUett Abend is a Ear Eastern correspondent of the New York Times. This article teas forwarded to Maclean’s from Shanghai.
WHEN Great Britain reopened the Burma Highway into China, at one minute after midnight on October 18, the nations and peoples of the Far East began, literally, to hold their breath. And Washington and London, too, regarded the Far East with strained attention, watching for Japan’s next move.
Japan must move. Forward or back. She cannot stand still, cannot long play for time. If she goes forward there will almost certainly lxa spread of war throughout the Far East, probably first involving Japan and the British Empire, and then almost certainly the United States. If Japan retreats she will face the almost insurmountable difficulty of explaining her back-down to her ixople at home, and will face the probability that her own jingoist and exjiansionist military clique may deliberately precipitate new hostilities even in defiance of the wishes of the Government or the Throne.
The decision has undoubtedly already been reached in secret in Tokyo, and preparations are almost certainly under way even while these lines are being written. For this is a situation where Japan cannot afford to delay or temporize. As this is being written, too, immense ocean
liners are speeding toward Yokohama, Kobe, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila, to evacuate nearly 16,000 American men, women and children from areas in East Asia which are now controlled or menaced by Japanese militarism. Already American and British tankers are removing surplus oil and gasoline stocks from Shanghai and Hong Kong to the great British naval base at Singapore.
Several painful and telling blows have just been struck against Japan’s pride and prestige. Scarcely had Japan’s Premier, Prince Konoye, and Japan’s Foreign Minister. Mr. Matsuoka, finished warning the world that any aid given to General Chiang Kai-shek’s regime in Chungking would be considered as “unfriendly” opposition to the Japanese attempt to establish a New Order in Greater East Asia, than Washington and Dindon took up the challenge by resorting to action of the most direct kind.
The United States promptly loaned Chungking another $25,000,000 in American money, equivalent, when the loan was made, to $450,000,000 in Chinese currency. Then Britain announced that the Burma Highway would be reopened for the transit of war supplies to Chungking. Following that, in quick succession, came Washington’s decision to evacuate American citizens, Canada’s virtual embargo against the shipment of zinc and copper to Japan, and the tightening of the American embargoes upon shipments of oils, scrap iron, steel and precision tools.
No sooner had Japan’s militant factions finished celebrating the conclusion of the new Berlin-Tokyo-Rome so-called defensive pact, than the Japanese Premier and Foreign Minister publicly clarified the meaning of the word “attack” in that paragraph of the treaty which provides that if one member of the Axis alliance is “attacked” by any other Power, the other two members must join in warfare against the attacker. “Attack,” the Japanese leaders carefully explained, did not necessarily mean an armed assault or the outbreak of hostilities; any action or jxilicy prejudicial to the aims of any one of the three could or would lx classed as an “attack.”
Under this elastic definition the United States, Canada and Great Britain have already “attacked” Japan, for surely the loaning of millions, the embargoeing of oil, scrap, copper and zinc, and the reopening of the Burma Highway, are all designed to frustrate a realization cf Japan’s expansionist plans. And the evacuation of Americans from the danger zones is nothing more than a formal notice that if Japan wishes to resort to the use of force she will lx replied to in kind.
Nazis Busy In Orient
'“PHERE are two particularly dangerous factors in the Far Eastern situation. First, there is the fact that the Japanese leaders have for more than three years tried to keep the morale of their people high, in face of rapidly increasing privations, by assuring them that the Empire was engaged upon a “sacred crusade,” and by solemnly declaring that no Power would dare to contest or obstruct Continued on page 44
Continued front page 12
Japan’s “immutable decisions” and “glorious destiny.” Second, in Tokyo, in Shanghai, in Peiping and Tientsin, in Manchukuo, and in the Canton area of South China, there are collectively scores of clever and lavish-handed Nazi agents straining every effort to embroil the United States and Japan in war.
These Nazi agents find ready listeners in the Army, and somewhat reluctant listeners in the Navy, when they argue that it is “now or never” if Japan is to hope to win a war against America. Japan’s militarists and jingoes are scared, badly scared, at the prodigality with which Congress has appropriated more than twelve billion dollars for the rearming of the United States, so the “now or never” argument falls upon willing ears, even though the obvious motive of the smoothspeaking German agents is not to help Japan to victory but to help Germany to victory by having the United States forced to fight its own war and so necessarily curtail the present “all help short of war” to Britain.
The big question in the eastern Orient is how and when and where will Japan’s militarists retaliate against Britain for the defiant British gesture of reopening the Burma Highway? Retaliate they must, and quickly, or they will fatally lose face with their jieople at home.
Daily bombings of that portion of the Burma Highway which lies inside Chinese territory will not suffice—that would be a blow against China, not against Britain. Inciting the North China regime to take over the disarmed British Concession in Tientsin would lx* too feeble a gesture. An attack by air ujx>n Burma from her three new bases in northern French Indo-China would be a strategic folly so long as the British hold Singapore. This leaves the three most likely storm centres Shanghai, Hong Kong and the Singapore Base. The Nazi agents, of course, would prefer to have Japan select the former or the latter as more likely to drag in the United States than if Hong Kong were chosen.
If Japan attempts to take over the International Settlement in Shanghai by force, or if she incites the Chinese army controlled by the puppet regime at Nanking to make the attempt, then almost inevitably American lives and properties will suffer. There are 1,200 American Marines in Shanghai, to add to the more than 4,000 American civilians living there in mid-October. And this number of civilians txigan to increase daily, for those who are to be evacuated to the United States from North China and from the interior have been instructed to gather at Shanghai and board the refugee ships there.
A not improbable stroke, already secretly advocated by that group of Japanese extremists who consider war with the United States “inevitable,” would have been to precipitate a crisis before the first refugee ship could reach Shanghai, and then to hold the thousands of American civilians congregated there as hostages to trade for the return to Japan of the thousands of Japanese subjects in Hawaii and on the American mainland.
A mere Japanese blockade of Hong Kong, if not coupled with an attack from sea. air and land, would not necessarily involve the United States, although American strategists would be appalled if Japan actually captured Hong Kong. Possession of that British stronghold, coupled with the potential offensive power of Japan’s naval bases on near-by Formosa, would gravely imperil the Philippines and all the sea lanes which American commerce follows along the coasts of East Asia.
If Japan attacks Singapore, or attempts too far to bulldoze the Dutch East Indies into giving her the sought-for practical monopoly of exports of tin, oil, rubber.
quinine, rice and copra, then the United States would have to act quickly in defense of an area from which are drawn vast amounts of essential supplies.
Japanese military and diplomatic spokesmen truculently bluster that Japan would go to war at once if the United States obtains the right of the use of Britain’s Singapore naval base, or if the American Government manages to block Japan’s “manifest destiny” in the matter of the Dutch East Indian empire.
Here the situation takes on an aspect of stud ix)ker. with each side carefully shielding its hole card. Is Uncle Sam to call Japan’s bluff, conclude a deal for the use of Singapore, and send part of the main Fleet there; or would Japan decide upon a lightning attack upon the vital British base while our Fleet is still more than 6,000 miles away? Thailand is already in Japan’s capacious pocket, and would grant the Japanese the use of her air fields as bases for operation against Singapore if Tokyo so much as hinted that such a concession would be welcome.
Japan’s Program of Grab
JAPAN, of course, is intent only upon her program of grab. .She started the present hostilities with China early in July of 1937, intending to nibble off only some of China’s northern provinces north of the Yellow River, and then to be quiet for a few years while she digested them, just as she was quiet between 1932 and midsummer of 1937, digesting her Manchurian nibble. But China had learned a lesson in Manchuria and, instead of permitting the fighting to be confined only to the areas tributary to Peiping and Tientsin, spread the hostilities to Shanghai and the Yangtze Valley and then to the whole coastal region.
At first Japan was intent only upon “restoring order and stability to North China,” then the program was enlarged to include “the New Order in East Asia.” Of late the slogan has been lengthened by the insertion of another word, and now we hear of “The New Order in Greater East Asia.” The word “greater,” significantly, was included in the phrase only after the Netherlands and France were forced to capitulate to Germany, and “Greater East Asia” is intended to include not only French Indo-China but also the Dutch East Indies.
Japanese possession of Java and the Dutch portion of Borneo would be insecure at best so long as Britain holds the great naval base at Singapore; so a struggle for possession of this base, which is vital to Britain’s route to Australia and New Zealand, is bound to come. Singapore not only is the key to the British route to “down under.” but strategically dominates the whole equatorial region between the southern end of the Red Sea and New Zealand.
The ruthless game of the international struggle for supremacy, as it has been developed since the rise of the totalitarian states, knows no rules and no scruples, and takes into account every conceivable ixissibilitv. Because of this, Japan is already planning her future moves upon various "ifs.” The main “if” just now is "if the Germans conquer Britain,” and “if” the British Government is forced to move to Canada or to India. In such case, unless the American Fleet goes to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand would probably find themselves hopelessly isolated, and would be forced, by the instinct of self-preservation, to seek some extension of the understanding which Canada has with the United States under which a guarantee against foreign invasion would be definitely pledged.
The future fate of the Philippine Islands dwindles into insignificance in comparison
with the other tremendous issues so rapidly developing in the Far East. Independence for the islands has been promised by 1946, but it seems a certainty that unless Japan has been decisively defeated before that date the Filipino jieople will wail loudly at the prospect of being cut adrift by the United States.
Japan is indisputably embarked upon a career of conquest more ambitious than anything that has been known since Spain set out to conquer all of Central and South America. At present there seem to exist only three possibilities of checking this greed for expansion.
First, if Britain should win a quick and unexpected victory over Germany, then Japan would have to beat a hasty retreat; second, if Germany should win a smashing victory, and then deny Japan the right to grab the island empire of vanquished Holland, and third, if the United States intervenes with force or with such a show of readiness to use force that Japan would be scared into a semblance of good behavior.
The time element seems to preclude the possibility of Japan playing a game of watchful waiting until the scales turn decisively one way or the other in Eurojie. In other words, events far beyond Washington’s control seem to be pushing the United States into playing a decisive role in the destiny of the peoples of what Japan calls Greater East Asia.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.