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Relations With Japan-1934
The Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Koki Hirota, in a message delivered to Secretary Hull on February 21, 1934, stated that no question existed between the United States and Japan which was fundamentally incapable of amicable solution and emphasized that Japan had no intention whatsoever of making trouble with any other power.
Secretary Hull replied on March 3, 1934 that it was the fixed intention of the United States to rely in the prosecution of its national policies upon pacific processes; that if there should arise any controversy between the United States and Japan, this Government would be prepared to examine the position of Japan in a spirit of amity and of desire for peaceful and just settlement. He expressed the hope that it might be possible for all countries interested in the Far East to approach every question arising between or among them in such spirit and manner that these questions might be regulated or resolved with injury to none and with definite and lasting advantage to all. ()
Despite this encouraging exchange of views, there occurred almost immediately thereafter significant indications of an attitude inconsistent therewith on the part of the Japanese Government with regard to the rights and interests in China of other countries. These indications included a statement by Mr. Amau, spokesman of the Japanese Foreign Office. On April 29, 1934, in accordance with instructions from Washington, Ambassador Grew presented to the Japanese Foreign Minister a note stating that the relations of the United States. with China, with Japan, and with other countries were governed by the generally accepted principles of international law and the provisions of treaties to which the United States was a party; that treaties could lawfully be modified or terminated only by processes prescribed or recognized or agreed upon by the parties to them; that no nation could, without the assent of the other nations concerned, rightfully endeavor to make conclusive its will in situations where there were involved the rights, the obligations, and the legitimate interests of other sovereign states; that the United States sought to be duly considerate of the rights, obligations, and legitimate interests of other countries, and it expected on the part of other governments due consideration of the rights, obligations, and legitimate interests of the United States. ( ) In a conversation four days earlier the Japanese Foreign Minister had assured Ambassador Grew that Japan had no intention whatever of seeking special privileges in China, of encroaching on the territorial and administrative integrity of China, or of creating difficulties for the bona-fide trade of other countries with China; and
that Japan would take no action in China purposely provocative to other countries. In reply, Ambassador Grew had said to the Foreign Minister that the Government and people of the United States would be less impressed by statements of policy than by more concrete evidence. ( )
On May 16, 1934 Secretary Hull had a general conversation with Japanese Ambassador Saito, one of many conversations in which the Secretary endeavored to convince the Japanese that their best interests lay in following policies of peace. Citing the commercial and military possibilities brought about by the remarkable advance in aviation, he said that twenty years ago no human being could have visualized the amazing changes that were taking place in every part of the world; that amidst these amazing changes the more highly civilized nations had correspondingly greater responsibilities and duties, from the standpoint both of their own progress and wellbeing and of that of the world. He expressed the belief that no highly civilized nation could let the people of other countries undergo a steady state of decline and even collapse without that civilized nation itself being drawn down in the vortex. He said that this meant that Japan and the United States, for their own self-preservation and for their world responsibility, should exhibit the utmost breadth of view and the most profound statesmanship. ( )
Three days later the Secretary talked again with the Japanese Ambassador. During the conversation the Ambassador repeated the formula which his Government had been putting forward publicly for some weeks to the effect that Japan had a superior and special function in connection with the preservation of peace in eastern Asia. The Secretary felt it desirable to bring to the Japanese Ambassador's attention the clear implications contained in the Japanese formula of the intention on the part of Japan to exercise an overlordship over neighboring nations and territories. Accordingly, he inquired why the Ambassador's Government "singled out" the formula of Japan's claim to superior and special interests in "eastern Asia" and of her superior rights and duties in connection with the preservation of peace there; whether this formula had ulterior or ultimate implications partaking of the nature of an "overlordship of the Orient". The Ambassador protested that this was not the meaning intended.
The Secretary said to the Ambassador that there was universal talk about armaments on a steadily increasing scale, and that Japan and Germany were the two countries considered chiefly responsible for this talk. He said that if the world understood the absence of any Japanese intentions of overlordship or other unwarranted interference by the Ambassador's Government, Japan "would not be the occasion for armament discussion in so many parts of the world". ( )
A comprehensive appraisal of the situation in Japan was sent to the Secretary of State by Ambassador Grew in a despatch of December 27, 1934. The Ambassador reported that things were being constantly said and written in Japan to the effect that Japan's destiny was to subjugate and rule the world. He said that the aim of certain elements in the Army and Navy, the patriotic societies, and the intense nationalists throughout the country was "to obtain trade control and eventually predominant political influence in China, the Philippines, the Straits Settlements, Siam and the Dutch East Indies, the Maritime Provinces and Vladivostok, one step at a time, as in Korea and Manchuria, pausing intermittently to consolidate and then continuing as soon as the intervening obstacles can be overcome by diplomacy or force". With such dreams of empire cherished in Japan, and with a Japanese Army and Navy capable of "taking the bit in their own teeth and running away with it", we would be "reprehensibly somnolent", Ambassador Grew warned, if we were to trust to the security of treaty restraints or international comity to safeguard our own interests.
Continuing, the Ambassador said that there was a “swashbuckling temper" in the country, largely developed by military propaganda, which could lead Japan during the next few years to any extreme unless the saner minds in the Government were able to cope with it and to restrain the country from national suicide. He referred to the extreme sensitiveness of the Japanese people which, he said, arose out of a marked inferiority complex manifested "in the garb of an equally marked superiority complex, with all its attendant bluster, chauvinism, xenophobia and organized national propaganda”. He characterized as "thoroughly mistaken" the idea that a great body of liberal thought lying just beneath the surface since 1931 would be sufficiently strong to emerge and, with a little foreign encouragement, assume control. The liberal thought was there, he stated, but it was inarticulate and largely impotent and probably would remain so for some time to come.
The Ambassador said that unless we were prepared to subscribe to the "Pax Japonica" in the Far East, we should rapidly build up our Navy to treaty strength, and when the Washington Naval Treaty expired we should continue "regardless of cost" to maintain the existing naval ratios with Japan; that Japan's naval policy had been formulated on a premise that the United States would never build up to treaty strength. He reported that almost half of the Japanese national budget for 1935-36 was for the Army and Navy.
Finally, the Ambassador declared, it would be "criminally shortsighted" to discard from calculations the possibility of eventual war with Japan; the best possible way to avoid it would be adequate preparation, as "preparedness is a cold fact which even the chauvin
ists, the military, the patriots and the ultra-nationalists in Japan, for all their bluster concerning 'provocative measures' in the United States, can grasp and understand". ( )
Defeat of Proposed Adherence to World Court
On January 16, 1935 President Roosevelt sent a message to the Senate, asking that the latter advise and consent to membership of the United States in the World Court. In his message the President said that such action would in no way diminish or jeopardize the sovereignty of the United States. He declared further that at this juncture, when every act was of moment to the future of world peace, the United States had an opportunity "once more to throw its weight into the scale in favor of peace". On January 29, 1935 the resolution of adherence was voted on by the Senate but failed of passage.
Warnings February-June 1935
Secretary Hull, in an address on February 16, 1935 at New York, said that the enormous speeding up of trade and communications made futile any endeavor to induce the United States again to withdraw into "splendid isolation". Our policies must of necessity be those of a great power; we could not, even if we would, "fail profoundly to affect international relations". The Secretary said that there had been a time when the ocean meant, or could mean, a certain degree of isolation; but that modern communication had ended this forever.
In this address Secretary Hull listed four pillars of a sound peace structure: first, the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy; second, a promise of non-aggression; third, consultation in the event of a threat to peace; and fourth, non-interference on our part with measures of constraint brought against a deliberate violator of peace. In mentioning these peace pillars the Secretary emphasized that they might "readily crumble were they to be built on the shifting foundations of unrestricted and competitive armaments". Therefore, he said, the United States insisted that a real limitation and reduction of armament must be an essential concomitant of a peace program.
Mr. Messersmith, who had been appointed Minister to Austria in 1934, continued to send to the Department of State reports on the situation in Germany. In February 1935 he reported that the Nazis had their eyes on Memel, Alsace-Lorraine, and the eastern frontier; that they nourished just as strongly the hope to get the Ukraine for the surplus German population; that Austria was a definite objective; and that absorption or hegemony over the whole of southeastern Europe was a definite policy. A few weeks later he reported a con
versation with William E. Dodd, United States Ambassador to Germany, in which they had agreed that no faith whatsoever could be placed in the Nazi regime and its promises, that what the Nazis were after was "unlimited territorial expansion", and that there was probably in existence a German-Japanese understanding, if not an alliance. ()
During a conversation with German Ambassador Luther on March 28, 1935, Secretary Hull questioned the Ambassador regarding the reported objectives of Germany with respect to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Memel, and the Polish Corridor. The Ambassador denied each reported objective and insisted that his Government favored peace. The Secretary said that the German Government then had the greatest opportunity in two generations to make a remarkable showing of leadership with a program that would gradually bring Western Europe to normal political, social, and peace relations. He said that nations could either take this course or could continue more or less aloof from each other with misunderstanding of each other's motives, purposes, and objectives; the result of the latter would be that each country would go forward and "arm to the teeth" so that at some stage a local incident might ignite the spark that would start a conflagration disastrous in ultimate effect to western civilization. ( )
In an address on June 12, 1935 Secretary Hull warned that there were ominous tendencies in the world. He referred to the reckless, competitive building up of armaments which if unchecked would result in national bankruptcies and consequent inevitable inflation together with the utter destruction of such national stability as had thus far been achieved. He said that the world could not extricate itself from this relentless circle if it did not stop its extravagant military expenditures; that the continuation of the armament race would "again plunge the world into disaster." ( )
In an address of a few days later the Secretary said that any clash abroad would dislocate the progress of recovery in the United States and that this country could not, in the long run, avoid the disastrous effects of such a clash. He could not, therefore, assure the people of the United States that they were immune from the effects of a possible conflict by being far removed from its locus or that they could "look without concern on the darkening clouds around the magic circle of the United States". ( )
Proposed Arms Embargo
In a letter of April 5, 1933 to the appropriate committees of Congress, Secretary of State Hull asked that Congress enact legislation authorizing the application of arms embargoes under certain con