TO American eyes the Far East is a scene of rapid and bewildering change. Three times within the last four years Japan has revised her foreign policy in ways which would have been considered revolutionary if followed by the United States.
On November 25, 1936, Japan became a party to the Anti-Comintern Pact. Her relations with Soviet Russia had been going from bad to worse because of her undercover penetration of China. She had common strategical interests with Germany vis-à-vis the Soviet which made ideological rationalizations unnecessary. It was a "natural" alignment. Until the eleventh hour Americans expected Japan to play a part (no one knew how active) on the Axis side in the oncoming European war.
The expectation was not fulfilled. Instead, Germany made her deal with Russia, and Japan left the Anti-Comintern Front in a panic. This deal (the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement of August 23, 1939) not only sent a Japanese cabinet toppling; it caused the next cabinet to adopt a more friendly policy toward England, France and the United States. The sincerity of the spirit underlying this new policy may be open to doubt. It nevertheless lasted as long as there was any possibility of negotiating, as between England, France, Japan and the United States, a mutually profitable and viable understanding.
Exactly when the possibility vanished, or why it never developed, is known to the statesmen in London, Paris, Tokyo and Washington. Their colleagues in Berlin and Chungking might also do some explaining. At all events, Japan on September 27, 1940, rejoined her old Axis partners, this time in a ten-year military alliance, and let it be known that a rapprochement with Russia was in the tea leaves.
Such an opportunist trafficking in alliances is the rule rather than the exception in Far Eastern politics. The scene has changed many times in that part of the world during the past half century, but the players remain the same and the plot consistent. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Japan's frequent shifts
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