How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
THE Washington Naval Treaty was the product of the Disarmament Conference which was convened in Washington on November 12, 1921 -- the day after Armistice Day -- when the experiences of the World War were still fresh in our memory. The world, still suffering from the effects of its harrowing nightmare, was weary of all wars and hence in a frame of mind to accept any arrangement which gave promise of peace. The Treaty was signed by the representatives of the five participating Powers on February 6 of the following year, and was duly ratified by their governments. It is to be effective until the end of 1936, but in the absence of a two-years' notice of termination by any of the five Powers concerned its validity is to continue even after that date. Should such notice be given, however, a Conference must be held within one year of the date on which the notice takes effect.
As a result of becoming a party to the Treaty, Japan, along with her co-signatories, was subjected to some restrictions with respect to her national defense. That is not to say, however, that the Treaty was wholly without benefit to us.
The 5:5:3 ratio in capital ships was a decided blow to the self-respect of the Japanese people. This ratio was proposed by the United States on the grounds that, calculated on the basis of existing strengths, Japan was entitled to 60 percent of American naval tonnage. Japan, on the other hand, contended that her actual tonnage was 70 percent of that of the United States, no matter on what basis the calculation might be made. Both countries being adamant in their contentions, agreement on the proposed ratio was reached only on condition that the status quo of naval bases in the Far East should be maintained.
As regards the maintenance of the status quo of the naval bases, there were not a few critics in Japan who pointed to our acceptance of this condition as a disgraceful action, for the reason that the Bonin Islands, Amami-Oshima, the Luchu Islands, Formosa and the Pescadores, in respect of which our freedom of action would be restricted, were all islands appertaining to Japan proper, while the United States and Great Britain were to be bound regarding such far-flung colonial possessions as the Philippines, Guam and Hong Kong. That the above criticism is not wholly unreasonable cannot be denied. But it is equally true that this restriction on naval bases has had the beneficial influence of preventing the occurrence of provocative incidents among the Powers concerned during the past fourteen years. To that extent it may be said that the agreement has made a contribution to peace.
Such were the circumstances under which the 5:5:3 ratio was determined. Our people, dissatisfied with it from its very inception, have come to look upon it today as a stigma of inferiority which hardly tends to sustain Japan's position in the Far East. And their dissatisfaction is keen, for they consider that this ratio deprives Japan of arms necessary for the execution of her national policy of maintaining peace in the Orient and jeopardizes her sense of national security. On the other hand, however, we recognize that the suspension of capital-ship construction greatly reduced naval expenditures. Thus in the case of Japan it cut down the naval budget from 500,000,000 yen to approximately 300,000,000 yen. It may therefore be said that the Washington Naval Treaty had the beneficial effect of preventing a race in armament construction, at least temporarily. But since the restrictions of that Treaty gave rise to a deficiency in our national defense, the Japanese Navy undertook to supplement this deficiency by augmenting its force in auxiliary vessels.
The London Naval Treaty of 1930 was concluded with the idea of supplementing the Washington Treaty. The new Treaty provided for limitations upon auxiliary vessels, in addition to extending the ten-year holiday in capital ship construction for a further period of six years; but since it was ratified only by the United States, Great Britain and Japan, it is binding only upon these three Powers.
Japan's three main contentions at the London Conference were for the following: A 7:10 ratio in the global tonnage of auxiliary vessels; a 7:10 ratio in 8-inch-gun heavy cruisers; 78,000 tons of submarines, irrespective of the submarine tonnage of other Powers.
The above contentions were made in pursuance of the policy of our navy to use auxiliary ships to make up the deficiency in capital ships. But as it turned out, all we got out of the London Conference was 60 percent in 8-inch-gun heavy cruisers, 52,000 tons of submarines, and a ratio approximating 70 percent in the global tonnage of auxiliary vessels. Japan duly ratified the Treaty; but grumbling was rife in the country, and the atmosphere of dissatisfaction and discontent has only become worse with the passing years.
As was stated in an earlier paragraph, existing strengths were taken as the basis of calculation at the Washington Conference. This fact seems to have been lost sight of at the London Conference, for here the negotiations proceeded under the apparent assumption that the determination of naval strengths by the application of the 5:5:3 ratio was a fixed and unchangeable principle. In 8-inch-gun cruisers, of which our country had eight completed and four under construction, we were forced to mark time so as to come down to a 6:10 ratio, since America, for instance, had only one unit of this category completed and a few under construction. And as for submarines, to which weapon our navy attaches such great importance, our tonnage was reduced by approximately one-third. Such being the disadvantageous features of the London Treaty, it was not strange that many a Japanese should have pointed to its acceptance as a national humiliation, one comparable only to that suffered by Hideyori some three centuries ago when he was forced by the Tokugawa clan to fill up the outer moat surrounding his castle in Osaka. Suffice it to say that our experiences during the years that have elapsed since the conclusion of the Washington Naval Treaty have more and more strengthened our conviction that the 5:5:3 ratio must be abrogated.
It might of course be said that if the United States, Great Britain and Japan would coöperate within the scope of the Treaty, they might function as stabilizing factors on the American continent, in Europe and in the Far East, respectively, and thus preserve the peace of the world. But as an actual proposition, Japan has become finally convinced that so long as she suffers from the stigma of the 5:5:3 ratio she cannot fulfill her mission of preserving order and peace in the Far East. This ratio must be abolished, and Japan granted a position of equality with other Powers. Having once gained that status, Japan would then be content with the minimum of armaments adequate to guarantee her national security in the light of domestic and external circumstances. But to have an inferior ratio dictated to us by other Powers -- that is resented just as strongly as the continued enjoyment of extraterritorial rights by foreigners was opposed by the Japanese in the early years of Meiji. What Japan ardently desires in the matter of national defense is the recognition of the principle of equal opportunity, and the right, within the scope of that principle, to freely provide herself with such arms as she may deem necessary to secure her defense.
We have not yet recovered completely from the shock of having two Prime Ministers, Hamaguchi and Inukai, assassinated within a short space of time. In the trials that followed, the defendants were united in attacking the humiliating implications of the London Treaty and in charging the Government with the responsibility of having thus endangered our country. This feeling has gradually come to be shared by our citizens at large, so much so that there is today little likelihood of any cabinet being able to continue in power unless it takes cognizance of this widespread feeling and acts accordingly.
It has been reported from abroad that abolition of the ratio system should naturally be accompanied by the abolition of the limitation on fortifications and naval bases. And in view of the circumstances that led up to the agreement relating thereto, such an argument is not altogether without reason. But, world conditions being what they are, I personally cannot consider it very probable that any Power would proceed today to build up a huge base in the Orient.
More than a hundred years ago, while she was yet in the early stage of her development, the United States, with a boldness becoming a young and rapidly rising nation, advanced the Monroe Doctrine -- a measure calculated to forestall any new European intervention in the affairs of the American continents. And ever since that time she has made known plainly to all the world the fact that she not only does not welcome the establishment of new military or naval bases by foreign Powers in her proximity but is anxious that those already in existence should be limited or reduced. Nor, as a matter of fact, does any European Power today possess anything worthy of being called a naval base anywhere on the American continents. Such being the case, it is hardly conceivable that the United States would attempt to contest the balance of power with Japan in the latter's own "backyard" by the construction there of extensive military establishments entailing huge expenditures -- although for her to do so, if she so desired, would of course be wholly within her rights.
As for Great Britain, she already has the Singapore base, and in view of the traditional friendship so long maintained between her and Japan, the idea that she might be contemplating the addition of any extraordinary military establishments in the vicinity of our country must be dismissed as impossible. It may therefore be said that the treaty provisions relating to fortifications and bases have little or no practical bearing on the actual situation.
To the South Sea mandated islands we of course attach the greatest importance, for they constitute Japan's line of defense on the seas and would, if allowed to fall into the hands of another Power, become a very real and formidable menace to our security. But Japan, in strict compliance with the terms of treaty provisions relating thereto, has scrupulously refrained from constructing any fortifications or bases on these islands.
Japan has made considerable progress during the past forty years. Prior to the Russo-Japanese War, numerous bases were held by foreign Powers in close proximity to Japan. Russia had Port Arthur and Vladivostok; England had Weihaiwei and Hong Kong; and Germany had Shangtung. Today the situation is considerably changed. Russia occupies only Vladivostok, Britain is in Hong Kong, and Singapore, and the United States is in the Philippines. The result is that our navy's freedom in its sphere of activity has been somewhat enhanced.
The Manchurian incident took the world by surprise and caused it to focus its critical attention in our direction. But perhaps the manner in which our interests in Manchuria came into existence is worthy of more than passing consideration. The Sino-Japanese War was fought forty years ago; and it must be a fact self-evident to all students of Oriental history that it took no small measure of courage for Japan at that time to declare war on its overwhelmingly larger neighbor. Although Japan won a decisive victory, the choicest part of the spoils of that war was snatched out of her hands by foreign intervention. Ten years later we were engaged in another war, this time with Russia; and this was a war which the whole Japanese nation did its utmost to avoid, but in vain. For Japan this was a purely defensive war in which she staked her very destiny as a nation.
It was through life-and-death struggles such as these that Japan gradually built up her position in Manchuria. But the warring factions in China deliberately ignored the tremendous price which Japan had paid for her Manchurian interests and began to devote themselves to campaigns of usurpation in the north. It is therefore to be hoped that those who would study the Manchurian incident and the subsequent development of events in that region will read carefully the history of the past half century. Only by so doing, and by giving due consideration to the part Japan has played as the preserver of peace in the Orient, and to the costly sacrifices she has made in the performance of that rôle, will a student be able to see the facts in their true light.
Japan's actions in Manchuria were animated by the firm conviction of her people that they were righteous and just. And they are naturally gratified to observe that in consequence of their action Manchukuo is now steadily acquiring the attributes of an independent nation. As a result, the machinery of peace has been strengthened in that region to such an extent that the chances of peace being seriously disturbed is now gradually diminishing. The fact that Japan was able to prevent the outbreak of a widespread conflagration, notwithstanding the numerous incidents which have occurred during the last few years, has been due in no small measure to her navy; and the Japanese people are coming to recognize more and more that the navy is an important factor in the maintenance of peace.
Order has at last been restored in Manchuria, and the various disturbances which were created by the Manchurian question are now quieting down. But today, before we have had time to forget the painful experiences of the immediate past, we have come face to face with the question of the naval treaties. Here it should be pointed out that the desire is strong among our people that Japan should be freed from all disadvantageous treaty restrictions at the coming disarmament conference. The feeling is so strong that this period is being termed a national crisis. For in Japan, as probably in other countries the world over, nationalistic sentiment is today asserting itself most vigorously.
There is a guiding spirit in Japan by which her every action must be ordered. There is a righteous path along which Japan must progress in order to maintain peace in the Far East and contribute thereby to the advancement and happiness of all mankind. That this path should be beset with innumerable difficulties is of course inevitable; but it is only through meeting and conquering obstacles that a nation can attain its full stature, for as the old proverb goes, a victim of adversity is but strengthened thereby. This may well apply also to the United States which has grown from the status of an English colony to its present vigor and greatness; for her amazing development within a relatively short period must be attributed less to the abundance of her material resources than to the vigorous industry and positive, progressive spirit of the American people. And this is a fact which must ever be kept in mind by those responsible for the government of a country.
The abolition of the ratio principle through the revision of the naval treaties may or may not bring on a crisis for Japan. That, only time can tell. But from the standpoint of our national defense we must by our own efforts become truly self-reliant. In other words, we should spare no effort to nurse our strength to such a point that we can, as the well-known Chinese master of military science has taught us, confidently await the approach of our foe, instead of building hopes upon his not turning up at all. At the same time, however, we are not unmindful of the value of international friendship. We do indeed attach the greatest importance to our relations with other Powers and are constantly bending our efforts to that end. It was not by chance that the Imperial Rescript issued at the time of our withdrawal from the League of Nations bade us most strongly to seek friendship with other countries. If, through the folly or incapacity of statesmen, the relations between the United States and Japan should ever become badly strained, in the same way that the relations among some of the countries in Europe are today, and if the peace of the Pacific should be permanently upset thereby, that would be the most unfortunate thing that could happen, not only for America and Japan but for the whole world.
It cannot be too strongly stressed that the conviction of the Japanese people that ratios must be abolished is just as strong as was their demand for the abolition of extraterritorial rights. What we would ask of the highly armed Powers is that they cast aside the dictatorial attitude of forcing an inferior ratio upon our country, and that they be magnanimous enough to discuss with us the problems at hand in a spirit of fair play and on a basis of equality in all things. Just as the basis of equality and the principle of equal opportunity govern the relations between individuals today, so must they govern the relations between countries. Indeed, the trend of events points to the inevitability of that as regards the leading Powers.
Once we are able to stand on a basis of equality and to carry on negotiations in accord with the principle of equal opportunity, then the problem of limiting naval strengths as a whole or of restricting the specifications of individual naval vessels should present no formidable barriers. It is our earnest desire that the nations, after having agreed on this fundamental principle, should carry out a radical reduction of their offensive armaments simultaneously with the strengthening of their defensive armaments, and that they should refrain from all aggression against one another as well as from making or possessing any arms in excess of the minimum required for self-defense.
We have been told by some people in America and England that the demand of the Japanese Navy for equal strength with the American and British navies is not within reason because it has far lighter responsibilities to fulfill than the latter. From the American or British standpoint the observation may seem reasonable enough. But to adopt it is to lose sight of the most important characteristic or attribute of naval power, namely its mobility. Past events bear eloquent witness to the fact that navies are concentrated in the decisive theater whenever necessary. And in recent years this attribute of mobility has been greatly augmented through improvements in the technique of naval construction, especially in the building of ships with long cruising radius, as well as through the development of air armaments. Suffice it to say, therefore, that we cannot afford to ignore this constantly growing factor of mobility which would enable navies to concentrate their power with a rapidity hitherto unknown.
It is sincerely to be hoped that the American people, in their traditional spirit of fair play, will understand the attitude which Japan has felt obliged to take toward the question of disarmament. If so, we need have no misgivings as to the relations between America and Japan, no matter how complex the interests of other Powers might become over disarmament. If the two countries will relegate selfish interests to the background and approach each other with determination to take a large view of the situation, then we may confidently expect that Japanese-American relations will become ever more friendly and that the mutual respect of the two peoples will continue to grow.