IT IS with considerable diffidence that I venture to present briefly my views concerning Japan and her aims, for I am not at all certain that I can say anything which has not already been said many times. I do, however, welcome an opportunity of addressing American leaders in the world of thought and diplomacy. I should like to talk to them, as it were, in an informal, heart-to-heart fashion. That will serve best, I believe, the cause of Japanese-American friendship.

I am firmly convinced, as a large number of Japanese are convinced, that friendship between the United States and Japan is essential not only to both countries but to the welfare of the entire world. Perhaps I may be permitted to be somewhat personal. Towards the end of 1929, on my way to the naval conference which was then about to open in London, I spent a few days in Washington, where I had the opportunity of conferring with President Hoover and Secretary Stimson. What was then uppermost in my mind was how to advance Japan's friendly relations with the United States. To that end I considered it to be of the greatest importance that the two countries should come to an understanding on naval questions in advance of the London Conference. It was for that reason that I went to London by way of the United States. I recall with much pleasure and keen appreciation the hearty welcome given to me in Washington, and the friendly spirit in which both the President and the Secretary of State expressed themselves on various questions. Since then, whether as head of the Japanese Government, or as the leader of a political party, or merely as a private citizen, I have always done all I could to promote Japanese-American friendship. Naturally I have followed with constant and careful attention American public opinion towards Japan, as well as Japanese public opinion towards the United States.

II

The results of the London Treaty and more recently the Manchurian incident shocked public opinion considerably in Japan and in the United States. There were a number of Americans who criticized and condemned Japan's policy, just as there were a number of Japanese who held similar opinions about the policy of the United States. But I believe that before a nation passes any judgment upon another nation's conduct she should first consider what she herself would have done had she been in that nation's place. Therefore, I should like to ask you first of all to visualize clearly the situation confronting Japan.

I can readily enough see how difficult it must be for you to put yourselves in our place, as there are few points in common between the situation which confronts America and that which confronts Japan. The physical and geographical circumstances of the two countries are totally different, to say nothing of their histories or their customs and manners. Your country is compact, though vast in area; it is peopled rather sparsely, though the total population is great; and it is immeasurably rich in natural resources. In fact, America is almost entirely self-sufficient and self-supporting. Ours is a country consisting of many small scattered islands, extremely overcrowded, and so poor in natural resources that we must largely depend on imports for our supply of raw materials. The neighbors with whom you may have troubles are either small or militarily quite impotent. On the contrary, we are face to face with two great continental Powers -- China, with an area sixteen times as large as ours and a population of four hundred million, and the Soviet Union, with an area thirty times as large as ours and a population of one hundred and sixty million. Moreover, these two countries, by reason of the exceptional conditions prevailing in them, have been sources of constant anxiety to Japan.

In view of such an absolute difference in the situations of Japan and the United States it may be too much to ask that you put yourselves in our place before you criticize our actions. But this you should try to do, just as we should try to put ourselves in your place before criticizing your actions. And I cannot help believing that, if you were in our place, you would be doing exactly what we are doing today.

III

As regards the domestic situation of Japan, we are faced first of all with a most pressing problem of population. We have at present a population of ninety million, and because of the smallness of our area Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. This population, I must also point out, is increasing very rapidly, at the rate of eight or nine hundred thousand per annum.

Although it is only a few decades since we came into close contact with the Occident, Japan is an old country. We have long been known as an active and energetic nation. Marco Polo, who returned to Venice in 1295 from his travels on the Asiatic mainland, wrote of the "indomitable courage of the people of Zipangu." More than three hundred years after Marco Polo's time our country entered upon a hermit life, which lasted from 1636 to 1858. During that period the isolationist policy of the Tokugawa Shogunate suppressed the expansive vigor of the people. But as soon as the Meiji Restoration lifted the ban on foreign intercourse the long-pent-up energy of our race was released, and with a fresh outlook and enthusiasm the nation has made swift progress.

When you know this historical background and understand this overflowing vitality of our race you will see the impossibility of compelling us to stay still within the confines of our little island home. We are destined to grow and expand overseas. Well, then, whither? If Japan had, like America or Great Britain, immense and sparsely populated territories, it would not be necessary for us to go to Manchuria or anywhere else on the Asiatic mainland. The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and other regions in the Pacific, with vast areas and scanty populations, where there is much room for emigration, are closed to us for no other reason than that we are Japanese. As for the question of Japanese immigration into the United States, while we resent strongly the discriminatory treatment to which Japanese are subjected, it is after all a question for the solution of which we consider it best to appeal to your sense of justice. Very recently, when an anti-Japanese movement arose in Arizona we relied for the settlement of the affair entirely upon the sense of justice and fair play of Americans. We do not wish to send our immigrants to any country where they are not desired. While we believe that the American law for the restriction of immigration is decidedly unfair to us, we are not disposed to demand the entry of Japanese into the United States against the wishes of the American people.

The path of our expansion lies, then, naturally in the direction of Manchuria, which is contiguous to Chosen. It was because of our concern for the peace of East Asia no less than because of our conviction that our only path of progress lay on the continent of Asia that at the time of the Manchurian incident our nation rose spontaneously as one man to grapple with the situation. The Manchurian affair was really a life-or-death struggle for Japan.

IV

Let us turn to Japan's industry. It is a fact that of late our industries have developed notably and that our country is being fast industrialized. In this connection I should like to call your attention to two points -- first, that the industrialization of our country will contribute to the solution of our population problem; and secondly, that our industrial and commercial expansion has brought in its wake many serious international problems.

Westerners are in the habit of gauging the culture or civilization of a nation by its standard of living, and of vaunting their generous desire to bring the other peoples of the world up to their level of enlightenment. That is in a way true. Now we Japanese are doing our best to elevate our standard of living, which is not quite so high as that of some Occidental peoples. And it is to that end that we are developing our industry and commerce, which is practically the only way to increase our national wealth since our country is so poor in natural resources. We reorganized and improved our commercial and industrial methods. We worked patiently and tirelessly until we were in a position to compete in the world market with other advanced nations. However, we at once encountered a stupendous obstacle in the form of a boycott in China, the biggest market for our merchandise. When on February 24, 1933, the Assembly of the League of Nations adopted a report which declared that the Chinese boycott subsequent to the Manchurian incident was a legitimate means of reprisal in the light of international law, China was virtually closed to Japanese trade. There are those who accuse Japan of attempting to close China to other Powers, but as a matter of fact it was Japan who was shut out of China. We were forced to seek the outlet for our merchandise elsewhere. The flow of Japanese goods into various quarters of the globe was, though largely due to quality and price, traceable in part to the anti-Japanese agitation in China.

Great Britain and other Powers then began to adopt the quota system and other measures for preventing the importation of Japanese goods into their territories, despite Japan's protest that such action was a violation of commercial treaties. In view of the fact that Japanese articles, because of their good quality and cheapness, are welcomed by a large majority of the consumers in every country, and are in especial demand amongst the native populace of the European colonies in Asia and Africa, one cannot but conclude that the home governments are sacrificing the interests of large numbers of consumers in order to protect a few producers. It is questionable, however, whether a country can ultimately succeed in an attempt to protect its industries by artificial devices for the exclusion of foreign goods, without endeavoring either to improve its industrial organization and technique or to increase the efficiency of its workers. Accordingly, I doubt very much if the prevailing economic nationalism, inaugurated by the European Powers, can continue indefinitely. At any rate, it is a regrettable fact that they are erecting various trade barriers to obstruct the free interchange of goods, and thus handicapping the cause of human happiness and progress. I believe that freedom of trade is essential for the promotion of the mutual interests and well-being of the nations. I hope, therefore, that all the Powers, casting aside shortsighted policies, will put international trade back upon the normal basis where it ministers to the wants of each and where it furthers mutual prosperity.

However, to return to my first point, the promotion of Japan's foreign trade is closely knit up with her international relations inasmuch as it directly implies the expansion of her industries. This in its turn advances Japan's culture and civilization by raising the standard of living, and offers an effective means of solving her population problem.

The world is moving forward constantly. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the backward nations are moving at a much faster rate, in order to catch up with the more advanced nations in culture and civilization. Thus the Asiatic nations, now wide awake, are struggling to approach the level of European and American nations. It is necessary, then, in the interests of world peace and harmony, that the advancing nations be given adequate spheres of activity and expansion. Japan, which is forging ahead at a very rapid pace, is surely one of those nations.

V

Let us now examine Japan's environment.

Our relations with China date far back in history. Even during the period of isolation under the Tokugawa régime we continued to have friendly intercourse with China. But when early in the last decade of the nineteenth century she adopted an aggressive policy toward Korea, and threatened the peace of the Far East, we fought her (1894-95) and drove out Chinese influence from the peninsula. Following the Sino-Japanese War, China concluded a secret treaty with Russia, by which the latter was given the right to construct the Chinese Eastern Railway in Manchuria in return for a promise to come to China's aid in case of another war with Japan. Once entrenched in Manchuria, Russia launched out upon the conquest of the Far East. We fought her in 1904-5, and drove out Russian influence from South Manchuria.

In 1912 the Manchu Dynasty fell, and China became a republic. It was Sun Yat-sen himself, father of the Chinese Revolution and founder of the Kuomintang Party, who preached the doctrine of so-called "Great Asianism," urging the coöperation of Japan and China and declaring that China should abandon Manchuria as being the most likely source of Sino-Japanese friction. And it was the Canton Government, set up by Sun Yat-sen, which sent the expeditionary force under Chiang Kai-shek to the north and succeeded in establishing the present Nanking régime. But after the death of Sun Yat-sen the leaders of the Kuomintang, and later the authorities of the Nanking Government, adopted the ruthless anti-foreign policy called "revolutionary diplomacy." They attempted to check the Powers by playing off one against another. Hoisting the banners of "anti-imperialism" and "abrogation of unequal treaties," they clamored for the abolition of extraterritoriality, the return of foreign concessions at various ports, the cancellation of the Boxer Indemnities, etc. Now earlier, at the Washington Conference, we had made concessions to China which few other Great Powers similarly situated would have made. We had done this out of our growing sympathy with China and in the hope that after achieving unity and setting her house in order at an early date, she would redeem the various obligations which she had undertaken at that conference. It was such sanguine hopes and liberal beliefs which caused us to sign the Washington treaties regarding both the navy and China. These hopes were dashed by subsequent events. China failed to meet her obligations under the Washington Treaty. Indeed, our conciliatory attitude only served to increase her arrogance. In particular, our position in Manchuria became more and more precarious. There accumulated between Japan and China more than three hundred unsolved questions. It was in this tense atmosphere that the Manchurian incident occurred in 1931.

The split between China and Japan caused by the Manchurian incident lasted for some time. But of late the leaders of both the Chinese Government and the Kuomintang, realizing the folly of persisting in their antagonism toward Japan, and understanding better her real intentions, have been assuming a friendly attitude in harmony with the spirit of Sun Yat-sen's teachings. As a result, it seems to me, Sino-Japanese relations are now on the way to being restored to a normal basis. At the time of the Manchurian incident there were many critics in other countries, especially in yours, who severely censured our action. But now that Sino-Japanese relations are taking such a favorable turn European and American fears seem to have been groundless.

However, China has still to reckon with the communists who have their strongholds in Szechuan and Kueichow. These are establishing contacts with their comrades in Sinkiang, across the Province of Chinghai which is practically a no-man's land. And there is the southwestern party which maintains an independent régime in Canton, and refuses to take orders from the Nanking Government. Such a state of disunity is directly or indirectly a source of concern to us.

VI

The Soviet Union is another neighbor of ours. The aggressive policy of the Tsarist Government brought on the Russo-Japanese War, as the result of which Russia was forced to withdraw from South Manchuria. The government of the Soviet Union was reported to have made a declaration in 1919 to the effect that it would abandon all the old Russian concessions in China; but it retained its rights in the Chinese Eastern Railway and held North Manchuria securely as its sphere of influence until the establishment of Manchukuo in 1931. Since then Moscow seems to have found it necessary to retire. However, in Outer Mongolia and in Sinkiang the Soviet Union has consolidated its position. Although by the Sino-Soviet treaty of 1924 the Soviet Union recognized Outer Mongolia as an integral part of the Republic of China, Moscow had previously (in 1921) signed a separate treaty with "The People's Government of Mongolia," recognizing it to be "the sole lawful government of Mongolia," and the two Governments later exchanged plenipotentiary representatives. Today Outer Mongolia is virtually a Russian protectorate administered under a Soviet system. The present head of Sinkiang Province, Sheng Shih-tsai by name, is dependent on Russian support and the province is completely under Moscow's domination.

The aim of the Soviet Union is to bring about a world revolution and set up a proletarian dictatorship everywhere. The Soviet leaders have persistently worked to achieve their objective, though with varying intensity. For some years the communist movement in China was widespread, and until very recently held Kiangsi and several other provinces in its grip. When the Union of Socialist Republics of China was established, with its seat of government at Suichin, the pamphleteers in Russia urged an alliance of the two Soviet unions of Russia and China. And they raged furiously over the advent of Manchukuo because it shattered a convenient link for that projected alliance.

VII

The policies and internal situations of China and Soviet Russia being what they are, these two great and close neighbors of Japan affect us both directly and indirectly. We once had to fight China, and then we had to fight Russia, at a great sacrifice of blood and treasure, for the preservation of the peace of East Asia. The peace of East Asia would not have been maintained, nor would the rights and interests of the Powers there have been secured, if Japan had not played the part of a watchdog. On the peace of East Asia hangs the fate of our nation. Other Powers may have important interests there, but these interests at most concern only their commercial prosperity, whereas the interests which we have are vital. I doubt if you have anywhere outside your borders interests so vital to you as those which we have in East Asia are to us. But supposing we did interfere in some question involving your vital interests, how would you feel about us? Our concern over affairs in East Asia is surely far more profound than any you ever have felt over questions touching your neighboring states. That is why we cherish so earnestly, and are ready to guard at any price, the peace of East Asia.

VIII

I feel I cannot leave the naval question out of any general discussion of Japan's problems.

The preliminary naval conversations opened in June of last year were adjourned in December, and the results are now being carefully considered by the respective governments concerned, with a view, no doubt, to paving the way to a formal conference in the near future. Those conversations served a useful purpose in that they clarified the viewpoints of the three major naval Powers as to their respective requirements, policies and intentions. Viewed in that light, the London parley was not a failure but a success, for naval accord is possible only when each of the interested Powers knows where and how the others stand. Since the findings at London are now being weighed by the three governments it would be inappropriate for me to go too far in detail into the subject at this time.

I was present as Japan's chief delegate at the London Naval Conference of 1930. The difficulties which that conference had to face at the outset were many, including not a few that seemed well-nigh insurmountable. I need not touch here upon the difficulties experienced by the delegates of the other Powers, but shall confine myself to our own problems.

To Japan, the most important question was whether or not the naval ratio of 5-5-3, which as you all know had been adopted at the Washington Conference of 1922 for the American, British and Japanese capital ships and aircraft carriers respectively, should be extended to cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. Japan took the stand that the same ratio should not be applied to auxiliary craft, and we submitted an alternative plan. Other Powers failed to agree to this plan on certain important points. It became obvious that our insistence upon our own formula would wreck the conference. We thought the consequences of a failure would be most unfortunate to all, and therefore, taking a larger view of things, we accepted, though reluctantly, a basis of deliberation that would lead the conference to success instead of failure. When I signed the resultant agreement on April 22, 1930, I issued a written statement, in my official capacity as Japan's chief delegate, in which I made it clear that the agreement was not to serve as a precedent in any subsequent naval conference. I stated plainly my hope and expectation that at the next conference, which was to meet within five years, the Powers would reconsider the whole question of ratio on a new basis. In spite of the unequivocal reservation which we made, it was, I must confess, an ungrateful task for us to sign the London Naval Treaty. We did sign it in the hope that it might materially contribute towards international harmony and particularly towards our friendly relations with the United States. However, as the years passed, the popular dissatisfaction in Japan with the London Conference and the London Naval Treaty grew in intensity, and manifested itself in one way or another upon various occasions.

Today there still remain a number of pending naval issues between Japan, Great Britain and the United States. As has been officially stated more than once, our proposition is that each Power should maintain such a navy as will not menace other Powers -- a navy insufficient for attack but adequate for defense -- and that the armament should be reduced to the very minimum required for defensive purposes so as to lighten the tax burden of the peoples concerned.

A fundamental point in the naval problem, and one which I think Americans should bear in mind above all others, is that neither Japan nor any other Power on earth can effectively attack or invade their vast continent. Occasionally I read press dispatches from Washington reporting military and naval appropriations amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course that is an internal question for your country with which no foreigner should interfere. But you should keep in mind one thing, namely, that you are in a position in which no nation can attack you either from the Pacific or from the Atlantic, either from the air or from the sea. No naval Power can ever blockade you. The mere size of your territory and population, the magnitude of your wealth and resources, stand as an effective warning against any possible contemplation of foreign aggression.

In this respect Japan is the very opposite of America. From the standpoints of geographical position, topography, and size of territory and resources, as well as because of other circumstances, our country is not secure from external menace. We keep our navy for the sole purpose of defending our land. We harbor no aggressive designs against others, nor do we even contemplate sending our fleets near the waters of another country. We do not believe that a foreign Power should possess a navy capable of menacing another country.

IX

Following the Great War the nations, eager to secure a permanent peace and to dispense with the old world order which was based on the balance of power and under which one alliance was pitted against another, brought into being the League of Nations. The war-weary nations of Europe and all the other peoples rejoiced in the hope and belief that peace -- a permanent and universal peace -- had dawned upon the ruin left by the war. At the Washington Conference, held shortly thereafter, we made all possible concessions and signed the treaties concerning China, expecting that that country would forthwith set to work to restore order and achieve unity. We also signed the naval treaty which was to prevent a needless naval competition among the sea Powers. And subsequently for some years our government pursued a policy of drastic retrenchment not only on naval but also on military expenditure.

But the glowing hopes we had entertained for the new world order began to fade. In Europe the frail structure of international relations founded upon the various peace treaties quickly broke down. The entire continent has long been plunged into a precarious state of instability and unrest. In the Far East, China not only failed to redeem the obligations and commitments she had made at the Washington Conference but embarked upon a campaign for the recovery of certain rights and interests and for the expulsion of foreign influence from within her borders. The Soviet Union had consolidated her position in East Asia, especially in Outer Mongolia, and at the same time expanded her military strength. Meanwhile, ever since the conclusion of the London Naval Treaty, which complicated and beclouded the naval situation, Japan had been seized with a growing feeling of uneasiness and discontent. Finally, there occurred the Manchurian incident, followed by the establishment of Manchukuo.

If we look on the brighter side, we see that very recently there have been signs that things are taking a turn for the better in our part of the world. Manchukuo has made rapid and healthy progress in all directions. Sino-Japanese relations are fast being restored to normal. The amicable settlement of the North Manchuria Railway question has served to relieve the tension between Japan and the Soviet Union, so that we may hope for a wholehearted tripartite coöperation and collaboration in the Manchurian region between Japan, Manchukuo and the Soviet Union. We are doing our best to promote these new hopeful tendencies in East Asia.

X

Finally, let us consider Japanese-American relations. From the very beginning of our intercourse some eighty years ago when Commodore Perry first arrived in Japan, our two countries have remained on the friendliest terms. These became most warm and enthusiastic during the years of the Russo-Japanese War. But as Japan began to grow in power and prestige, somehow the United States began to show signs of apprehension. There arose between the two countries vexatious questions -- the California question, the Chinese question, the Manchuria question, the naval question -- which from time to time caused considerable irritation on both sides. Today there are still many questions pending. But they are all such as can be solved through diplomatic means. Certainly there are no pending issues that might possibly jeopardize our essentially friendly relations.

I believe that Americans will soon come to comprehend correctly the Manchurian question, and to appreciate fully Japan's position in East Asia. When you know exactly our position and our aspirations in East Asia you will readily understand our attitude and claims concerning the Chinese and the naval questions. I am confident that the sense of justice and fair play of Americans will in the end solve satisfactorily the immigration question. In the field of trade, I do not anticipate that we shall encounter any troublesome questions with your country such as we have with some other countries. Even if there should arise any difficulties, we surely should be able to adjust them amicably. If each of our two countries understands the other's position and aims and endeavors to promote peace and harmony by taking always a broad view, all the questions between us will be easily settled, and our friendship will grow more cordial than ever.

Japan is faced with many problems. Our path of progress is strewn with difficulties. But all we ask of the other nations is that they acquire a correct comprehension of our position and aims in East Asia. We do not care to meddle with the affairs of Europe or America. We are concentrating our efforts upon the stabilization of the situation in East Asia, as a nation with vital interests there. We have no intention to menace or attack our neighbor states, but on the contrary are endeavoring to carry out with them all a pacific policy based upon the principle of live and let live. Such are the obligations, as they are the aims, of Japan in East Asia.

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  • BARON REIJIRO WAKATSUKI, twice Prime Minister of Japan, three times Minister of Finance; chief Japanese delegate to the London Naval Conference, 1930
  • More By Baron Reijiro Wakatsuki