EVEN a first visitor to Japan does not remain oblivious for long of the tensions concealed beneath the smooth surface of Japanese reticence and politeness. Lafcadio Hearn wrote a half-century ago that "the Japanese lives not by thought, by emotion, but by duty." The classical Japanese rules of obligation and duty, with their emphasis on codified tradition rather than individual decision, have been shaken deeply in the past ten years; but they still are potent, and the effort to live up to them in the new conditions created by Japan's first major defeat in history and first foreign occupation produces strains of its own. Little by little you come to feel that you are among a people possessing immense powers of self-control and at the same time existing singly and collectively close to the breaking point.

The breaking point comes when the obligations conflict. This is something which always threatens, for they pervade every phase of life--duty to the Emperor and the nation, to one's parents, to one's teachers, to one's reputation. When the conflict is irreconcilable there is a real nervous crisis. For the individual it may end in suicide; this does not as with us indicate despair but such a high degree of self-discipline and courage as to be in itself an act of virtue. For the nation, the only honorable exit from what seems a humiliating situation will not be national suicide, of course, but still an act of national desperation, a throw of the dice for revenge and glory unlimited or for ruin. This manner of paying the people's debt to Emperor and country may be imposed on the civilian authorities by fanatical nationalists in the armed forces, as in Manchuria in 1931, or it may be by choice of the dominant governing clique, as in the secret dispatch of the Japanese fleet to Pearl Harbor in 1941 while Ambassadors Kurusu and Nomura were still negotiating with Secretary Hull.

Since the war, the tendency to violence in both private and public life has been checked; the suicide rate has fallen and there is a pause in what had become the habitual and methodical assassination of political leaders. Nor are there visible portents at present of violent actions ahead in the international field. The national patrimony accumulated by years of incredibly hard work since the Meiji Restoration was squandered in one gigantic gamble, and today the country lacks the material resources to undertake programs of conquest even if its rulers still had the ambitions of a quarter-century ago. One era has closed, one method of attempted adjustment to the realities of personal and national environment has ended in failure. The new era has hardly begun, the new method has not yet been decided.


The tradition that there are stern penalties for being caught in the web of conflicting duties has schooled the Japanese to avoid making categorical statements and taking hard and fast positions. In politics, specifically, their realization since the war of how completely their former leaders miscalculated Japan's capacity to seize a dominating place in the world has increased their reluctance to commit themselves to fixed opinions or programs. Leftist leaders exhort and warn; but where they speak concretely it is usually against something and where they are for something it usually is vague. When I questioned them about international issues I found them as much handicapped as everyone else by their lack of knowledge of what the world has been doing and thinking in Japan's fifteen years of isolation from it; and on social questions I found them unable or unwilling to define their Marxist slogans in concrete domestic terms. Among the leaders of the great center parties, with honorable exceptions, the golden rule has been prudence.

Whatever ambition the Japanese have had to regain poise and a sense of direction has not been helped by the fact that we first imposed one set of policies on them and then urged them to do in important respects just the contrary. We treated the Germans in a similar way, first with edicts against fraternization and militarism, then with exhortations to join their brothers in the Western camp and rearm. But the Germans possessed the material basis for creating a new national prosperity by their own hard work, and their economic rebound from the war has given them back their pride and self-assurance--some would say almost too amply. The Japanese lacked the physical means for building their own life afresh and thus gaining a renewal of self-esteem and confidence.

Wherever one travels today--Istanbul or Tehran, Buenos Aires or Djakarta--German salesmen, engineers and bankers are found crowding into government and business offices, offering German wares and services on the easiest terms. They meet with special success in underdeveloped and formerly colonial areas, for having been losers in the war they are not suspected of imperialism. Japan was also a loser, but her exporters do not enjoy similar advantages. They have succeeded in marketing a varied line of goods in many foreign countries; indeed, they are considered potentially such dangerous competitors that when Japan was recently admitted to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Britain, France, Australia and ten other important export markets for Japan made reservations depriving her of important advantages. The fact remains that Japanese traders encounter exchange difficulties in buying their former supplies of raw materials in Southeast Asia and are excluded, so far, from their principal former markets in China. Moreover, in the Philippines, Formosa, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma and Malaya the Japanese are remembered as conquerors and despite improving relations Japanese traders still operate there under a hostile handicap.

The Japanese economy has been heavily supported by American purchases during the Korean war, American expenditures for military bases and the spending of American soldiers. This did not recreate Japanese initiative, however, or stimulate Japanese leaders to take responsibility for the unpopular measures needed to give the country a solid basis for competing in world markets. Japan must import about a quarter of her food; she must pay for it with exports; and to do this she must increase the production of exportable goods and decrease the domestic consumption of them. She will also have to modernize her industrial plant, cut manufacturing costs and curb inflation. This is a program involving temporary hardship. No political leader or party has so far dared to give it much more than lip service and leftist spokesmen recommend policies leading in the opposite direction.

Unlike the Germans, too, the Japanese have been tasting defeat for the first time, and their reactions remind foreigners more of the German behavior after 1918 than since 1945. In the First World War it never seems to have occurred to the Germans that they could be beaten. The war was a German war, and Imperial Germany was united under the Kaiser in patriotic fervor to win it. Defeat came as a crippling shock. Nobody wanted to take over responsibility from those who had failed. Governments were weak and lacked direction. There was a passion for amusement.

The second war and the second defeat were different for Germany. The war was a Nazi war. The people were not united. When defeat came, they guessed in advance what it would be like. Somehow it was less of a psychological shock to find again that German leaders had miscalculated, that Germany once more had gambled wrong and still was not going to rule the world. After the successive failures of the Kaiser, Weimar and the Nazis, the natural temptation was to float politically, to avoid engaging in parties or programs. Yet the free part of Germany has developed quite a cohesive political structure. Nobody would accuse Chancellor Adenauer of unwillingness to accept responsibility or of indecisiveness in using it.

Japan fought the Second World War on the losing side. The Japanese fought it under their Emperor, and their reverence for him, their duty toward him, made them happy to sacrifice everything in his name, their lives of course included. It was a national war, fought in a Kamikaze spirit. Defeat was stupefying.

Parallels must not be exaggerated, for many of the circumstances differ. The Allied attitude toward Germany was much less punitive in 1945 than it had been in 1918; however, it was not harsh toward Japan in 1945 either. In Germany after this war the Allied policy was to replace the German administration, local and national; in Japan, on the other hand, General MacArthur tried to reform and utilize the Japanese administration. In spite of this advantage, Japan's response to the challenges of defeat has not been like Germany's. By comparison she has seemed to be marking time. There is intense preoccupation with amusements of every sort--theatres, fairs, excursions, Pachinko gambling emporiums, all are jammed. The programs of political parties are not clearly defined and political doings excite only mild public interest. A study made for UNESCO indicates that even among young people the urge to play an active rôle in politics is negligible[i] (though this does not mean they are unconcerned about issues like military service that touch them directly).

Japanese often blame the prevailing mood of hesitation and indifference on the loss of confidence in traditional beliefs and observances. Old-established ethical standards have been undermined but people have not yet found new ones which they can fully respect. The Japanese were not averse to the democratic reforms ordered by the Occupation authorities; it is a commonplace to say that as a people they are highly adaptable, and when their old methods and principles failed they were more than willing to try those which had been proved more successful. Or did they only think that they wanted to try them? The study of Japanese youth just mentioned indicates that democratic principles often have been accepted in the abstract but are not considered applicable in the Japanese social context, where respect for public authority and filial obedience contradict ideas of individual judgment and independent action.

In any event, to set out to become democratic by foreign order makes an unpromising beginning. As Lily Abegg pointed out in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the whole enterprise ran against the grain of Japanese life, with its spirit of collective rather than individual responsibility. The Japanese interpret individualism and liberalism, she writes, as being much the same thing as egoism and concentration on selfish interest. When these were among the habits taken over from the West, soberer elements in the Japanese society became less sure of their liking for democracy. They do not repudiate democracy--far from it. But there is a tendency to interpret it in more traditional Japanese terms, terms that we would call nationalistic, even reactionary, or else to break away to the left and use the democratic reforms started under American compulsion as the basis for a new society concerned with economic rather than political equality.

Is there a danger of a militarist resurgence? German apathy and confusion after the First World War facilitated von Seeckt's effort to establish the Reichswehr as the principal political power in Germany and made possible Ludendorff's disreputable methods of the Deutsche Kampfbund and the military Putsch in treasonable alliance with Hitler. There are no serious indications of a parallel development in Japan today. For the present the Japanese "Weimar Republic" is not in danger from the right. The balance of forces which makes and unmakes governments seems on the whole more likely to shift in the other direction.

It is while they are still in a most unsettled frame of mind, then, that the Japanese people now find themselves subjected to the pulls of conflicting interest set in motion by the Cold War. They are unsure of their friends, their enemies and above all themselves. Their inner thoughts, if we could know them, would probably be surprising.


Like others caught in the Cold War the Japanese wish they could escape into some magic haven of calm. Arguments are beginning to be heard whether Japan might not find neutrality a possible rôle. There is a good deal of confusion as to what would be the price of making the effort or, still more, of succeeding in it.

Japan has a constitution, dictated in the main by General MacArthur, which among other things prohibits her from rearming. She also signed a security treaty with the United States granting our armed forces bases and other facilities. But Japan is again sovereign (as Foreign Minister Shigemitsu reminded us most politely during his visit to Washington) and within the limits of her contractual obligations she is able to alter many attitudes which we may have too easily assumed she had wholeheartedly accepted. One example is Premier Hatoyama's recent effort (unsuccessful) to establish a governmental committee to propose changes in the constitution legalizing rearmament. Another is the negotiation with Russian representatives in London to end the ten-year state of war with the Soviets. The fact that we approve of one and have misgivings as to where the other may lead simply emphasizes what a wide scope Japan has for making readjustments in both domestic and foreign relations.

In longing for neutrality the Japanese are not different from myriads of others all around the globe. Most people everywhere think of neutrality as signifying peace; and since they yearn for peace they wonder whether commitments to either of the great camps might not be avoided, or, if already in existence, made less binding, less automatic. Further, Japan's history of militaristic misrule, her frightful war losses and her experience with atomic bombing do give her more title to be irrationally pacifist than many others who seek to flee the obligations and risks of the world as it is.

It was not by chance, then, that the Soviets opened their propaganda drive to bring Japan into the so-called "neutrality belt" even before they made similar bids to Austria, Jugoslavia and, most recently, Germany. In Pravda's words, neutrality is now "on the agenda of contemporary life." It appears there under various titles--"areas of peace" (Nehru), "active coexistence" (Tito), "active neutrality" (Vice-President Hatta of Indonesia), "virile neutrality" (Le Monde, Paris). As yet the slogan for Japan has not been formulated. But since the Japanese are still so deeply under the impression of the defeat and Occupation it will probably emphasize mistrust of both the great antagonists, of course with the specific purpose of reducing Japan's feeling about the United States to the level of her traditional feeling about Russia. If the Japanese could be brought to lump the Soviet Union and the United States together in suspicion and dislike, that would represent a tremendous Soviet advance.

Contrary to many Europeans and Asians, most Americans are still not convinced that the recent changes in Soviet manners and tactics indicate an abandonment of long-established Communist goals so much as a realization that Western defenses are too strong at present to be attacked successfully. While this is so, and to hasten the day when it will be so no longer, Soviet propagandists find neutralism their most profitable international theme. Needless to say, they preach it for others, not for their own; no satellite leader would be so idiotic as to suppose that his country could remain neutral in any war involving the Soviet Union. But it is wrong to assume that average people on our side of the Iron Curtain notice this anomaly and take it as a warning of Soviet guile. They are overjoyed to find new grounds to hope for peace and do not ask why the nation which raised up the spectre of a new war now finds it desirable to lighten its shadow.

Nor do their leaders always remind them how and why the Cold War against international Communism began and what would have happened to their own freedoms if other nations had not been able and willing to wage the contest to the present point of stalemate. Some of these leaders have the idealistic notion of welding together a new force for world peace, such a powerful galaxy of neutral states that it cannot be forced into taking part in any armed clash and may even become a factor in making a clash less likely. Others are parochial, aiming only to find a safe corner for their country alone, content to let the rest of civilization go hang. Others are simple expedientists, playing for political advantage or taking out insurance against a possible victory of either contestant. And of course there are Communists and fellow-travellers operating openly or under cover.


All these trends exist in Japanese political life today. The dominant conservative elements were divided after the elections of February 1955 into Democrats, with 185 members in the House of Representatives led by Premier Hatoyama, and Liberals, with 112 members led by Taketora Ogata and former Premier Yoshida. The Socialists were also divided, with 89 members in the left-wing group and 67 members in the right-wing group. On October 13 last the two Socialist groups were reunited: with elections in the offing, the attractions of being able to wage an integrated war against the conservatives outweighed discord in matters of principle. Following suit, the two conservative parties, whose rivalries have been largely personal, merged on November 15. For the time being, a two-party system has come into effect.

On one extreme of the Japanese political spectrum are the Communists, with two members in the House of Representatives and a total strength somewhere between 60,000 (the police estimate) and 100,000 (the party estimate). At their latest meeting they revealed a new moderate line designed to attract Socialist support and facilitate efforts to form an eventual "popular front." Voting with them are the four members of the pro-Communist Labor-Farmer Party. On the other extreme flank are the survivors of former reactionary nationalistic societies and military cliques. They are not at present openly represented in parliament. Independents and several current vacancies account for the balance of the House's total membership of 467.

Since the rôle of the Socialists is comparatively little known abroad, and since their control of more than one-third of the Diet enables them to block changes in the constitution, their objectives, tactics and popular appeal repay particular study. Indications on all three points were provided last summer when the Hatoyama Government screwed up its courage to introduce a measure creating a National Defense Council to plan for Japanese rearmament and a Constitutional Research Council to propose constitutional revisions to make sure of its legality. The two Socialist factions joined to filibuster these bills to death in the closing session of the upper chamber of the Diet without the Government daring to use its powers to halt questioning and secure a vote. The United States, which greatly desired the passage of these two bills, blundered into ensuring their defeat. Not noticing that the legislation had just squeaked through the lower house and was now hanging fire in the upper one, the Pentagon chose this moment to announce that it was shipping atomic weapons to the Far East, including atomic cannon to Okinawa and long-range bombardment rockets to Japan. The Socialists were able to make such an issue of the fear that we intend making Japan an atomic base that the Government lost heart and let the session end without forcing a showdown.

It is in incidents like these that the Socialists show their strength and add to it. True, the Government shortly afterwards decided to create a Defense Council, though as a "temporary measure" and without parliamentary sanction. But to forestall popular discontent it also had to announce that the issue of a constitutional amendment permitting the formation of armed forces will wait till it can be settled in new elections. Meanwhile, in an effort to improve the Government's standing, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu visited Washington and requested a review of the whole defense relationship with the aim of replacing Japan's one-sided concessions in the security treaty with the more usual two-way obligations of a mutual defense pact. Eventually (he hinted) this would permit the withdrawal of American forces. Even here he found himself under attack by the Socialists, who interpreted the proposal as opening the way for the use of Japanese troops (when they exist) outside of the country.

The merger of the two Socialist groups is particularly interesting. It remains to be seen whether one swallowed the other and can digest it, or whether the discord will continue beneath the surface and lead eventually to another split. In past controversies the moderates have been handicapped (like the moderate Socialists in Italy and other European countries) by what might be called "on-the-other-handedness." Thus Mr. Eki Sone, their chief intellectual planner, has favored the pro-Western orientation of the Hatoyama Government; on the other hand, he has criticized it for not being active enough in promoting better relations with Soviet Russia and Communist China. Rearmament, he told me, is in principle right and necessary; on the other hand, it should not be pushed at present because that will interfere with negotiations for a Soviet peace treaty. The right wing broke with the left over the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The left wing were not willing to support a treaty which the Soviet Union refused to sign; the right wingers, who are anti-Communists or at least non-Communists, accepted the treaty, but opposed the security treaty with the United States which Prime Minister Yoshida signed at the same time. They approved the security treaty in principle, Mr. Sone said, but thought it should not have been negotiated until after Japan had regained her sovereignty.

There has been no "on-the-other-hand" in the talk of the left-wing Socialists though there has been plenty of evasion about how the Marxist principles which they advocate should be practised in Japan. Their literature has tried to avoid the subject. They also have avoided identifying their foreign policies with those of the Soviet Union, which is still widely mistrusted in Japan, but instead have pointed to the successes of Red China since she got rid of Chiang Kai-shek and his Western patrons. They have emphasized her progress in industrialization and what they call efficiency, meaning totalitarian discipline, but above all in gaining independence of action and respectful attention abroad such as no Chinese régime has enjoyed in modern times. Japanese students and intellectuals incline to idealize China in any case, partly because she promises to be the leader of "Free Asia," partly as a way of repudiating the Japanese militarists who treated China so shamefully in the past. There is vast ignorance, of course, about the penalties being paid at home by the Chinese people for Chou En-lai's ability to speak with such authority abroad. Nothing is said about the cost to Chinese farmers and workers of collectivization and hasty industrialization; nothing is said about Peking's dependence on Moscow.

Socialist hopes for winning future power are pinned mainly on the liberal-minded younger generation. Both wings gained in votes in the last election (the left more than the right); together they won an increase of 1,610,000 votes over their previous combined total, compared to an increase of 660,000 for the Democrats and Liberals. This suggests that they secured an overwhelming majority of the 2,140,000 voters who had come of age in the interval between elections.

A former President of the University of Tokyo told me that he thought the trend to the left among students would weaken now that economic conditions have become easier. There is a left-wing group of professors and students, he said, and there is a small group of right-wing extremists (mainly among the natural scientists); but he described the majority as independent and liberal, viewing all ideologies in a rather cool and critical spirit. This leads them to favor neutralism. "Japan, they say, should be a bridge between the Eastern and Western camps." He admitted the naïveté of supposing that Japan can be disarmed and still immune to outside pressure. "But that is the program of the Socialists," he remarked, as though that were sufficient explanation of the attempt to reconcile irreconcilables.

So one rounds the circle, and finds that for many Japanese voters (as for so many elsewhere) logic counts less than feeling. It is feeling, above all, that the Socialists consciously exploit-- feeling against things as they are in personal and national life, feeling for things as they should be if society were equitable and the world did not live under the fear of aggression. They find their greatest success, naturally, in playing on the mass immaturity of the growing generation which knows least about the world and is least firmly rooted in Japanese tradition.

A number of Socialist leaders were identified with the Occupation in its early days. For that reason, and because the United States still has many convinced friends in Japan, even the left wingers usually attack American policy more for backsliding than for original sin. There are the inevitable references to American materialism and the horrors of Hollywood culture, but the crux of leftist criticism is that we are disappointing the world's liberal hopes. Thus Washington's present defense policies are spoken of mournfully as a betrayal of the peaceful principles which we introduced into Japanese life during MacArthur's rule. The change-over is not linked to the Communist aggression in Korea or threats against Southeast Asia. These are pictured in any case as of direct concern only to the American imperialists and their reactionary protégés, Syngman Rhee and Chiang Kaishek, affecting Japan merely because she is tied like a tail to the American kite. Moral: abrogate the American-Japanese treaty or at least alter its administration to render it ineffective.

Though the left-wing Socialists have demanded the evacuation of American troops they have recognized no relationship between that and preparation for Japan to defend herself. Last summer they played a leading part in organizing sit-down strikes, protest marches and similar demonstrations by peasants against the American use of precious agricultural land for air bases, specifically for extending runways to handle jet aircraft. Spurred at last into reply, the Japanese Government reminded the public that the air bases are primarily for Japan's own defense, that the landowners receive generous compensation, that the cost of the expansions was being borne by the American taxpayer and that the improved facilities will eventually belong to Japan.

American emphasis on air bases and air power in the Far East creates uneasiness far outside Socialist ranks, partly because it calls up visions of nuclear warfare but also because it indicates that Japan might be expected to fend for herself in another world war while the United States made its major military effort in other theatres. The fact that we do not commit important land forces to the Far East is taken as evidence that we think of Japan as an expendable ally, to be used as an air base as long as practicable and redeemed from the enemy later on as part of the ultimate victory. Those hostile to the United States do not want American forces of any sort in Japan, of course; but the absence of land forces gives them an argument which they pursue to the wrong conclusion--that instead of strengthening herself Japan must withdraw into a vacuum of neutrality. The inconsistency is ignored.

Japanese leftists place no confidence in the United Nations. Its early promise has failed, they say, and not because of Soviet obstruction but of our efforts to make it an instrument of American domination. They take no account of why efforts to equip U.N. to resist aggression broke down or why nothing so far has come of projects to reduce armaments and put atomic weapons under inspection and control. I asked Mr. Hiroo Wada, an intellectual leader of the left-wing Socialists (though not much more proletarian in looks, dress or manner than Mr. Sone, or for that matter Mr. Molotov), whether U.N. weakness, Soviet military capacities, especially for nuclear warfare, and the increasing military potential of Red China should not affect Japan's defense policy. Should she not continue her arrangement with the United States until she has developed forces of her own capable of defending her coasts and thus giving her at least a chance of being able to remain neutral? "There is no threat to Japan today," Mr. Wada replied blandly. "Japan can look out for herself."

I asked Mr. Wada to differentiate his party's attitude from that of the Communists on the agricultural problems in which he happens to be especially interested. Both parties attack the government's land policy, he replied, not in its original concept (under American guidance 90 percent of the former tenant farmers received land of their own) but in its administration. He claims that rural credit has been so meagre and the action of government-sponsored farmer coöperatives so slow that farmers are beginning to sell their land back to former owners or to new large proprietors. Nevertheless, whereas the Communists preach collectivization the Socialists only study it and discuss how and when it might some day become practicable in Japan. This difference in approach, Mr. Wada thought, accounted for the Socialist gains at Communist expense in the last election. For he admits that Japanese peasants love their land and that since they usually are specialists in a single crop any project for the collectivization of Japanese farms runs into special technical difficulties.

Wherever one travels in the Far East one is asked why American commercial policy does not square with American political profession. In Tokyo this criticism is very much in vogue. One of the ablest leftist intellectuals, a Harvard-trained economist, told me that our agricultural disposal program seems consciously designed to handicap Japan's recovery in order to benefit American farmers; as evidence he cited our requirement that Japan buy our rice, which plays havoc with her essential export trade with Thailand, Burma and other rice-producing countries of Southeast Asia. Incidentally, he also was under the apparently sincere impression that the 15 percent of the program which had been advertised as an American "gift" to Japan was earmarked, by our demand, for rearmament--whereas the fact is that it is earmarked for improving the nutrition of Japanese schoolchildren.

Unfortunately there is more ground for the professor's complaint (voiced also by many others throughout the Far East) regarding American foreign economic operations in general. Too often one set of officials in Washington seems not to know what another is doing, or if it does know is not interested. It is senseless for one agency to contribute dollars to enable Thailand to grow rice, while another--or a different set of representatives of the same agency in another capital--takes action that in effect prevents Thailand from selling her rice surplus. It is senseless to contribute dollars to restore and expand the Japanese economy and insist that Japan purchase surplus American rice at the expense of resuming natural trade relations with Thailand. Policy--or lack of policy--of this sort undercuts our claim to be an efficient nation and to know what we are doing. But it is used by leftist critics in Japan and elsewhere as proof of something more damaging-- selfishness and a lack of sincerity.

The Socialist slogans are chosen well for their purposes, as indicated by the Government's reluctance to oppose them vigorously. During the electoral campaign which brought the Democrats into office, Mr. Hatoyama made promises and aroused hopes which he has not been able to fulfill. In particular he dwelt on the economic advantages to be gained from renewed relations and increased trade with Soviet Russia and Red China.

Actually, even if the negotiations which began in London last summer were to produce a Soviet-Japanese peace treaty there are slight grounds for expecting any considerable trade between the two countries. The chief Soviet aim, as Ambassador Malik made clear, is to win Japan to neutrality. He proposed that the treaty bar the waters between Japan and Korea to all foreign military craft except ships of the Soviet Union and Communist China and in addition asked that Japan renounce alliances or coalitions directed against any Power which had fought against Japan in the last war--a proviso that might be used later as leverage for insisting on abrogation of the security treaty with the United States. In return, the Soviets were willing to grant Japan "most-favored-nation" tariff treatment (as the United States already does) and a fishing agreement, and to support her application for U. N. membership. The negotiations are suspended as this is written. The Japanese have been disappointed that the United States did not back them up more strongly. They must find out for themselves, however, what is and what is not obtainable in negotiations with Moscow; nor is it sure that our active support might not have been a handicap.

The Soviets have so far held in reserve the question of returning Japanese prisoners and have insisted on postponing territorial questions. The latter involve the future of Southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands (occupied by the Soviets under the Yalta agreement, renounced by Japan in the San Francisco Treaty, but not specifically assigned in that treaty to any other nation) and the Habomais and Shikotan, small islands lying close to the northern coast of Hokkaido.

When Japanese leftists mention the Soviet-held islands they always couple them with a demand for the return of the Ryukus (Okinawa) and the Bonin Islands, both occupied by the United States. Washington does not agree that the situations are comparable. We recognize Japan's "residual sovereignty" in the islands and have promised to return them when they are no longer essential for American-Japanese defense and for security in the Far East. It happens that Premier Hatoyama was careless enough to link the claims against Russia and the United States in a speech which he made in the Diet shortly before the start of the London negotiations; and of course the Soviets and their leftist echoes in Japan have made the most of his error. To soften criticism of its defense policies the Hatoyama Government may ask us not only to "equalize rights and obligations" under the security treaty but also to make concessions in regard to the American-held islands. We need not feel called on to step up Japan's policy-making rôle until she can increase her financial and military contributions to joint operations. However, to strengthen the Government against domestic critics as well as in negotiations with the Soviets we might transfer the civil administration of the islands to Japanese authorities. There is no insuperable military reason against this; we operate our bases in Japan proper in an environment which is under Japanese civil administration, and we could do the same in the islands. The increased friendship of the Japanese people would be an over-all strategic gain, since our military position in Okinawa depends heavily on our position in Japan.

Though the territorial disputes with the Soviets are so important most Japanese seem more interested in relations with Peking than with Moscow. They see real economic advantages to be gained in China and they are anxious to establish good relations with a neighbor on the upswing of power. They used to buy and sell there on a large scale, especially in Manchuria, and they think they might trade there again today--machinery and textiles for coal and other commodities now bought from the United States and other distant sources. Recently Tokyo put out feelers for a negotiation about the repatriation of Japanese detained in China. According to government sources, Peking's precondition for this, and still more for a political settlement, is that Japan sever relations with the Nationalist Government on Formosa. This is more credible on the whole than the report of a Socialist delegation recently in Peking that Chou En-lai would be willing to negotiate a peace treaty with Japan without conditions; for that would imply Peking's acceptance of the "two Chinas" concept, at least to the extent of receiving a Japanese ambassador while another Japanese ambassador was accredited in Taipei.

Before Japan regained her sovereignty the United States embargoed all Japanese trade with Communist China as a measure in the Korean war; and since then it has urged the Japanese Government to live up to its obligations as a member of the voluntary Coördinating Committee which drew up the list of forbidden items. The Japanese Government has both economic and political reasons for wanting the embargo modified to apply only to the sale of strategic materials--the rule governing trade with the Soviet Union and the East European satellites. As there seems no early prospect of formally ending the Korean war, the present discrimination against Japanese trade with Red China threatens to continue indefinitely; and the fact that Mr. Hatoyama cannot defend it on grounds of principle gives a real advantage to his Socialist critics. Senator George recently suggested that in fairness Japan should be allowed to reopen her markets in China except for trade in strictly military goods; and he added that this would help the American textile industry by reducing Japanese competition.


Advocates of a vigorous American policy in the Far East believe that Asians have come to mistrust the United States for "talking big but acting weak." The memory of our bold action in Korea is said to have been wiped out by our shilly-shallying as the Communists were moving southward in Indo-China. We are urged to draw a sharp line and proclaim once for all that even the smallest Communist advance across it means war. The alternative, we are told, is that we shall lose whatever is left of Free Asia's confidence, that every friend will become neutralist and every waverer will join the other side, leaving us to face our enemies everywhere alone. Undoubtedly backing can be found for this argument in Seoul and Taipei, where the leaders live in hope that in one way or another the United States will become involved in a general war and that it will end with their country's freedom restored--and with them, naturally, in command.

No such feeling can be detected in Tokyo. The Japanese seem more concerned about the possibility that the United States may take some ill-considered action and involve them in war than that it will fail to respond in proper time and measure to a major Communist provocation. They are very conscious of the fact that we have a military treaty with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's government on Formosa as well as with them. Like us they recognize that government, but they know that its main interest must necessarily be in war--a continuation by every possible means of the Chinese civil war--while their own concern is all for peace. They do not suspect us of consciously seeking war but they do fear that we may be involved unexpectedly in war in the Formosa Strait, and they with us. Disputes within the leadership of the Republican Party added to the sense of insecurity in this regard. Even if Senator McCarthy's influence could be discounted, that of Senator Knowland could not. The feeling that something unpredictable might happen became acute during the crisis a year ago over the offshore Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu.

Most of the moderate Japanese leaders recognize that Formosa proper is a part of the same "island chain" to which Japan herself belongs and they understand why the United States pledged itself to defend it. True, some American military experts (particularly in the Air Force) have begun questioning whether the "island chain" is as indispensable to our security as it seemed before the advent of the new long-range atomic bombers. Nevertheless, the concept that the "island chain" is the front line of defense against Communism in the Pacific and that its strong points stand or fall together still has currency in Japan as elsewhere. The Japanese therefore understand that if the Communists invade Formosa this means that they are seeking general war and Japan will be involved. But what happens if the Communists attack the offshore islands? The Nationalist Government has crammed them with men and equipment even though they have little strategic value except in connection with an invasion of the mainland. With the idea of deterring a Communist attack, the United States decided to leave open whether or not it would help defend the islands. To the Japanese this seemed to entrust the final decision between peace and war to the two rival Chinese governments. Even warm friends of the United States became alarmed and for the first time talk was heard in responsible quarters about the need to revise the security treaty.

The only way of preserving the security treaty in the long run will be to establish Japanese confidence in the unity and reliability of American leadership. Revisions in the administrative agreement to increase Japanese participation in defense policies may satisfy Japanese amour propre to some extent. But the basic situation which causes Japanese apprehensions will continue as long as American bases exist on Japanese soil; for if the United States were at war with mainland China its planes would fly sorties from those bases and Communist Chinese planes would retaliate. What is necessary is to convince the Japanese people that the risks inherent in this situation are far less than the risks they would run without American protection. The Japanese Government will have to show that it is firmly convinced of this and will have to take the lead in convincing their people. On our side we can argue the proposition most effectively not by underlining the risks for Japan of trying to "go it alone" but in demonstrating that the risks of the American alliance will not be enlarged by inadvertent actions on our part or as a result of disagreement within our national leadership or because of our intransigence on a minor issue or because the final decision of our policy seemed to have been left to third parties which do not have the same stake in peace as do the United States and Japan.

If this confidence is reëstablished in the Japanese mind, less support will be given to those who demand the abrogation of the treaty and the expulsion of American forces. Playing on the pacifism which we ourselves did so much to create, they not only increased their voting strength markedly in the last election but by all appearances have been winning new adherents since. If they were to gain as much in the next elections as they did in the last, the present Government's hope of making constitutional changes to facilitate rearmament will have to be abandoned and there will almost surely be crippling changes in the administrative agreement. The "if" is a large one and should not cause anyone to write Japan off as a friend and ally. No abrupt actions, let alone violent ones, are to be expected in Tokyo. There are leaders in the Liberal-Democratic grouping who believe in the American alliance and will defend it ably. But we should be clear that in so far as the future course of Japanese opinion depends on our own attitudes and actions, the Japanese, like our other allies, look for a sense of proportion and restraint on our part in addition to evidence of our material strength and courage.

The fact that no alliance can be strong and lasting on a one-sided basis has connotations for the Japanese, of course, as well as for us. It would be disastrous if they exercised their sovereign independence in a way to arouse suspicions that they hope for a day when, under the guise of neutralism, they might play off the free world and the Communist world against each other. For Japan to trust to neutralism would go far toward delivering all Asia to the Communists. She would come under Communist domination herself or she would become a Communist ally. Either would be a quiet form of suicide.

[i] "Without the Chrysanthemum and the Sword," by Jean Stoetzel, a study of postwar attitudes of youth in Japan, published for UNESCO by Columbia University Press, 1955, p. 162.

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