Could the United
States Have Avoided a Showdown?
be asked: Could the United States
have stayed out of war in the Far East by appeasing Japan
and abandoning China
Most authorities agree that such a step would merely have
postponed the day of reckoning, when our own Pacific territories would have been
chosen as the next victims. To back down in 1941 would not only have been dishonorable,
it would have been very unsound policy on the part of the United
States. We could not have afforded to abandon
the long-established principles governing our policy in the Pacific.
over a century America
has occupied a unique position in the Far East. The United
States has no territorial ambitions in China. For many years our basic foreign
policy has been to safeguard China
from aggression. In 1899 and 1900 the United States
took the lead in international agreements to observe the “Open Door”(equality
of trading rights in China)
and to preserve the independence and territorial integrity of China.
Both, these principles were reaffirmed by the United
and other nations in the Nine Power Pact of 1922.
Uncle Sam stands firm
many years Japan
looked upon Russia
as her chief potential enemy. But after 1931 the Japanese began to see in the
the foremost antagonist to their program of expansion. After Japan’s seizure of
Manchuria in 1931 the United
States repeatedly protested the violation of
international law and of treaties which both nations had signed and ratified.
our doctrine of nonrecognition, announced by Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson
in 1932, we refused to recognize transfers of territory brought about through
violation of the Paris Peace Pact or any other international agreement. In 1937,
after the outbreak of the undeclared war with China,
President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull expressed American disapproval
of Japan’s acts of aggression.
These protests would not have caused the
militarists much anxiety if we had not backed them with mounting restrictions
on the export of war materials to Japan
during 1939–41. When the United States
terminated its trade treaty with Japan
in 1939 and followed this up in 1940 by advising American citizens to leave the
Far East, the Japanese realized that we were not bluffing.
July 1941, President Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing Japanese assets
in the United States.
This move brought all financial and -commercial transactions in which Japanese
interests were involved under the control of our government.
In April 1941, the Japanese opened negotiations, apparently
as a method of stalling for time. The proceedings dragged on for eight months.
Even though the prospects of a just and peaceable conclusion appeared slight,
the American representatives made every effort to find the basis for such a settlement.
November 26, 1941, Secretary
Hull proposed a program that offered Japan
free access to needed raw materials, freer access to world markets, financial
cooperation and support, withdrawal of our freezing orders, and an opportunity
to negotiate a new trade treaty with us. In return, Japan
was to abandon its aggressive policies and practices. These proposals were coldly
received by the Japanese. It was clearly evident that nothing could avert a showdown
except a change in Japanese policy. Japan would not give up its program of swallowing
Asia piecemeal, and the United
States would of condone it.
7, 1941, the Japanese representatives in Washington
presented Secretary Hull with Tokyo’s final answer. It was a document accusing
us of “scheming for the extension of the war”and conspiring with Great
Britain and other countries against Japan’s efforts
to establish peace in Asia. Secretary Hull told the Japanese
representatives, “In all my fifty years of public service I have never seen a
document that was more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions.”
the real Japanese answer had been delivered more than an hour earlier at Hickam
Field and Pearl Harbor.