Japanese regret so exceedingly on the road to war (11-20-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (November 21, 1943)

Japanese regret so exceedingly on the road to war

Tokyo began in 1931 to apologize to U.S. while continuing policy of aggression, State Department documents show
By Merriman Smith, United Press staff writer

Washington – (Nov. 20)
A documented story of 10 years of Japanese duplicity in foreign affairs and faked friendship toward this country, was made public tonight by the State Department in another edition of papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States.

“The Japanese government regrets… exceedingly” was the constant refrain in official communications from Tokyo to Washington from 1931 until Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese used bombs on Pearl Harbor as substitutes for their well-worn platitudes of diplomacy.

The 1931-1941 record of relations with Japan contained 691 documents, most of them complaints by the U.S. government against acts of Jap aggression. In their answers the Japs almost always apologized.

Mukden incident first

The story began with a report from the U.S. Minister in China Sept. 19, 1931, that Japanese soldiers had attacked and surrounded Mukden in the first overt step of the Jap plot to seize Manchuria.

The last document in the 10-year record was dated Nov. 25, 1941, when Ambassador Joseph C. Grew reported from Tokyo that there was a strong implication that Jap officials were ignoring American reports on Japanese interference with U.S. interests in the Far East.

Consistently the Japs complained that their true intentions in the Far East were misunderstood.

Understood by Hull

The record showed, however, that Secretary of State Cordell Hull had what later proved to be an accurate understanding of their plans. The Secretary was disclosed to have told a foreign diplomat Sept. 21, 1938, that:

Since August a year ago, I have proceeded here on the theory that Japan definitely contemplates securing domination over as many hundreds of millions of people as possible in Eastern Asia and gradually extending her control through the Pacific Islands to the Dutch East Indies and elsewhere, thereby dominating, in practical effect, that one-half of the world; and that she is seeking this objective by any and every kinds of means; that at the same time I have gone on the theory that Germany is equally bent on becoming the dominating colossus of continental Europe.

Confusing in beginning

Japan’s early moves in Manchuria appeared confusing to American diplomats in the Far East, judging from their notes to the State Department at the beginning of Japan’s campaign of territorial expansion at the expense of China.

On Sept. 22, 1931, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Tokyo told this government he was “inclined to think” that the Japanese Foreign Office and other branches of the government were “genuinely surprised” by the Jap Army action at Mukden.

On the same day, however, the U.S. Minister to China reported to Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson that he thought the forceful occupation of southern Manchuria was “an aggressive act long planned and one decided upon most carefully and systemically put into effect,” and that signatories of the Kellogg Treaty should so construe the incident.

Bitter U.S. complaints

In the period of early Jap attacks on Shanghai, the record was full of bitter U.S. complaints against violations of American interests and of equally eloquent assurances from the Jap Foreign Office that there was no intention whatsoever of interfering with the rights or interests of any foreign power in that area.

Then followed the record of Jap withdrawal from the League of Nations and her military and economic penetration of China, always to the tune of complaints from the U.S. and excuses and explanations by the Japs.

The report contained a special section on the Jap bombing of the U.S. gunboat Panay on the Yangtze River in December 1937. After that incident, which the Japs said happened by mistake, Japanese Foreign Minister Kōki Hirota expressed:

…the fervent hope that the friendly relations between Japan and the United States will not be affected by this unfortunate affair.