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From WFC are five College Radio in Amherst Massachusetts. We present Japan 1868 through 1968. This year has been officially designated as the centennial of the beginning of the modernization of Japan and this is the eighth of a series of broadcasts with Johnny Markey a professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of today's broadcast is prelude to Pearl Harbor. Professor Markey. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 came of course as a shattering surprise. On the other hand the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan simultaneously was far less of a surprise. As a matter of fact slowly and gradually over a period of more than 40 years the
United States and Japan had been confronting each other over a series of what each side felt to be very important issues. And especially after one thousand thirty one the period of more than 10 years from September 18th 1931 the beginning of the so-called Manchurian incident to the attack on Pearl Harbor there had been an accelerating sharpness of this confrontation between the United States and Japan but perhaps even more significantly this growing enmity and dislike between the two governments was being worked out in a broad international scene. Now I'd like to go back just a bit to take a look at the development of the American Japanese rivalry which as I pointed out in an earlier broadcast had actually
begun before the end of the 19th century and primarily over the issue of the manner in which the interests of the two governments in China were coming into collision. Now as I mentioned earlier the United States signed its first treaty with China in 1844 and formal relations had been begun between the two countries on that basis with the United States being primarily interested in two things one trade and to a slowly expanding missionary effort. But by the critical decade of the 1890s the United States felt that it had quite extensive interests inside China both tangible and intangible tangible. Of course in the form of trade in the form of installations economic operations of one
sort or another missions and so forth and so on. And it was into this situation that Japan projected itself again and as a result of the victory in 1894 5. Now the European powers had also developed strong positions inside China by this time. Japan also came into collision with them. But on the other hand the significant thing at least for this part of the story is what began to happen between the United States and Japan. Now also coming right at the end of the 19th century the United States had become a colonial power itself a colonial power in Asia through the acquisition of the Philippine Islands and from 1898 onward the United States had this colonial outpost and significantly of course the Philippines were in the far western Pacific and also late to the
south of Japan and particularly to the south of the new Japanese colony of Taiwan which came under Japanese control in 1895. Now of course this meant that there were no border clashes between the two countries but on the other hand the United States was consistently confronted with the problem of the possible defense of this island colony against possible Japanese aggression and from the Japanese point of view the Philippines lay as a barrier against expansion against penetration into the south. Now also by the beginning of the 19th century these two young nations that is young in modern terms the United States and Japan had developed into military powers and especially in terms of this confrontation they had both begun to develop their naval strength. Now of course until the Second World War it was in many
respects impossible to wage a true naval war between the United States and Japan over what were then the vast expanses of the Pacific. On the other hand the existence of these two powerful and rival navies constituted obviously an explosive situation. No over the first 40 years of this century there were frequent. Well what were referred to at the time as sensational stories or speculations concerning the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan and of course all solid observers of the scene branded such stories and such imaginings as being highly inflammatory and unfortunate. And on the other hand there was no possibility that they would come true. But as sensational as they were they did reflect the gradual
building up of tensions between the two governments and some matter of fact between at least certain at that time districted segments of public opinion. Now I also pointed out in an earlier broadcast that the Washington settlement of one thousand twenty one twenty two was designed not simply to create a situation of stability in the Far East in general but also to reduce significantly the tensions that had developed between the two countries particularly during the First World War. I mentioned it to a fair length. The confrontation that had developed over Japan's 21 demands which the Japanese government had attempted to force on China. Now the decade of the 1920s witnessed somewhat of a relaxation of the confrontation between the United States and Japan. On the other hand I must refer briefly to
a development inside the United States that inflamed Japanese public opinion and indeed irritated the Japanese government a very great deal. And that was the passing of a new immigration law in one thousand twenty four. The background of this immigration law was extremely complex. The revision of the law came about as a result of a certain fear of foreigners in the United States a certain fear of radicalism as that had developed after the first world war and to use the term that was current at that time. And so the Congress of the United States revised the immigration law very extensively. There was discrimination national discrimination. And for the purposes of this account here racial discrimination written into that law as well for example
quotas were established for immigration from European nations and northern European nations were favored and southern European and Eastern European nations were discriminated against in the setting up of these quotas. But the most significant thing was the so-called oriental exclusion sections in this new law and under this law. No permanent immigrants were to be permitted from any part of Asia. Now the wording of the law was general but on the other hand it was perfectly clear that everyone knew that Japan was the principal objective of this law and indeed the problem of Japanese immigration into the United States both in the Hawaiian territory and also mainland United States had been a matter of controversy between the two governments of varying intensity from the decade of the 1890s down to the early
1920s. Now as I indicated the Japanese were highly resentful over this exclusion at the time. Japanese newspapers and the Japanese government indicated that if the immigration from Japan had been set on a quota basis no matter how small the quota. Well then this would have been consistent with the rest of the law and would have been acceptable to them. Now Americans by and large forgot about this issue almost as soon as the law was passed in 1904 but it remained right down into the second world war as a major source of anti-American feeling inside Japan. Now the critical period however in American Japanese relations began in 1931. And as I mentioned briefly at the outset of this broadcast began as a result of Japan's was ition of Manchuria by military means in
1931 32. Now this Japanese move into Manchuria immediately provoked a broadly international reaction against Japan. It was the feeling and this turned out to be correct that this might mark the beginning of a general breakdown of international peace and security as that had been developed imperfectly it is true but still developed during the decade of the 1920s. Now as I pointed out the Japanese military particularly ignored completely this adverse reaction that their military acts had called forth. On the other hand early in nineteen 32 in January of 930 to the United States government enunciated what was referred to immediately as the Stimson doctrine
of non-recognition. Henry L. Stimson was the secretary of state and it was in his name that this doctrine was promulgated the doctrine was well announced in identical notes sent to the Japanese government and the Chinese government. Now basically what this doctrine was was simply a statement that the United States would recognize no treaty or any other kind of an agreement that resulted from this Japanese action in Manchuria which was a violation of any agreement or other arrangement which was a violation of certain treaties that Japan had in their going to. One treaty specifically referred to was the nine power pact which was a part of the Washington settlement under which eight foreign governments agreed not to interfere in Chinese internal affairs
or to carry out acts of aggression against China and Japan was one of the signatories of that nine power pact of course. Another treaty that was specifically referred to was the Kellogg Brianne pact of one thousand twenty eight the so-called renunciation of war a treaty under which the signatories and again Japan signed that agreement would resort to war as an instrument of national policy. Now this Stimson doctrine oddly enough was almost a word for word copy of a similar message that the Department of State under William Jennings Bryan had issued to the same two governments back in 1915. Back at the time of the 21 demands. No rightly or wrongly the United States government stood behind this. Stimson doctrine for the next 10 years
and it stood as a matter of fact you willingly behind this document it refused to recognize anything that Japan did inside China in Manchuria or in China proper after 1931. Now of course the difficulty here was simply that Japan from 1931 onward was equally convinced that everything that it did inside China was good not only good for Japan obviously but good for the Chinese as well. And so it was on this critical issue of what was happening inside China that relations between the United States and Japan steadily deteriorated from 1931 onward. Now that the critical next step however came on July 7th 1937 when Japan began its major
attack on China in China proper at this time. Now this meant that for a period of more than eight years from 937 to the summer of 1945 Japan was deeply involved in China and simultaneously the United States became deeply involved in China not militarily but in terms of policy and in terms of diplomacy. Now first of all and it was this development after July seven thousand nine hundred thirty seven that need the war between the United States and Japan in a very real sense inevitable. Now first of all what did Japan do to China in this critical period militarily. Well Japan gained control over much of Chinese territory. The Japanese never succeeded in carrying out to well what you might describe as a
full scale occupation of any area in China. That is a broad area inside China in which it carried out military operations. Rather it was an occupation that is sometimes been described as an occupation of lines and points. What the Japanese did was to control the major waterways the major rivers the sea coast of China to control the few railways lines that China had at that time. And of course Japan occupied and controlled almost all of the major Chinese cities and incidentally the Japanese carried out to these military campaigns. Roughly in the first two years after the summer of 1907. Now also and unfortunately for all concerned the Japanese military inside China was guilty of a series of proven atrocities. The
Japanese military authorities used terror as a means of controlling the population in those areas that were directly under Japanese control. Now above and beyond that there was what you might describe as a kind of an abstract issue of aggression. From the standpoint of the United States government and from the standpoint of American public opinion what the Japanese were doing was clearly military aggression. And of course historically Americans have taken a very dim view of what they have defined as military aggression. Now also the Japanese did some other things that provoked particularly an official reaction on the part of the United States. And that of course fell in the political field. The Japanese government put enormous political pressure on the Nationalist government of China. The
government of generalisable Jiang. The Japanese consistently argued particularly after midnight nine hundred thirty nine that they wanted to bring what they called the China incident to an end and the Japanese argued also that the only reason that they could not bring it to an end was that John Kai-Shek refused to listen and he refused to listen to the Japanese. According to the Japanese propaganda line because he had become a tool of the United States and Britain and that the United States and Britain were simply forcing him to continue to resist the Japanese for their own selfish interests. Now the Japanese as I've said attempted to win Jiang over but Jiang for his own reasons. After all he was the leader of a government a leader of his country refused to negotiate with the Japanese. Finally
in 1940 the Japanese established a Chinese puppet government. Some Chinese leaders decided for both their own reasons and for reasons relating to their country. That is they understood their country and these reasons to go over to the Japanese side to set up a government and to to rule China is a purely Chinese government carrying out the policies that the Japanese said were good for China particularly And ironically the suppression of the Communist movement and the liquidation of the Communist areas inside China. Now what the United States government had been doing was consistently supporting the Nationalist government of China not only since 1931 when the major Japanese aggression began. But again back to the Washington settlement from one thousand twenty two and even back beyond that the United
States government more than any other government had adopted a policy based on friendship and sympathy for the Chinese government. The important thing here is not that the United States had really done things out of friendship and sympathy which succeeded positively in helping China at any time from well roughly eight hundred seventy onward. But there was created within the United States government and in significant segments of the American people the feeling that one the United States was sympathetic towards China and the Chinese people. And we're acting in an attempt to help the Chinese now with this attitude. Both official and unofficial on the part of the United States had intensified a great deal from 1937 onward because the attitude was that China was the victim of aggression
and China and the Chinese people were worthy of the sympathy not only of Americans but all the rest of the world. And the United States government as a matter of policy extended both the limited economic and military assistance to China. Now this is distance again was not effective. But on the other hand from the Japanese point of view this assistance was not simply pro-Chinese but more importantly anti Japanese which in truth it was because the United States was taking about the only means that it could take in order to stand against this Japanese policy which was one eroding the American position in China and even worse making China and the Chinese the victims of aggression. You know obviously in the late 1930s this situation in China involving China the United States and Japan was imbedded in the far broader arena of
international political tensions because of course there was the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe the creation of a very grave political and military tensions. On the European continent particularly after 1933. Now the critical thing here of course was again the United States government adopted a policy with broad public support of opposition to Hitler in opposition to the Leni. Now in the mid-1930s actually in one thousand thirty six and one thousand thirty seven. Germany Italy and Japan joined together in the so-called axis alliance. This was initially a political alliance directed against international communism but it became more and more broader and broader alliance moving from political affairs to economic affairs to
cultural affairs and ultimately in the summer of 1940 to a full scale military alliance the military alliance not only drawing these two governments together but more importantly creating a confrontation with most of the rest of the world. Now notice then that Japan had aligned itself with two other governments both of which were unfriendly towards the United States. So consequently what was happening was simply that this confrontation which had started out as a confrontation between the United States and Japan in Asia was developing into part of a worldwide confrontation. You know the United States and Japan obviously were aware of the fact that a very serious diplomatic situation had developed between the two countries. And of course this was intensified by the outbreak of the European phase of the Second World
War in the late summer of 1989 and Hitler so-called blitzkrieg through Western Europe in the spring of 1040. Now by the spring or summer I should say of 940 Germany Italy and Japan were recognized beyond any question as the three great military powers of the world. And of course this was creating a very grave strategic problem for the United States. It was a problem that only the American High Command was really worried about because again in the United States the current of isolationism so-called was very strong indeed. Now early in the spring of one thousand forty one the United States government and the Japanese government agreed to hold a series of conversations. Highly secret of course
and to be held in Washington and the objective of these conversations was very simple to try to arrive at some kind of a general agreement which in turn would mean a relaxation of these tensions and of course the elimination of the possibility of war. Now these conversations continued through the re remainder of the spring of 1041 all through the summer and into the fall. As a matter of fact. Late in November of one thousand forty one. As far as we know every issue that was regarded as a difficult one in American Japanese relations was fully discussed by the representatives of the two governments in Washington and of course the Japanese government representatives were in full communication with the government in Tokyo.
What these conversations or better negotiations demonstrated beyond any question was that it was simply impossible for the two governments to get together. The United States government for example stood firm in the on the position that Japan should withdraw from China. That is going clear back to their gains in 1931. The United States also stood firm in its demands that Japan withdraw from the Axis alliance. Now these were only two of the critical issues. On the other hand the United States did make certain concessions to Japan in respect to economic affairs particularly And again this was designed to lessen the tension between the two countries and to make it possible for the two to exist together. On the other hand it is perfectly clear that Japan felt very definitely
that it could not deal particularly on the two issues that I've already mentioned in the first place. The Japanese were convinced that what they were attempting to do inside China was to the ultimate good not only to them the Japanese but to China as well. And in addition the Japanese felt very definitely that they could not abandon their wartime allies namely Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. So consequently late in November of one thousand forty one the United States support for what it regarded as being both the general principles and the specifics relating to a permanent and peaceful settlement of the problems existing between the United States and Japan. The Japanese government chose to regard these demands as an ultimatum and of course the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th
Japan: 1868-1968
Prelude to Pearl Harbor
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WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Four College Radio
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Producing Organization: WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Producing Organization: Four College Radio
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-35-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:44
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Chicago: “Japan: 1868-1968; Prelude to Pearl Harbor,” 1968-10-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 19, 2022,
MLA: “Japan: 1868-1968; Prelude to Pearl Harbor.” 1968-10-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 19, 2022. <>.
APA: Japan: 1868-1968; Prelude to Pearl Harbor. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from