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Notes on The Memoirs of Cordell Hull
by William P. Meyers

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Page 11
Naval Rivalry Between U.S. and Japan in 1934

Ambassador Saito requested a secret meeting with Cordell Hull which took place on May 16, 1934 in the Secretary of State's home. The point seemed, to Hull, to be that Japan wanted U.S. cooperation in allowing Japan "to establish a reign of law and order in the regions geographically adjacent to their respective countries." In other words, Japan sought to do in Asia what the U.S. had long done in the Western Hemisphere. Hull believed the Monroe Doctrine was good, but that the Japanese wanted to use an equivalent doctrine in East Asia was bad. [281]

Hull says "the Far East was being threatened by no foreign nation whatever." [WPM: a strange statement given the colonial status of much of Asia, and given the U.S. history of throwing imperial Spain out of its American colonies whenever possible.] The Japanese proposal meant non-Asian imperialist nations "would be frozen out of the Pacific area and could not enter it except under such arbitrary terms and exactions as Japan might impose." [282]

Hull told Saito the Roosevelt administration was changing American policy to not use military force so much against its neighbors, by way of suggesting that Japan refrain from using force to "police" East Asia. [282]

After mentioning a June 1 lunch with Fumimaro Konoye, then President of the House of Peers, Hull says he was then supposed to be a liberal, not a militarist, then attacks his later record. [286]

The crux: "Japan's exuberant trade expansion with cheap goods created difficulties between our two countries then and in the years to follow. We were ... forced to put increased duties on some Japanese products." Hull rejected Saito's proposal for a mutual balance of trade. [286]

Hull says that when he became Secretary of State the U.S. Navy was under its allowance from the 5-5-3 ratio established with Britain and Japan in 1922. After Roosevelt became President it was announced that the U.S. would build its fleet back up to treaty strength. The Japanese military countered by getting approval for higher funding. "Military expenditures were rising to nearly half the total national budget." The Japanese Navy hoped parity with the U.S. and Britain would be negotiated at the 1935 London Naval Conference. Hull points out that the U.S. and Britain were far wealthier than Japan, so if the U.S. expanded its Navy it would be difficult for Japan to keep up financially. He indicates the Japanese were willing to keep the Navies at par at their present sizes. When Britain also protested the buildup of the U.S. Navy, Hull claimed it was for the purpose of creating employment for some of the 12 million unemployed. [286-287]

The Japanese refused to renew the 5-5-3 naval treaty, and the U.S. refused the proposal to redo it at 5-3-3. The Japanese announced on December 29, 1934 that they would not renew the treaty, which would expire on December 31, 1936. [290]

The Crossroads: Hull saw two paths forward. One was to essentially withdraw from the Far East. "There were many who would support us in such a policy, believing that war might thereby be avoided, while the United States could continue to exist without the trade of the Orient." [290]

Instead Hull and Roosevelt decided to insist "on our legitimate rights and interests in the Far East." This would mean "adequate military preparedness" and an alliance with Great Britain. [WPM: In other words, in late 1934 the Roosevelt regime was determined to go to war with Japan if necessary to maintain U.S. dominance in East Asia.] [290-291]

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