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

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Page 18
America and Japan Spar Over China, 1939

On January 4, 1939, Prince Konoye was replaced as Premier of Japan by Baron Hiranuma. Hull believed Hiranuma was "a Japanese counterpart of the European Fascists and Nazis." In February Ambassador Grew reported that the Japanese were negotiating an alliance with Germany and Italy. Hull wanted to prevent such an alliance, but was not willing to make any concessions to accomplish that. [p. 627]

On February 10, 1939, Japanese troops invaded Hainan, "which previously had been claimed by France." Prime Minister Arita explained that Japan was not annexing Hainan, but using it to "strengthen her blockade of China." [628]

In March Japan claimed the Spratly Islands and more reefs and islands, also previously claimed by France. This was while Europe was focused on Germany's seizure of Czechoslovakia. [628]

The U.S. cruiser Astoria conveyed the body of former ambassador Hirosi Sato to Japan in March, and was welcomed by a section of the Japanese public wishing for peace and an alliance with the U.S. Cordell Hull then failed to reciprocate, expressly vetoing a goodwill visit by a Japanese naval vessel to the New York and San Francisco expositions. [629]

Hull also discouraged a goodwill visit by Prince Konoye. Hull sent a message requesting that instead Japan respect American "rights and interests in China." [630]

"On April 15 the President ordered the United States Fleet ... transferred back to the Pacific." Partly this was because of a request from Great Britain, which had cancelled plans to send a larger fleet to Singapore due to the impending war in Europe. [630]

In June 1939 "the British at Tientsin refused to deliver to Japanese authorities four Chinese accused of killing a Chinese puppet official, the Japanese carried out insulting reprisals against British subjects, forcing them, men and women, to strip and be examined before leaving the British enclosure." [630]

Hull rejected a proposal from Premier Hiranuma for a global peace conference to try to prevent the outbreak of war in Europe. Because "Japan constantly sought agreements or joint action with us which would have the effect of sanctioning all her brazen expansion in the orient up to that time."[631]

On July 6 and 7, President Roosevelt and Hull decided to protest the "indiscriminate bombing" of Chungking [then Chiang's capital] by Japan. The protest was handed to Ambassador Horinouchi on July 10, 1939. Hull again emphasized that his chief complaint was the closing off of China to American commercial interests. [632-634]

Horinouchi tried to explain to Hull that its policy towards Germany and Italy was because of her fear of Russia and Communism. Hull replied while the U.S. was anti-Communist, "we also abstain from any entanglements with European countries." [WPM: which is contradicted by his numerous statements about cooperating with Great Britain and other colonial powers] [634]

On July 24, 1939 Britain signed an agreement with Japan recognizing the "special requirements" for security of the Japanese in China. This upset the U.S. [635]

Around July, 1939 Hull and President Roosevelt agreed to take an action they had long considered, canceling the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan, which required 6 months advanced notice. They considered the need to extend the "moral embargo" on airplanes to a legal embargo. Senator Vandenberg had already introduced such a resolution in Congress. Hull sent a note on July 26 giving formal notice. Hull noted that he did not want the reaction in Japan to drive her into an alliance with Russia. [636-638]

Hull recounts U.S. policy in this period, which included helping China "as much as we reasonably could," so as to "prevent Japan from getting an easy peace with China." ... "In 1939, her military operations having begun to bog down, she was resorting to every device of economic trickery to engulf China's business." As a result when the European war broke out on September 1, 1939 Japan was bogged down in China and so unable to "move against other countries." [638-639]

On September 7, 1939 Ambassador Horinouchi reported to Hull that Japan was abandoning negotiations with Germany and Italy re joining the Anti-Comintern Pact. [639]

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