Monday, May 17, 2021

The Manchurian Incident - Imaginative Exercise

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Dear Henry

Thank you for your letter. My reply details the circumstances leading up to and including the recent incident at Mukden, and the actions of our military in response. I have also explained our current economic and political standing on certain issues which will help you understand our perspective on these events. I also aim to assure you of my government's peaceful intentions for Manchuria.

We have experienced major difficulties in our relationship with China over the past few years. Of concern has been the influence exerted by Communists within the Nanking government, as well as internal dissension within the administration. In 18 our emissary to China, Gonsuke Hayashi, spoke with the leader of the Kuomintang, Young Marshal Chang Hseuh-Liang, regarding this situation. Hayashi stressed that Japan was willing to assist Chang in suppressing dissident elements within his ranks. This help was refused, and Hayashi made it very clear that Japan would not hesitate to intervene in Chinese affairs if Japanese subjects and interests were threatened. This echoed a statement made in 15 by General Shirakawa of our Kwantung Army. Recently, Chinese behaviour towards Japan has become increasingly hostile. A prime example of this is the assassination of a Japanese citizen, Shintaro Nakamura, on the grounds of spying.

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On the 18th of September at approximately 1000pm, a section of the South Manchurian Railway north of Mukden was blown up by Chinese soldiers as a prelude to a general assault on the Japanese police force. These soldiers also attacked Japanese citizens at the Mukden station. My government wished to avoid a military solution to the problem; indeed, I personally sent Major General Tatekawa directly to Manchuria with a message requesting a peaceful solution to the impending crisis. Unfortunately he was not able to deliver this message in time.

Under these circumstances, Lieutenant General Shigeru Honjo of the Kwantung Army, assisted by Colonels Itagaki and Ishihara and General Miyake, have decided to quell hostilities by means of the military occupation of Manchuria. This is required in order to protect the Japanese population and significant capital investment in Manchuria from the obviously aggressive intent of Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang Army. I must stress that we do not intend to colonise Manchuria, and will seek to quickly establish a Chinese administration.

Our interests in Manchuria are of vital national importance. Since the economic crash of the 10's, unemployment in Japan has been intolerably high. Our silk industry has been ravaged as a result of the dramatic decrease of imports to the United States. As Japan has few natural resources of great abundance, this downturn has been catastrophic for our economy. Manchuria, however, is rich in those resources we lack and desperately need, namely coal and steel.

Manchuria also assists us with our problem of overpopulation, which currently exceeds 700,000 people per year. At the end of the Great War our colonial acquisitions, which included Shantung Province, Siberia and northern Sakhalin, were denied us at the Washington Conference. Our government representatives at the conference cooperated with the requests of the Western powers in the face of extreme opposition from our own military. Deprived of these colonies, the options available to us for the relocation of our citizens have been severely limited. We do (pointedly) note that Britain and France, and, to a lesser extent, the United States, have not only retained their pre-war colonies, but have added significantly to them.

The refusal of Britain to renew the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, along with your own country's anti-Asiatic immigration laws, have exacerbated our problems. It has also served to promote a feeling among our people of "anti-Westernism", and their desire for the government to solve these problems by approaching the issues from a nationalistic, militaristic viewpoint. This is particularly the case with the Japanese military.

The reduction of the size of our naval fleet as a result of the Washington Conference has bred much ill feeling between the military and the government. This ill feeling, in fact, led to the assassination of Premier Hamaguchi. The reduction (to 60% of the size of the British and American fleets) came at a time when the Navy chiefs were planning to radically increase spending on our fleet.

You will agree that Japan has behaved admirably on the world stage. We have endeavoured to cater for our growing population by fostering friendly trade relationships with other nations. We have not attempted to take lands or markets by force. In the spirit of post-war peace, Japan has tried to solve her problems by the peaceful expansion of our commercial interests and relationships. It was not the intention of my government to intervene militarily in Manchuria, but circumstances have led to the Kwantung Army taking their own action.

This temporary occupation of Manchuria is vital for the stability of the region. With the threat of Communism to the north in Russia, and the rumblings of a serious Communist threat from within China itself, a Japanese presence in Manchuria will serve as a bulwark against the spread of a doctrine which would endanger not only Japan, but the colonial interests of many countries, including the United States.

Yours sincerely,

Wakatsuki Renjiro

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