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The Sino-Japanese war
For many months the Sino-Japanese War has been a stalemate when one considers the actual fighting, with no indications that it will not continue indefinitely.
The most eventful happening during the last three months is the journey of Matsuoka, Japanese Foreign Minister, in mid-March to Moscow, Berlin and Rome, it having been announced just before Congress passed the Lease-Lend Bill. His stay in Europe was somewhat overshadowed by the coup d’Etat in Yugoslavia when the king was overthrown because of hostility to the agreement entered into by him with Hitler. This and the Ionian Sea battle, an Italian disaster, did not leave a very pleasant taste for Matsuoka at the banquets in Berlin and Rome. As we all know, however, Hitler’s armored entry into Greece changed greatly the diplomatic outlook; so, when Matusoka reached Moscow and signed the not-yet-quite-understood Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Axis march of agression was well on its way near-eastwards.
This Russo-Japanese Pact, signed 13 April, provided as stated in the New York Times, (1) “that Japan and the U.S.S.R. should ‘maintain peaceful and friendly relations between them ; (2) if either were attacked by a third power, the other should remain neutral; (3) in return for Russian recognition of the ‘inviolability’ of Japanese-dominated Manchukuo, Japan should recognize the ‘inviolability of the neighboring Soviet-supported Mongolian Peoples’ Republic.”
This new Soviet-Japanese agreement would seem to bear out the statement in the March Review, and reports from London in early May, that, despite the Axis-Japanese Alliance of 1940, Japan has preserved “the right to decline to join the Axis in conflict should it suit her if the occasion arises.”
While this new pact made no specific reference to the four-year-old undeclared war with China, it can be seen “that Japan, because of her public utterances and the publication, about 1 May, of “exploratory” peace terms embodying both the “incident” in China and World War II, would like very much to clear up the “incident” in order to be ready should the occasion arise for a movement southward, diplomatic, military or both.
With the Thailand-indo-China conflict settled to Japan’s liking in the treaty of 9 May in which Japan has been termed the underwriter, Japan has such a strong economic hold on French Indo-China that she can now march southward with both Indochina and Thailand furnishing her bases and economic aid whenever desired.
In April, Chiang-Kai-Shek’s Chungking government was considerably strengthened. Dr. John E. Baker, long-time adviser and administrator in China, was designated as Director of the Burma Road, bearing with it the hope that shortly the theoretical capacity of the road (20,000 tons of freight a month) will soon be realized. China is still fighting on, her millions still unsubdued. Early in April Chiang KaI Shek claimed the capture of Japanese outposts south of the Yangtze River and the destruction of some 20,000 Japanese troops.
On the other hand, despite the peace talk in Japan and the usual but more apparent conflict between the so-called “conservatives” and “military-fascist” elements, the Japanese Army early in May began a new offensive in Central China, which, by the middle of the month, had become a major campaign. Reports state the heaviest fighting has been in the region northeast of Paoki, with the Japanese trying to move south and west, together with other attacks against the Chinese along the western front in the region just north of the Yangtze. Counterattacks were made by the Chinese in the northern sector, resulting, according to Chiang Kai-Shek, with the capture of some territory by the Chinese.
Soviet Russia still continues to send military supplies to Chiang Kai-Shek in spite of the Soviet-Japanese pact, and neither Soviet nor Japanese troops have been withdrawn from the Manchuria frontier.
And so as June comes in Japan finds herself much in the same position as she has been for several months. She knows, with England not defeated, what a dangerous venture will be an offensive either toward Singapore (recently reinforced) or the Netherlands East Indies. With her export and import trade with other-than-the-Axis powers cut off, should she attempt a southward move, with her relations with Russia never a known factor in spite of the treaty, she really can do no more than remain in status quo trusting for an Axis victory and a British Empire impotent in Asiatic waters.
Source: Wordl War II. Military Review Vol XXI Nº 81.
Cheers. Raúl M
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