After she first flurry over the cabinet change the press has had time to take up an even more significant development, the Soviet notice of abrogation of the non-aggression pact.
The Times, in its role of unofficial spokesman for the foreign office, is grimly optimistic in an editorial entitled “Neutrality: Pact and Fact”. “A formal document like a neutrality pact,” it argues, “does not of itself constitute an activating determinative of neutrality; rather it is the existence of the fact of neutrality which may give rise to such a legal instrument as a neutrality pact as its formal manifestation. With or without such a pact, Japan’s consistent policy of striving for neutrality and amity with all neighboring countries… is too thoroughly grounded in the nation’s inherent fundamental character to admit of any fluctuation. Hence neutrality will be preserved.” But the Times conclude with feeble menace: “Fully alive to the rapidly developing situation in Europe, however, Japan, in keeping with its consistently maintained policy, is fully prepared to cope with any eventuality in the international situation.”
The thesis of the Times is undoubtedly sound and even classic. Treaties do not make situations; it is situations that make treaties. But its hopeful conclusion that Japan can control the situation and preserve neutrality because she wants neutrality is only the worse half of the story. Soviet Russia now wields the initiative and it is Soviet policy that will enforce or destroy neutrality.
The Yomiuri is even more naive. In its editorial yesterday it invited Soviet Russia to step into Nazi Germany’s shoes. “The core of Nippon-Soviet relations” it insinuated blandly, was the fact that the “Soviet Union, which fights in Europe, wants to rebuild Europe and desires to establish there an unshakable national foundation” while “our country, which wants to eliminate the evil hands of exploitation from the lands of East Asia, aims to contribute toward the establishment of eternal world peace on the basis of the stabilization of greater East Asia.”
Once more the thesis is plausible, as plausible as it was in support of the axis with Hitler’s Germany. Japan, like Stalin’s Russia, seeks security in regional hegemony and there is consequently “no great difference in the ultimate aims and world outlook” of both. But once again the thesis stops short of the decisive reality. Japan and the U.S.S.R., unlike Japan and the Third Reich, are neighbors and by themselves threaten each other’s security.
The Mainichi is less tortuous. It is frankly resentful. The anomalous situation which the U.S.S.R. gave as the reason for abrogation “is nothing new”, it complains. “It has been in existence since more than three years ago. Yet throughout the subsequent extremely complicated international situation, our nation has most scrupulously observed the spirit and provisions of the treaty to the letter…. In spite of that… and based on its own will alone, the Soviet government has told us that the neutrality pact will no longer be effective upon its expiration…. Be that as it may,” concludes the Mainichi petulantly. “We do not ask what soviet Russia has up tor sleeve, what sort of tangled affairs there are between Nippon and Soviet Russia, how Soviet Russia is going to solve them, and what kind of measures she has broached to Nippon for their solution. We only wish to clarify our attitude at this opportunity. That is “concludes the Mainichi weakly, “there is no change at all in our desire that friendly Nippon-Soviet relations and the peace of East Asia be maintained during the next one year during which the Nippon-Soviet neutrality treaty remains valid.”
The Japanese are frightened, sorry that they did not scrap the pact when the U.S.S.R. needed it more than Japan, desperately anxious to postpone the inevitable. And the Soviets know it.
An Italian diplomat pointed out to me a curious thing. In Russia’s bad days in 1942 the Soviet diplomats in Japan went slinking in the streets, shabby and with heads hanging. Now all the men are flashily dresses; they walk arrogantly, twirling canes; and all their women wear hats (which nobody else does in Japan). I suppose they deserve it.
A Chinese diplomat told me that one must now pay 6,000 yen to hire a truck one way from Tokyo to Karuizawa; 3,000 yen from Tokyo to Miyanoshita (two hours and a half by train).
In the Fujiya lobby I found another Italian diplomat absorbed in a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
“What are you looking up?” I asked.
“Matches. I can’t get any and I want to see if I can make them myself.”