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23rd April 1945

After three days of the hasty and perfunctory preparation, the ambassadors’ conference of Greater East Asiatic nations was opened today, a pathetic little popgun aimed at the San Francisco conference on the 25th. The entire program was carefully prepared in advance to the smallest detail; the various addresses and motions in both the so-called secret and open sessions were assigned and rehearsed beforehand; even the trivial formality of exactly who would second the nomination of the Japanese foreign minister as chairman of the conference was fixed. No one was deceived by the elaborate mummery. Yet how easy it would have been for the Japanese sponsors of the conference to deceive history. A few spontaneous suggestions, an appearance of disagreement and debate, would have given the records of the meeting a liveliness that might afterward pass for life. How transparent in contrast was the docile unanimity in which the conference was frozen for the fixture.

What is it in the Japanese character that makes them so afraid of anything short of perfection? Every ship sunk is sunk “instantaneously”; every battle is a victory and every victory an “annihilation”; every meeting, by the same token, must needs end in “complete agreement” with every vote “unanimous”. Surely in this conference they could not seriously have feared that a more or less free discussion would have led to conclusions even vaguely hostile to their overwhelming power in East Asia. Would any of the grave puppets present have dared to jerk the strings out of the hands of the puppeteer? Yet the managers of the conference acted as if they were afraid of an uncontrollable burst of recrimination arid abuse. What a commentary on Japanese imperialism that even the face-saving tributes to freedom and equality must needs be paid in servile formulas. The Burmese ambassador, who has often flashed a subtle wit, summarized the whole business neatly in a speech at the closing dinner. “We have had a very successful conference,” he declared, speaking in the name of all the ambassadors. “This noon we had a good lunch and now we have been given a splendid dinner.”