There was a time when the Japanese hoped to win a negotiated peace through the U.S.S.R. Probably about the time of Germany’s fall the foreign office received instructions to make a thorough investigation of Soviet foreign policy. Day and night the red-eyed experts pored over every speech, statement, inspired release, interview, and comment that had come out of the Kremlin since the start of the war. Finally the rather obvious conclusion was reached that the U.S.S.R. could follow three possible courses of action in East Asia: 1) Continued neutrality, which was eventually eliminated by notice of the Soviet Union’s intention to abrogate the non-aggression pact; 2) Entry into the war on the side of the Anglo-American powers at the last moment, in order to claim a share of the spoils; and 3) Positive arbitration of the war in order to enhance Soviet prestige as a peace-lover, a peace-maker, and an arbiter of the world. It was on this third, admittedly tenuous, possibility, that the Japanese pinned their hopes.
While the Japanese embassy in Moscow conducted the main campaign, the Soviet embassy in its evacuation center in Gora found itself the objective of a supporting action. We who were on the outside saw only slight hints and indications of these negotiations. Prince Konoe, well-padded with carefully groomed flesh, would spend a cryptic week-end at our hotel, 10 minutes by electric tram from the Soviets. A marquis would mention casually that Konoe and he had been treated to such a Czarist display of exquisite caviar and rare wines on the last time they had seen a Soviet newsreel in Gora. Or else a Chinese diplomat would tell with a chuckle the story that the Soviet ambassador, after accepting an invitation to dinner from Prince Konoe, had caught a diplomatic cold and had sent a secretary instead.
These days, however, in the negotiations are still kept a confidential story, it is only in chagrin and discomfiture. Prince Konoe had not been in Hakone for days. The Soviet embassy has no films to show except a newsreel on the fall of Berlin. The ghostly hope that the U.S.S.R. would save the warlords has finally been laid. The Soviet delegates sat side by side with the Chungking representatives at San Francisco. And following the developments at Potsdam with a glassy fascinating stare, the Japanese have seen their misgivings turn to doubts, their doubts to suspicions, their suspicions to apprehensions. There had been first the A1 dispatch, quoted by Domei, that “President Truman had succeeded in obtaining the consent of Marshal Stalin and Premier Churchill to placing East Asian issues at the top of the agenda”. Then there had followed “strong observations” that Truman and Stalin had actually “been negotiating on East Asian issues”. In the end there had come this solemn ultimatum which, though Stalin had not signed it, he must have seen over the shoulders of Truman and Churchill.
“The East Asian issue has entered into a period of decisive advance,” simpered the Asahi on the 27th. “If the report of an agreement on East Asian issues is true, then it must be based on the inevitability of war with the Japan as well as the alignment of the policies of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. regarding the continent of China.” But in this peaceful valley at the foot of Fuji, Japan’s attitude, at least toward the Soviet diplomats in Gora, has not undergone an “adjustment”. From their trim white modern hotel, overlooking the descending hills and the misty sea, they go out every day, with their chunky, flashily dressed ladies, to nod amiably to the awed neighbors the steep streets or to buy a handful of blue pearls and a dozen carnation-embroidered kimono from the submissive storekeeper of the diplomatic shop. They do not bargain.