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America react to the Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931?
To begin with we have to analyze the situation around China and international relations between the U.S. And Japan as they were two major powers of the Pacific region for a long time after Russian Empire had collapsed. There is no doubt that China was a desirable region both for the U.S. And Japan as it had extremely rich natural resources and huge market for foreign goods (Chinese industry was not developed at all). Japanese imperialists and owners of leading American corporations dreamed of strengthening their positions in the region and gaining unlimited access to the huge Chinese markets and resources. Japan was a new superpower of the region after it rose from feudal country to developed industrial state and became a dangerous rival both for the United States and Russian Empire. After Russian Revolution, United States and Japan became the only true leaders of the Pacific region and it became clear that their interests would threaten each other in future because Japanese politicians realized the complicated situation of their country. Japan developed rapidly and lacked mineral resources for industrial growth, also increasing population forced Emperor to look for more lands on the continent and these facts meant that Japan was a potential aggressor in Asia the same as Germany in Europe. "After the World War I Japanese positions strengthened as European influence was eliminated and very soon Japanese military plans were directed on China"
But the U.S. influence on international relations of major states and participation in creating a new treaty system prevented Asia from Japanese aggression for a few years. Surely, it could not last forever as real international cooperation was necessary. The situation changed in 1929 during the world depression and global economical crisis which had very negative impact on Japan, so local nationalists insisted on aggressive foreign policy as it was the only way out for them to preserve Japan from disaster. As army generals had a great influence on state's foreign policy and it is important that some of them were sure that "The army would create a greater Japan, one that conquered the resources ..."
Imperialist aggression began with occupation of Manchuria by Japanese Kwantung Army and this action changed the situation in the region as all states including the United States realized that war against Japan became inevitable as China was not the only place Japan was interested in.
So, let us try to find out what were Japanese plans for Manchuria and why did they need capturing that land.
Manchuria or even whole China were not main targets of Japanese aggression. Emperor Hirohito had a great plan of conquest according to which Japan had to capture China and Pacific coast of Soviet state including Sakhalin Island. Japanese generals were sure that war against United States was inevitable in future and Japan needed more strategic territories to wage a war, first of all eastern parts of Soviet Union because they were located close to Alaska -- next point of Japanese aggression. But there was one problem -they could not worsen relations with the U.S. because "The United States was Japan's most important market"
. So Japanese leaders decided to improve their positions in the Far East first. Another reason was simple wish to have an access to Soviet mineral resources which could supply Japanese industry because its economical growth depended on colonial conquests. Some historians admit the fact that there was one reason more: fear of revolution in Japan itself. Japanese historian T. Tomine wrote the following: "Japanese Emperor considered Soviet Union as the main factor of instability in the region ... He was sure that Japan had to eliminate Soviet influence before the possible war against the U.S."
So we can see that leaders of this country had different reasons for war and Japan became a real aggressive state which lacked land and mineral resources. That meant that Pacific region would become the same war theater as Europe and this fact determined major participants of future conflict in the Pacific: Japan, United States and Soviet Union.
Ultimately Japanese ambition for territory led to seizure of Manchuria and some other Chinese territories by forces of Kwantung Army after numerous provocations against Chinese government. Rana Mitter wrote that "The moment in 1931 when the Kwantung Army began occupation of Manchuria can be seen as part of a process that had started at the beginning of the century" because Japanese interests in Manchuria and nearby Chinese territories were well-known in the United States (since 1917) and U.S. officials didn't mind those plans, so this means that Japans were sure that they should not fear U.S. reaction or League of Nation's decisions. This political mistake made Japans free in their actions and sure they used this great opportunity.
Though Chinese and Korean population resisted and even unleashed guerilla warfare they were not able to defeat strong and experienced enemy. Japans caused thousands of casualties among local population (now Japanese historians try not to mention this fact) so that aggression could not be excused by anything but League of Nations did nothing to prevent or to punish the aggressor. International community didn't help China which tried not to resist Japanese troops as government was sure that League of Nations would force Japans get out of Manchuria and the conflict would be stopped without military actions. The next day League of Nations advised both sides to move troops back. But Japanese Emperor and his officials kept silence and continued occupation. Later (in October) League of Nations held a vote to force Japanese troops out of Manchuria. That vote was passed (13 to 1) but Japan didn't react again. "After seizure Japanese occupants established Manchukuo puppet state in Manchuria and their politics there had only one aim- to overcome the resistance of local population."
Manchuria was turned in Japanese colony and local administration was considered by native inhabitants as collaborative.
This tragic event was a first real test for the international security system and it showed that humanity was still not protected from tragic mistakes which led it to the WWI. Great Britain and France were leading countries in League of Nations but they didn't wish to use armed forces at all, particularly in Asia. At the same time United States didn't participate in that organization and could not influence the situation. Britain as usually was neutral and wanted to cooperate both with China and Japan. Moreover, Europe was sure that Japanese offensive was legal. "The exception was the Soviet Union, for which Japan's action raised pressing questions about defense capabilities in the Soviet Far East"
but even Soviets didn't wish to worsen relations with Japan as they were not ready to wage a war in Asia. In addition Soviet Union was not popular in the organization because of Communist ideology and was treated by major European states as the most potential enemy. So, we can see that seeds of war were planted in Asia a long time before the Nazi threat in Europe and Japanese offensive in Manchuria showed that Emperor Hirohito didn't want to solve problems of his country in peaceful manner; his only aim was spreading Japanese influence all over the Pacific including sphere of the U.S. national interests.
There is no doubt that United States was anxious about Japanese threat but the same as Soviet Union USA was not ready to wage a war against such strong and experienced enemy as Japan which had the strongest Navy in the region and also had large land forces. When analyzing American diplomacy toward Japan in 1920 ies we can find out that the most accurate description of our foreign policy toward this country was wish to limit Japanese influence in the region, restrict Japan's growth and power but not to worsen our relations and convince Japan in friendly position of the U.S. American diplomacy didn't change this point-of-view in early 30 ties as well but sure, Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931 influenced American-Japanese relations.
So let us research American reaction after Japanese aggression in China and find out what were the main political aims of American diplomacy of that period.
After Japanese Kwantung Army had occupied strategic points in South Manchuria, in other words completed occupation of this territory, U.S. Minister in China Johnson sent a telegram dated September 22 to the Secretary of Sate Stimson where he wrote that occupation of Manchuria was "an aggressive act by Japan apparently long planned and when decided upon most carefully and systematically put into effect. I find no evidence that these events were the result of accident nor were they the acts of minor and irresponsible officials."
. Also Johnson wrote that Japan occupying Manchuria broke the international law (so called Kellogg Treaty) according to which Japan renounced war "as an instrument of national policy." Johnson had analyzed the situation and proved that occupation was a real act of aggression which could be considered by the…[continue]
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