Chapter IV
The Far Eastern Situation

THE JAPANESE ARE A PEOPLE OF CONSIDERABLE qualities. They have grown up quickly and, from having kept most excellent company among the nations in the past, it might appear, if one took every utterance at its face value, that their extremists, at least, are now following the lead of the evildoers among the nations in the hope of getting quick and easy returns. These extremists possibly dream vain dreams in which they see the ' Rising Sun ' supplanting the flags of other nations everywhere throughout the Far East. They are men of a very different stamp from the Elder Statesmen of the past and the great Japanese Liberals who between them so wisely shaped the destinies of Japan in the nineteenth and the early years of this century. To-day, the Japanese have their timeserving friendship with the Germans, even as have the Italians. The Italians need not be told of the contempt in which the Germans hold them. But the Japanese might, with advantage to themselves, indulge in a little quiet reflection on whether it is


consonant with their honour to consort with Germans, who hold them in small regard, who consider them a menace to white civilization and who are using them as catspaws just so long as they think it may serve a useful purpose to do so.

Japanese activities in the Far East latterly have given cause for grave disquiet, but, in fairness, it can only be assumed that many of these activities owe their inspiration to Japan's German friends. Inasmuch as the Netherlands are at war with Germany, Germans endeavour to agitate the Japanese into exploiting to the extreme limit any 'nuisance value' which 'demands' may have. It was reported recently that the Japanese 'demands' of the Netherlands Government included a desire to exploit the so-called outer islands of the great Dutch archipelago, and that the Japanese also wished to establish an air-line in the Indies. They are also reported to have demanded mining and fishing concessions, to have asked that their doctors and dentists should be allowed to practise and that they should be allowed to organize Japanese small businesses throughout the territories. Apart from these, there were other demands, varying from the great to the small.

This is hardly a moment when the Netherlands Government can enter into discussions with Japan or any other neutral or "non-belligerent" nation


other than on subjects of a purely economic nature. In any case, there are good reasons connected with the maintenance of internal order why it would be impossible ever to accede to most of these Japanese 'demands.' But there is one over-riding principle which clearly animates Netherlands statesmanship at the present time, namely, that the sovereignty of a nation in its own territories is absolute and cannot be questioned. The Netherlands Government through a high official in the East Indies, who has been given the personal title of Envoy Extraordinary, and through the Netherlands Minister in Tokyo have made it abundantly clear to the Japanese Government that they are not prepared to enter into political discussions. The Japanese, with their strict control of foreigners within the confines of their own territories, should be among the first to appreciate the Dutch view. The Netherlands Government and their representatives in the East Indies do not take their responsibilities lightly. They know but too well that they need to hold the balance fairly as between the several colonies of their Oriental nationals who help to swell the population of their possessions; they have no intention of permitting anything to occur which might interfere with their enlightened policy towards the native peoples and place them at the mercy of any other nation which


might incline towards the pursuance of another policy.

A special Japanese emissary, who has been in Java for some months, has been discussing economic questions with his Netherlands hosts, but it has clearly been difficult for the Japanese to avoid making demands which have gone beyond the scope of the talks. Such demands, even if they might be fit subjects for consideration in peace-time, can only be rejected in toto when a nation is at war.

There is no conceivable legitimate reason why special concessions of any nature should be made by the Netherlands Government to the Japanese any more than to the Siamese or the people of Outer Mongolia or Turkestan.

Neither the Netherlands Government, the local East Indies authorities, the Dutch people in the Netherlands, nor, as important as any, the local population in the Netherlands East Indies possessions--be they Javanese, Madurese, Sundanese, Ambonese, Hollander, or other subject of the Queen, whatever their race--desire other than to be left at peace in their Eastern territories, unworried by threat or disturbance, interference or breaches of the peace in any form.

At times certain organs of the press dive into the depths of fatalism and believe that the fate of the


Indies 'rests solely on the arbitrament of force, either in Europe or the Far East.'1 This is a defeatist view of a complex state of affairs, best left unspoken.

Much of the recent excitement and speculation as to the effect of diplomatic moves and political aims--both expressed and implied--on the subject of the Netherlands East Indies, has been no more than propaganda. From certain statements which have been put into circulation, it might almost be thought that the Japanese, not satisfied with their present position as a world power, have been of a mind to bring pressure to bear on the Netherlands Government in order to induce or oblige that Government to agree to the inclusion of the Netherlands East Indies possessions in a vague, inimitative, undefined and wholly unacceptable 'New Order' in the Far East--a suggestion which the Netherlands Government have rejected summarily through the medium of the Netherlands Minister to Japan. The Netherlands Government have left the Tokyo Government in no doubt whatsoever that they are not prepared to enter into any huckstering talks regarding their Far Eastern territories. They see no necessity for 'political' discussions which the Japanese have wished to link up with economic talks. They


have no intention of giving special privileges of a political nature to any other nation, though of course the field is open to all-comers who wish to indulge in legitimate activity within the framework of Netherlands East Indies law and who, while enjoying Netherlands East Indies domicile, have a proper respect for the sovereignty of Netherlands authority as by law constituted.

The negotiations between the Netherlands authorities and the Japanese Government date back to July 1940 when the Netherlands Minister at Tokyo received a communication from the Japanese Government in which it was said that Japan wished to send an economic mission to the Netherlands East Indies in order to discuss freely economic questions of mutual interest. In due course Mr. Kobayashi, the Japanese Minister of Trade and Industry, arrived at Batavia as leader of the Japanese mission. Dr. H. J. van Mook, Director of the Department of Economic Affairs in Batavia, was appointed as chief delegate to negotiate with Mr. Kobayashi, and for this purpose was given the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. It soon appeared that the Japanese Minister was concerned in the first instance with obtaining supplies of oil. Discussions on this subject were conducted by the several oil companies with the representative of the Mitsui Bushan


Kaisha. By November an understanding was reached and it was agreed that the companies concerned would supply Japan at the rate of 1,936,000 tons of petroleum per annum, for an initial period of six months. This agreement has since been extended for a further period of six months. Several weeks previously, the leader of the Japanese delegation, Mr. Kobayashi, had been recalled to Japan, and his successor was appointed in the person of Mr. Yoshizawa, a former Japanese Ambassador, and the negotiations were resumed. To get these negotiations in a proper perspective, it is essential that attention should be paid to the factual basis on which they rest. Actually, in the past less than 3 per cent, of Netherlands East Indies exports have gone to Japan and Formosa, though 15 per cent, of the territories' imports have been received from Japan, covering an exceedingly wide variety of goods, though in the main cotton textiles. These figures indicate that trade between the Netherlands East Indies and Japan, though considerable, is not of such overwhelming importance that there is even a prima facie case for Japan being given a privileged position. This statement is proved the more conclusively by a reference to shipping entrances and clearances. In 1938, the latest year for which figures are available, 1,204 Japanese ships exceeding 1,000 cubic metres entered and cleared


Netherlands East Indies ports, but the comparative figure for British ships was 10,204, and that for ships flying the Netherlands flag 15,887. This does not make the Japanese case look impressive. It might be thought, too, from recent excitement, that there is a considerable Japanese colony in the Netherlands East Indies. Actually, the number of Japanese in the whole of the territories is less than that of the Germans and Austrians combined. And there are only 7,000 or so of the latter, though, per contra, there are 1,200,000 Chinese in the territories, of whom over 400,000 are not of Netherlands East Indies birth.

The negotiations which Mr. Kobayashi and Dr. van Mook, the Netherlands Envoy Extraordinary, have been conducting, are an almost direct result of Japan's present economic position, which, owing to that country's dearth of raw materials and military adventures overseas, is beginning to show a strange and unhappy resemblance to that of another partner in the Axis, which was once described in the London Times as a land of fecund women and sterile soil. One of the prime factors in economic nationalism is the urge to secure control not only of the products of another's territory, but also of the territory itself, so that it may be exploited on the lines dictated by the economy of the particular country concerned.


Economic nationalism or economic self-containedness is the last resort of a nation which has wasted its substance and finds itself unable to buy freely in the world's markets. Japan needs raw materials and Japan has a growing population which has a very simple standard of living hardly comparable with that of any Western European nations. Japan, understandably perhaps, would like to own sources of those raw materials which she needs, together with an outlet for her 'surplus' millions. Of course, there are fallacies in the argument, since Japan's sole natural wealth comes from her wealth-producing machine--those teeming millions which she would like to see producing wealth for her in other territories blessed with rich natural resources. In territories of this description Japanese workers could produce and be paid in Japanese yen, and thereby Japan would obviate the trying necessity now imposed upon her of having to find a sufficiency of foreign exchange wherewith to purchase cotton, rubber, tin and a host of other raw materials in overseas markets. Japan, of course, could remedy this in a simple manner by resorting to those praiseworthy practices which won for her the respect of the world a generation ago, and by refraining from indulgence in military adventures overseas. After all, Hermann Goering did coin the phrase 'Guns or Butter,' And it is a good phrase, one of which


the Japanese, no doubt, are commencing to understand the full implication.

Dominating factors of this nature cause the less responsible-minded men in Japan to cast a covetous eye towards the* Netherlands East Indies, though there is every reason to think that their views are not shared by those Japanese of more balanced outlook. It all depends on what is meant by the parrot-cry 'New Order.' Mr. Matsuoka, the Japanese Foreign Minister, has visions of a 'Greater East Asia,' but never has there been the slightest reference in any official Japanese utterance to possible aggressive action against the Netherlands East Indies. Admittedly, in the days when the liberal-minded Mr. Hirota was the Japanese Foreign Minister, Admiral Takayashi made a reference to the Japanese fleet 'extending its cruising radius to the Celebes,' and it cannot be denied that in the course of the Japanese Envoy's conversations with Dr. van Mook in Java, the Japanese envoy has asked for leave to assist in the development of Dutch New Guinea, but who can think that the Japanese have any present bellicose intent in those regions when they know that the British and American naval forces, not to overlook the small but powerful fleet of the Dutch themselves, would need to be out of the way before such an adventure could be undertaken, All in all, therefore, it must be


assumed that the Japanese Government are animated by the honest desire, impelled thereto by economic difficulties, to secure raw materials, but that they have no intention of making an attack on the Netherlands East Indies in order to secure what they need, much as their extremists may shout. After all, every nation has its extremists and its jingoistic press. The Japanese have to put up with this in even greater measure than most.

But all these circumstances do not give the Japanese the right to any preferential position in the Netherlands East Indies. The 'New Order' and 'Greater East Asia' dream, boiled down to simpler language, means that the Japanese wish to secure such a preferential position, which does not appear to mean actual control of territory, in every part of the Far East and the Pacific within cruising radius of their fleet. But it is well that the Japanese should know that their recent methods have made them unpopular even amongst those Asiatics for whose welfare they profess such deep concern. 'We do not want to be interfered with by any foreign power,' Hadji Agoes Salem, the prominent Islam Nationalist leader in the East Indies, mentioned in an earlier chapter, has declared with emphasis and by way of warning.

Mr. Matsuoka's plan may be an honest desire to bring about closer political co-operation in the Far


East. If this is the case, then clearly he has set about his task in the wrong way. It is to be doubted, bearing in mind Japan's present political associates, whether any would be willing to concede to Japan the position of primus inter pares, A few among the weaker Eastern nations there may be who are ready to join an Asiatic 'bloc,' but the position of the Government of the Netherlands is clear, and has been stated expressly in the People's Council in Java:

The Government need not emphasize that they reject a 'new order,' which would include the Netherlands East Indies in an Asiatic 'bloc' and which would imply the collaboration of a particular Power, while failing either to take into account or promote world economy. It is a matter of vital concern for the Netherlands Indies that not only complete internal sovereignty should be maintained, but that satisfactory economic relations with all parts of the world--which, owing to transport difficulties, are now cut off--shall be resumed on a wide a scale as possible, as soon as conditions permit.


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