761.94/612: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

127. During recent months a series of incidents has occurred between Japan and/or “Manchukuo” on the one side and the Soviet Union on the other side, including:

The Chinese Eastern Railway dispute.
The killing of three Japanese fishermen by Soviet agents in Kamchatka.
The trespass of a Japanese naval force on Soviet territory.
The arresting of fishing vessels of each country by the other country.
A border fight in Manchuria between Japanese and Soviet guards.
The arrest by the Soviets of a group of White Russian spies who it is claimed were backed by the Japanese military, and
The belief in Japan that Feng Yu-hsiang90 who recently captured Dolonor is being supplied with arms by the Soviets.

Similar incidents have occurred from time to time in the past but at present there are indications that the Japanese are endeavoring to make capital of the incidents for some as yet undetermined reason. It is possible that the military are utilizing these incidents to create another emergency in order to assist them in obtaining their defense budgets for the next fiscal year, or it is possible that the military have decided that a clash with the Soviets is inevitable eventually and that it had best take place before the Soviets become too powerful, time being on the side of the Soviets. In support of the hypothesis that the present strain between Japan and the Soviets may become serious the following facts may be cited.

In order to maintain their present prestige and authority the Japanese military will find it necessary to proceed to further imperialistic adventures.
It is reasonably certain that the Japanese military hope eventually to control Vladivostok in order to remove the menace of the Soviet air base there.
The present method of working up incidents bears a close resemblance to the method used before the occupation of Manchuria.
A spokesman of the War Office recently informed the Military Attaché that relations with the Soviets are becoming more strained and that the situation has “many possibilities”.
A spokesman for Manchukuo has announced that it will take possession of the Chinese Eastern Railway by force if the present sale negotiations fail.
The Fourth Fleet of the Japanese Navy is believed to be stationed at present in northern waters and a press ban has been placed on the movements of naval vessels in those waters (this however may be connected only with maneuvers).
The Ninth Division of the Japanese Army has recently been engaged in extensive combined land and air maneuvers on the Japan sea coast opposite Vladivostok.
Extensive air defense maneuvers are to be held in August, while the residents of the large cities are to be instructed in methods of taking refuge during air raids.
Visitors to Hokkaido report an air of tension there.
There are indications that the Soviets are becoming tired of turning the other cheek.

While the Embassy does not believe that there is imminent danger of war, it does believe that the situation has dangerous potentialities and should be closely watched.91 The headstrong policy and ambitions of the Japanese military clique cannot be gauged by Occidental standards and therefore constitutes a disturbing and unpredictable factor in any attempt to estimate the situation.

In this connection see my despatch No. 472 of July 13, 1933.92

Repeated to Peiping.

  1. Self-proclaimed “Commander in chief of the People’s anti-Japanese Allied Armies.”
  2. In despatch No. 483, July 28, the Ambassador in Japan reported that the recent tension was relaxing and that “The various incidents which led to uncertainty and strain have either been settled or minimized while new developments have not been seized upon by Japan with such aggressive alacrity.”
  3. Not printed.