793.94/14690: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Peck) to the Secretary of State

98. Following is semi-official Central Daily News version of reported replies of General Chiang Kai Shek8 to interrogatories of foreign correspondents at Chungking on February 11 in regard to Japanese invasion of Hainan Island:

“Question: What is the intention of the Japanese in effecting a landing of their troops at Hainan Island?

Answer: In order to applicate [evaluate?] the significance of the Japanese landing at Hainan Island and its repercussions, we should consider the question of the Pacific Ocean as whole. Hainan Island is an important strategical point between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Should the enemy occupy the Island, not only would communications between Hong Kong and Singapore and also between Singapore and Australia be interrupted, but also the security of the Philippine Islands and Indo-China would be threatened. This would be the beginning of Japan’s naval dominance on the Pacific Ocean.

When the Island has come under Japanese control, the Japanese Navy would be able to make its influence felt in the Mediterranean [Page 106] [South China?] Sea to cut the connection between the American and British naval bases in Singapore and Hawaii. Therefore the present Japanese movement at Hainan Island in reality is in the nature of a reply to the visit of the American warships to Singapore last year.

Question: Why is it that the Japanese landing at Hainan Island is considered a prelude to Japan’s attempt at the control of the Pacific Ocean?

Answer: We all know that Japan has in mind three important strategic points in the Pacific: Saghalien Island in the north, Hainan Island in the west and Guam in the east. With a view to her complete naval domination of the Pacific, she has been keeping a covetous eye on all of the three bases. Should all these fall into her hands, both Hawaii and the Philippines would be as good as Japanese occupied territory. Having got possession of one-half of Saghalien Island, Japan is now trying to occupy Hainan Island in the hope of frustrating any possible concerted action that might be taken by the British and American Navies in the Pacific. If such a scheme goes on unchecked, Japan will next attempt to place herself in a position to control Guam. Eventually she would be able not only to hamper the westward movement of the American Fleet, but also to cut the line of communication with the Philippines.

For the furtherance of her southward expansion and the dominance of the Pacific, Japan for 30 years has been scheming to build a strategic triangle out of the three Islands. In 1936, when she provoked the Pakhoi incident,9 her intention was to use this as a pretext to establish herself on Hainan Island. For fear of international complications she dared not go any further than this. Now Japan, regardless of consequences, has invaded the Island. This move is the last desperate military attempt at the conquest of China if it is not for the purpose of inciting a world war. After several decades of hesitation, what Japan is now doing is the most important event since the commencement of the Chinese-Japanese hostilities, but it is also the turning point in the history of the Pacific Ocean. Japan has thus revealed her inordinate ambition. I do not see how those countries which have vital interests in the Far East can watch with unconcern these dangerous developments. To the Japanese Navy Hainan Island is the first line of advance in the Pacific in the west as Guam Island is in the east.

Question: Where then is the second line of advance? Smiling, the Generalissimo said that the people in Europe would be able to answer the question and that particularly the Americans well know the answer.

Question: To what extent would the Japanese occupation of Hainan Island affect peace in the Far East?

Answer: The attempt of the Japanese to occupy Hainan Island on February 10 may be considered a counterpart of their occupation of Mukden on September 18, 1931.10 In other words, by attacking the Island Japan has created another Mukden outrage in the Pacific. The effect from this is the same irrespective of the fact that one was committed on the land and the other in the sea.

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It may be recalled that during the Mukden outrage all the statesmen of the world with the exception of Colonel Henry L. Stimson, then American Secretary of State, failed to give it serious consideration. This enabled the Japanese to extend its scope of invasion continuously. Eight years have passed, and during that period, Japan has created for herself a dominating position in the Orient and has hypnotized herself into the belief that she is able to conquer the world. Should she be permitted to hold Hainan Island following the invasion of it, I believe that in a short time the foundation for her planned new air and naval base will be laid. As a consequence the international situation in the Pacific would undergo a great change. Even if France should then wish to establish a naval base in Indo-China, and the United States of America should desire to defend Guam, I fear that they would not have the needed time for doing so.

In making the present southward move Japan does not intend to use it for the termination of the Chinese-Japanese hostilities, but obviously she has made up her mind to run the risk of sowing the seeds for a war in the Pacific.

Question: What defensive measures has the Chinese Government taken in the Island?

Answer: Because of her lack of naval forces China has not given much consideration to the defense of her coast line, but her land forces have made sufficient preparations and would do their utmost to prevent the enemy occupying the Island. As to the possible Japanese attack on Pakhoi, we have taken necessary precautionary measures and are ready to offer strong resistance. All military observers hold the same opinion that the enemy’s attack on Pakhoi would only lead to it being placed in a more disadvantageous position without compensating benefits in its war of aggression.

Question: What is the effect of the Japanese landing at Hainan Island on the Chinese-Japanese hostilities?

Answer: No, it has little effect on our war of resistance. The issue will be fought out on land. The occupation of an island is inconsequent[ial].”

The Chinese press on February 11 commented at length on these moves of Japan, professing to see therein an added threat to the position of Great Britain, France and the United States in the Far East and calling for positive action on the part of these Powers to check this activity. The Sao Tang Pao regards the invasion of Hainan as a step in Japan’s southward expansion policy while the Sin Hua Jih Pao believes it was undertaken with a desire to prepare a base for attacks on Kwangsi. The China Times says Japan’s move on Hainan has three motives being: (1) to control Tongking Bay and threaten communications between Hong Kong and Singapore and encircle the Philippines as a “prelude to a diplomatic backmail”; (2) to intimidate France and force the latter to suspend transportation facilities through Indo-China to China; and (3) the hope of severing one of China’s international communication lines under the allusion [illusion?] [Page 108] that this will bring Japan one step nearer to scoring a speedy victory.

Repeated to Peiping.

  1. Chairman, Chinese Supreme National Defense Council.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. iv, pp. 281299, passim.
  3. See telegram No. 599, September 19, 1931, 2:30 a.m., from the Minister in China, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 1, and memorandum by the Minister in China, September 19, 1931, Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. iii, p. 10.