Memorandum by Mr. Willys R. Peck, of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs


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It would obviously be rash to prophesy what course Japan will adopt. If Japan believes that she can afford to await the outcome of the German war against Russia and the German war against Britain, she will do so and then attack the weaker victim. Either attack would tend to promote a German victory, and thus run violently counter to the policies and the interests of the United States. A Japanese attempt to conquer Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, even if it were not successful, would inevitably cut off supplies vital to the United States of rubber, tin and other commodities, while the successful occupation of the coast of Siberia would give Japan undesirable strategic advantages in respect of our outposts in the Aleutian Islands, of Alaska, and the north Pacific. In view of Hitler’s present successes in Russia, it seems on the whole more probable that Japan will decide to invade Siberia than continue her southward expansion.62

In these circumstances, with Japan urged to take some form of military action, prompted by fear or by greed, one fact stands out as indisputable. It is more than ever urgent that China’s resistance to Japan shall be intensified, to the end that more and more of Japan’s armed striking force shall be immobilized and dissipated in the “China Incident”. Japan’s voluntary withdrawal from China without achieving a victory would, in itself, be suicidal; from the Japanese viewpoint it would be unthinkable. “The Immutable Policy of the Throne” would become a jest.

The advantage of this situation to the United States seems clear. By encouraging China to ever greater efforts against Japan, by dragging Japan into deeper and deeper involvement in the China hostilities, the United States can work powerfully toward the achievement of some of her principal objectives, among them the maintenance of the status quo in the Far East, the preservation of our rubber and tin supplies, the safeguarding of the Philippine Islands, the aiding of Russia against Germany, and the aiding of Britain. Progress toward these objectives can be made without giving any provocation whatever to Japan to depart from her “neutrality”. The means to accomplish this is to increase by every possible device the speed of delivery [Page 289] and the volume of the lend-lease supplies going to China. China, practically unaided, has “contained” an army of almost a million Japanese troops for four years. With the American trucks, artillery, ammunition, planes and the other equipment she has listed, China can go far toward involving so much of Japan’s strength as to make the thought of a major war on another front practically impossible. The Chinese are eager to fight for their liberty; in aiding them to fight for and to gain their liberty, we shall be taking the most effective course open to us of achieving our own ends, as well as theirs. The sending of military supplies to China is a measure of the highest statesmanship.

  1. Marginal notation on original by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck): “Contingent on German success or lack of success in Russia. S. K. H.”