(JAPAN and EMPEROR HIROHITO, TO 1936 – continued)
The move by Japan's Kwantung Army in Manchuria won support in the press, and the military won the support from a good portion of the public, whose impulse was the same as the people of other nations in that it gave support to "our boys" in Manchuria. There were large public rallies, and common people donated money for the building of warplanes. Members of the army's general staff in Tokyo were outspoken in their opinion that it was unwise to restrain the activities of their officers in Manchuria.
A month into the crisis, the commander of the Kwantung Army, Honjo Shigeru, declared his intention to pacify all of Manchuria and Mongolia. This failure of the restraint that had been asked by Emperor Hirohito angered the emperor. According to Japan's constitution the military was responsible only to the emperor. Emperor Hirohito was disturbed by his lack of control over the military and by the government's loss of control over foreign policy. He spoke to a palace official about being unable to sleep at nights and about his belief in international justice and his desire to preserve world peace. He spoke of his worry about intervention by the Western powers and of Japan and its people being destroyed. Hirohito rejected the suggestion of his brother, Prince Chichibu – one year younger than he – that he take control of the government and suspend the Constitution if necessary. Hirohito told his brother that he would never do anything that would "besmirch the honor of his ancestors."
The world was stunned by Japan's aggressions in Manchuria. China appealed to the League of Nations, and the United States attacked Japan verbally. Japan's move in Manchuria was in violation of the League of Nations' covenant against making war, and its making war was a violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 – to which Japan was a party. Japan claimed at the League of Nations that it was not making war, that it was involved only in "police operations" to protect Japanese lives and property. Other members of the League refused to accept this, and on 24 October 1931 the League passed a resolution demanding that Japan withdraw from areas it had conquered. Japan voted against the resolution, and because such resolutions required unanimity, Japan interpreted it as not binding.
By mid-November, the Kwantung Army was in control of the sparsely populated northern portion of Manchuria. Then on December 24 it began an offensive southward along coastal territory towards China's Great Wall, using bomber aircraft. Chiang Kai-shek responded by ordering Zhang Xueliang to stop the Japanese advance, but Zhang Xueliang's demoralized army made no determined stand. The Japanese army's advance dismayed members of Chiang's government. The Japanese overran the cities of Chinchow on December 28. On 4 January 1932 it reached the town of Shanhaikwan, where the Great Wall meets the sea.
In December 1931, the nervous Wakatsuki had resigned as Japan's prime minister – his Democratic Party largely discredited by its lack of enthusiastic support for the military. Rising in popularity and forming a new government was the Constitution (Seiyukai) Party, a party with roots in rural areas, a party that favored cooperation with the military.
In January 1932, the United States sent a note to Japan proclaiming that it would not recognize any territory taken in violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Then late in January the trouble in Manchuria spread to Shanghai. A rise in hostility toward the Japanese among the Chinese had resulted in some incidents in Shanghai, including an attack on five Japanese persons, two of them Buddhist priests, one of whom died. The Japanese consul-general in Shanghai demanded reparations, and Japan's navy, encouraged by the success of the army in Manchuria, sent ships and over a thousand marines to Shanghai to backup the consul-general, with the international community in Shanghai welcoming the Japanese force as agents of law and order. The army sent reinforcements to Shanghai and started a drive from the city's International Settlement against one of China's armies nearby.
Criticism of Japan swelled in Western nations. Emperor Hirohito was again concerned that the Western Powers might intervene. He ordered a speedy conclusion to fighting around Shanghai, while hostilities around Shanghai were deteriorating into brutalities and atrocities. The international community was shocked by the ferocity of the fighting, which lasted one month, the Japanese using their navy guns, aircraft and incendiary bombs against China's capital, Nanjing, about 150 miles east of Shanghai.
In February 1932, Japan announced that it was making Manchuria an independent country, to include the province of Jehol (just north of the Great Wall and Beijing) and Inner Mongolia, areas the Kwantung Army did not yet control. The Japanese renamed the area Manchukuo, and its capital was to be Changchun. The official government of Manchukuo was to be an advisory council consisting of one Manchu, one Mongol, three Chinese and three Japanese – subordinate in reality to Japan's military.
Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.