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George Stern

Behind the Lines

Anglo-American Deal Gives Japan Pause in Far Eastern Grabs

(14 September 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 37, 14 September 1940, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Roosevelt-Churchill deal to swap U.S. destroyers for bases on British territory in the Western Atlantic has caused the pendulum to swing once more in the Pacific. Japan was all but ready a week or so ago to begin, by invading French Indochina, to capitalize on the prospective German victory in Europe. The Anglo- American deal – or more properly speaking, its profound implications – gave Tokyo pause. Tokyo cannot count right now on the early departure of the U.S. fleet from Pacific waters. It cannot be too sure of the total collapse of Britain in the wake of France. It has consequently to revert to a more cautious policy.

As a first result, the Japanese “ultimatum” to the French Indochinese authorities of a week ago simmered down to “negotiations.” The French there, it appears, have already bowed to a Japanese demand for the right to land troops in Indochina and to transport them to the Chinese border. This right the Japanese will hold on to but for the moment are likely to be judicious in their exercise of it.

Secretary of State Hull’s strong statement last Thursday warning Japan not to prove the truth of newspaper reports of an impending invasion of Indochina immediately revealed the new temper in Washington resulting from the destroyer deal announced by Roosevelt two days earlier.

Behind the destroyer-base deal correspondents were encouraged to see the framework of a broad collaboration amounting to what Hanson Baldwin in the New York Times called an “unofficial alliance” between Britain and the United States. To the Japanese this means chiefly the prospect of a U.S. fleet based on Singapore collaborating with British – and probably Dutch East Indian – forces to resist any Japanese pressure southward.

The issue continues to rest, however, upon the outcome of the Battle of Britain, now in the full furious swing of its opening aerial phase. The Japanese admirals and generals probably calculate that in the end they will be able to take over the rich British realms in the East and that they need not rush in until conditions are wholly favorable. They can afford to wait to see how things turn out.

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Last updated: 16 August 2020