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George Stern

Far East Crisis Flares Up Again

Joint Anglo-U.S. Moves Seek to Checkmate Japan;
“Bluff” May Be Called Very Soon

(1 March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 9, 1 March 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The United States and Great Britain last week launched a maneuver on the grand scale in the Far East with the aim of checkmating in advance any fresh Japanese southward moves.

Amid a flood of inspired reports that the Japanese fleet was moving southward toward Singapore and the Indies, the British suddenly announced the arrival at that base of a large, fully-equipped Australian army.

Gen. Marshall, U.S. chief of staff, told a Congressional committee that the army’s best and newest fighting planes were being turned over to the navy and moved out over the Pacific to the United States fleet. This information was permitted to “leak” to the newspapers and a day later Roosevelt, rebuked the papers for publishing it. The matter was made to look thoroughly serious. And it is serious. Army bombers are flying westward over the ocean from California, taking the route via Hawaii, Midway, and Guam to the scene of probable hostilities. Behind this “bluff” lies the real threat of war.

The Anglo-American moves brought a rash of protestations from Tokyo. Matsuoka, the Japanese foreign minister, deplored the “provocative” movements of planes and men and insisted upon Japan’s peaceful intentions. The Japanese press accused the British and the U.S. of trying to encircle the Japanese.

Japan’s Move Now

At the same time, however, Japanese forces moved into new bases in Southern Indo-China. The peace conference between Indo-China and Thailand, sponsored by the Japanese, hit a snag which obviously bore a Made-in-Britain label. The Australian forces landed at Singapore were moved up into Malaya to wait for any further Japanese move.

So far that move has not been forthcoming. For the Japanese have been told in the plain language of men, ships, planes, and guns, that further moves southward at this time means war with Britain and the U.S.

The sudden anti-Japanese truculence in London is undoubtedly based upon a definite understanding with the U.S., for the main element in a Pacific war would have to be the U.S. fleet. The British know it. The Japanese know it. And so, of course, does Washington.

U.S. Committee

Citing the sudden change in the British attitude, a New York Times dispatch from London on Feb. 22 said that “it is perhaps a reasonable deduction that ‘parallel action’ – that diplomatic euphemism for joint action – is functioning better than ever before. It is not believed that the British would present so strong a front against Japan unless they had good reason to believe the United States was behind them.”

This “reasonable deduction” is amply supported by the developments of the past week – the Marshall testimony and the ferrying of army planes across the Pacific. The same deduction has evidently been made in Tokyo. The bluff is not to be called – not, at least, until Hitler actually unleashes his Spring offensive against Britain. If at that time, Japan edges closer toward the jealously guarded wealth of the Indies, it will be time for a bluffs to be called. First American participation in actual hostilities in the present war may take place in the Southern Pacific – and it may take place soon.

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Last updated: 3 October 2015