LEAGUE CONDEMNS JAPAN
Assembly Adopts Report.—The League Assembly, with 43 governments represented, adopted on February 24 without a dissenting vote (except that of Japan) the report of the committee of nineteen on the Sino-Japanese dispute. This report gave an extended account of the development of the dispute, included the chief resolutions previously adopted by the League, approved and repeated each of the ten points of the Lytton report as essential to a settlement, and ended with recommendations of its own summarized as follows:
(1) The settlement should be based on the provisions of the covenant of the League of Nations, the Pact of Paris, and the Nine-Power Treaty of Washington.
(2) The Japanese troops outside the zone of the South Manchurian Railway Company should be evacuated, as sovereignty over the territory is held to reside in China.
(3) A governmental organization should be established in Manchuria within a reasonable period under the sovereignty of China, but with a wide measure of autonomy. This should take into account the particular rights and interests of Japan and Russia.
(4) China and Japan should open negotiations for a settlement within a League special committee to which the United States and Russia shall be invited to be represented, together with the member states of the committee of nineteen. New treaties should define the rights of the disputants.
(5) The members of the League should continue to refuse to recognize Manchukuo, either de jure or de facto, on the ground that it is incompatible with the fundamental principles of existing international obligations and with the good understanding between China and Japan, on which peace in the Far East depends.
Following the adoption of the report, the Japanese delegation, headed by Yosuke Matsuoka, rose and left the Assembly, presaging Japan’s early withdrawal from the League.
Advisory Committee.—After adopting the report, the Assembly passed a resolution to the effect that whereas members “intend to abstain from any isolated action with regard to the situation in Manchuria and to continue to concert their action among themselves as well as with interested states non-members of the League,” a copy of the report be sent to non-members who are signatories or have acceded to the Pact of Paris or the Nine- Power Treaty, “informing them of the Assembly’s hope that they will associate themselves with the views expressed in the report, and that they will, if necessary, concert their action and their attitude with the members of the League.” The resolution also embodied a decision to set up an advisory committee to consist of members of the committee of nineteen and representatives of Canada and the Netherlands, which should invite the United States and the U.S.S.R. to cooperate. The Assembly was to remain in session, and to convene when its President, after consulting the committee, should think fit. Later in February the committee organized and began consideration of an arms embargo or other measures to give weight to the League’s decision.
American Approval. — Replying promptly to the League’s communication regarding its action on the Sino-Japanese dispute, Secretary Stimson of the American State Department sent a note on February 25 expressing the view that in affirming the principle of non-recognition the League and the United States government were “on common ground,” and that the United States endorsed the principles of settlement “in so far as appropriate under the treaties to which it is a party.” The reply was understood to have had the approval of President-elect Roosevelt and Senator Hull.
Work of Committee of Nineteen.— Before the completion of its report, the committee of nineteen made further last efforts to come to terms with Japan. Japan herself agreed that the ten points of the Lytton report might be accepted as a basis of settlement, but only with the sweeping reservation, “to the extent to which they harmonize with the existing situation.” In an endeavor to pin Japan down to a clear statement of her position, the committee on February 9 demanded a definite written answer as to whether or not she would accept the restoration of Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. To this the answer was a polite “no” of 17 pages. In the last stages of preparing the report, France and England took as strong a stand as the minor powers, voting not only for non-recognition but also for non-cooperation with Manchukuo. The question of an arms embargo came up, but it was evident that this could not be adopted without the co-operation of the United States and Russia.
Question of Japanese Mandates.— In anticipation of Japan’s leaving the League, the question was raised as to whether, after so doing, she would retain possession of the Marshall and Caroline Islands, now held under League mandate. Japanese officials asserted that their retention was unassailable, in view of the secret agreements of 1916 which were carried out in the award of the mandates. In England, however, the opinion was held that the League, which had granted the mandates under various conditions such as non-fortification and submission of annual reports, had also the power to withdraw them. Should the question arise in the future, it will presumably be not so much one of legality as of resolution and force to execute a decision.
OCCUPATION OF JEHOL
Advance into Jehol.—The Japanese cleaning up of Jehol province began on February 24, when large forces entered the province from the north, establishing a base at Kailu, and from the east, converging on the defenses at Chihfeng and Lingyuan, which guarded the two chief highways leading southwest toward Jehol capital. By March 1 both Chihfeng and Lingyuan had fallen into the hands of the Japanese without severe fighting, and it seemed altogether probable that Japanese leaders would fulfill their expressed purpose of reaching Jehol city within ten days.
Prior to the invasion both Manchukuo and Japan dispatched ultimatums to Nanking and to Marshal Chang at Peiping demanding the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Jehol and declaring that no guarantees could be given that the fighting would not spread to northern China. The original plan was said to have contemplated operations south as well as north of the Great Wall, but this was given up perhaps because of the certainty of complications with the western powers.
England Declares Arms Embargo.— On February 27 England unexpectedly and without awaiting the co-operation of other nations prohibited the export of munitions to both China and Japan. The action was a reversal of the policy of the cabinet, which a week earlier had pronounced against isolated action. Viewed on the surface, the move appeared likely to work less injury to Japan than to China, more dependent on foreign supply. But as the chief naval power, England possibly feared the consequences of blockade and seizures by Japan, if exports to China were continued.
League to Police Amazon.—The League Council on March 1 formally proposed that an international force under the authority of a League commission hold the disputed Leticia territory in the upper Amazon region until Colombia and Peru should be able to reach a settlement regarding its possession. Colombia at once accepted this proposal without reservations, but Peru requested more time to give it study. Favorable action on the part of Peru seemed likely, however, since refusal might subject her to a League arms embargo as well as an array of world opinion against her. The United States government gave full approval to the League action, which if carried out will set a precedent for active League intervention in American problems.
Prior to the League proposals, there had been several clashes between Colombian and Peruvian forces in the disputed area. The first occurred at Tarapaca, a post on the Putumayo River at the northeast corner of the Amazon corridor in dispute between the two countries. About the middle of February a Colombian flotilla moved up the river and took the town from its Peruvian garrison without casualties, after an hour’s bombardment. Peru protested to the League, but was sharply asked what Peruvian troops were doing in territory admittedly ceded to Colombia. There were also several minor attacks on Colombian vessels by Peruvian aircraft.
In the period immediately preceding the League’s action to settle the dispute, both Peru and Colombia were busy with further war preparations, Colombia on February 22 voting a 1.5 per cent capital levy, an income tax of 4 per cent, and compulsory military service for all citizens between 20 and 45.
Peace Moves in Chaco.—On March 1 it was reported that Paraguay had accepted, and that Bolivia had approved with certain modifications, the proposals for settlement drawn up by the four powers Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru at a recent meeting held at Mendoza, Argentina. Bolivia in replying to these proposals noted with pleasure that the A-B-C- powers were working “in harmony with the Commission of Neutrals in Washington.” Prior to the Mendoza proposals, Paraguay had been on the point of making a formal declaration of the war that has been going on in the Chaco for the past nine months, her idea apparently being that the formal declaration would put Bolivia, as an inland power, at some disadvantage in the event of an arms embargo by neutral powers. Such an embargo, to apply to both the warring nations, was seriously considered at the close of February in the special League commission dealing with the South American disputes. In the military operations in the Chaco centering primarily around the Paraguayan defenses at Nanawa, there was little or no change during February.
Sandino Makes Peace.—After the evacuation of American marines from Nicaragua, the rebel Sandino came to terms with the Nicaraguan government, holding a conference with President Sacasa early in February. According to the agreement, Sandino’s forces were to surrender their arms and receive land grants in northern Nicaragua or employment in public works.
Work of Disarmament Commission. — Not wholly discouraged by wars on two distant continents and intenser nationalistic feeling in Europe, the general commission of the disarmament conference again took up its work in February. All the nations represented agreed that a special aviation committee should examine the possibilities of complete abolition of war aviation and air bombing, together with international control of civil aviation, but each nation hedged its preliminary acceptance of these proposals with reservations which reduced their ultimate adoption to a remote possibility. By a vote of 26 to 1 the commission then agreed to take up the French proposal that, along with various pledges, the land forces of all European powers should be standardized on a militia basis. It was a revelation of Germany’s suspicion of this proposal, made ostensibly to relieve her of an unequal status, that she should have been the only nation to oppose its immediate consideration.
Friction in the Balkans.—Two events during February served to sharpen the alignment of the two groups of Continental powers seeking ascendancy in Central Europe—on the one hand the half-formed combination of Italy-Hungary-Germany, and on the other the Little Entente powers under the leadership of France. The first of these events was the presentation to Austria of sharp notes by the French and British ministers demanding that she ship back to Italy the consignment of military rifles sent by Italy to the Hirtenberg cartridge factory at Vienna for transshipment to Hungary. It was pointed out that such shipments through Austria were contrary to the peace treaty, and that the notes were intended to save Austria from charges before the League Council. Only fear of jeopardizing her loans from France prevented Austria from making a strong reply, in which she might have drawn attention to huge shipments of munitions through Austria to Yugoslavia, . made by the Skoda works in Prague under French patronage.
The second event was the signing at Geneva on February 16 of a new and stronger alliance among the Little Entente states, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Rumania. Though economic, as well as political, the Geneva agreement joined the three nations more closely in their primary purpose of preserving the present territorial dispositions in Central Europe, whether threatened by Italy or any other nation. Possibility of a disturbance in the Danube countries is lessened by the fact that they, as well as the larger European nations, are overwhelmed by internal problems; but any untoward event, such as a Fascist seizure of power in Austria, or a swing of Rumania out of the French orbit, might easily cause an upset.
Nazi Rule in Germany.—Between its accession to power and the elections of March 5, the Nationalist coalition cabinet in Germany headed by Adolf Hitler took all possible steps to carry out their avowed purpose of setting up permanent control in the Reich, regardless of the results of the election. If their plans held good, there was to be no more voting in Germany for another four years, nor much regard for constitutional restrictions, despite the supposed safeguards set up by President von Hindenburg when he let Herr Hitler into the chancellorship.
The first step taken by the Cabinet was in the form of decrees throttling the opposition press and greatly restricting freedom of assembly. Ridicule or attacks on the administration were banned. All political meetings were supervised by armed Nazi storm troops instead of regular police. The police themselves were put completely under the administrative control of Nazi or Nationalist officials. Communist meetings were forbidden. The destructive incendiary fire in the Reichstag building on February 27 caused the arrest of 100 Communist deputies, suspension of constitutional safeguards, and an organized drive on the whole Communist party which brought the country close to civil war.
The other set of measures adopted by the Hitlerites was designed to overthrow Socialist control in Prussia. All city and village councils in the state were dissolved, and their members were obliged to stand for re-election after the federal polls on March 5. The Diet in Prussia refused to dissolve, but was forced to do so when a presidential decree ousted the ministry and gave Federal Commissioner von Papen full ministerial powers. Thereupon, with the support of the Nazi Diet President, he was able to vote the Diet out of existence and order new elections. The federal commissioner then proceeded to dismiss all the Socialist provincial governors and vice-governors who were still in I office, replacing them with Hitlerite followers. Thus, in Prussia at least, even before the election all the government machinery passed into Nazi-Nationalist control. Against the Center party, and in Bavaria and South Germany, less violent policies were adopted, for intense hostility would have been aroused in the South German states by such usurpation of power as occurred in the north.
Anglo-American Debt Conference. —Sir Ronald Lindsay, British Ambassador at Washington, visited England in February for consultation with his government, and returned later in the month with financial advisers and with authority to complete arrangements for the projected debt negotiations with the new American administration. Latest reports indicated that final discussions of the debts would not take place until summer, and that a British representative with full power to complete a settlement would not come to Washington until definite prospects of such a settlement were in sight. During Sir Ronald’s visit in England there was considerable talk of settlement of all European debts to America by a lump sum payment, the amount of which ranged from $1,500,000,000 to $2,000,000,000, or of payment of a somewhat larger sum over a longer period. Payment on anything like the scale expected in American political circles was regarded in the British press as quite outside the question.
De Valera’s Majority.—On February 8 Eamon de Valera was re-elected President of the Irish Free State Executive Council by a vote of 82 to 54, this vote apparently representing the majority he can command in the Dail, though his Fianna Fail party has a majority of one over all the other parties combined. At the time of the election Nationalist deputies from the North of Ireland were present in Dublin, and conferences were held over means of furthering the union of Northern and Southern Ireland. When the Dail reassembled on March 1, President de Valera’s first move was to pass a second time the bill abolishing the oath of allegiance. Whatever the Senate’s action on the measure, it will now become a law in 60 days.
Arms Embargo Tabled.—During February the House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on the McReynolds Resolution giving the President power to prohibit shipments of arms to foreign nations. Manufacturers opposed to the measure pointed out the special value of aircraft in suppressing revolts, and insisted that such legislation would simply debar America from a market that would fill its needs elsewhere. Despite peace society support and favorable action in the Senate (later reconsidered), the resolution was shelved for the session ending March 4.