Manchukuo’s quest for “recognition” and the Institute of Pacific Relations

Yoshie Takamitsu

This chapter provides insights into why Japan tried and failed to obtain international “recognition” for Manchukuo through the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). The IPR, established in 1925, was a transnational network of intellectuals, businessmen, and experts interested in the Asia-Pacific region. It became the most comprehensive and influential transnational network for Asia-Pacific in the 1930s. Manchukuo pursued participation as a kind of “recognition” from international society both before and after the fifth IPR conference at Banff, Canada, in the summer of 1933. Research by Katagiri Nobuo suggested that the Japanese Army, not the Japanese IPR, initiated this project and forced the Japanese IPR to cooperate.1 However, newly acquired documents indicate that Baron Sakatani Yoshirô, one of the board members of the Japanese IPR, had been deeply involved in this project.

In this chapter, first, the author will show that the Foreign Ministry of Manchukuo and Baron Sakatani were the major actors in this project and the Kwan-tung Army did not force them to participate. Second, the background to the idea of “recognition” of Manchukuo will be examined by focusing on their understandings of the post-League international order. How the two significant changes, the outlawing of war and increasing autonomy of the British Dominions, were recognized by Japanese intellectuals between the wars was a crucial factor of their project. The author will shed new light on this theme by adding new materials that were found in Japan, Canada, and the United States, as well as by reexamining both Japanese and Canadian official records. Both Katagiri and John D. Meehan have examined this topic.2 While Katagiri used mostly Japanese government records, Meehan relied on Canadian diplomatic records. Neither examined the other side of documents.

For this purpose, first, the chapter analyzes why the IPR was selected as the forum for pursuing Manchukuo’s recognition. Second, the author will identify the main actors in this development and how recognition was pursued. Finally, by way of conclusion, the author will suggest that recognition by the IPR was the first step in recognition by international society, based on Japanese intellectuals’ understanding of post-League internationalism.3

Why was the IPR selected? The structure and membership of the IPR and Japanese expectation of Canada

Why did Manchukuo choose the IPR as a forum for pursuing its sovereignty'? Its leaders knew that it was difficult to gain international recognition. However, there were so many transnational nongovernmental organizations between the wars. In 1914, there were approximately 400 international associations.4 What brought Manchukuo to the IPR instead of other institutions such as the YMCA? Three crucial factors could be mentioned. The first is that the structure of the IPR was quite similar to that of inter-governmental organizations. The IPR consisted of National Councils such as the American Council, the Japanese Council, the Chinese Council, and so on. Supreme decision-making authority was assigned to the Pacific Council, which was made up of representatives from each National Council. Furthermore, powerful members of the IPR were state-oriented, as Tomoko Akami insisted.5 This facilitated the Japanese focus on the IPR in their pursuit of international recognition for Manchukuo.

The IPR as a nongovernmental organization experienced its first political dispute concerning sovereignty' and colonial problems when the Korean group requested status as a National Council. Its members insisted that they wished to join the IPR not as a local group of the Japanese Empire but as a National Council of Korea.6 Admitting the Koreans as a National Council at the IPR would be unrelated to Korean national independence. However, this matter was too important for both Koreans and Japanese to ignore. The Koreans insisted that they would not participate in the IPR if they were not admitted as a National Council, while the Japanese could not accept their claim. Both were fully aware that representation at the IPR had symbolic importance in international society'. Similarly, when Manchukuo sought recognition, the Japanese naturally focused on the IPR.

The IPR was not the only nongovernmental organization in which the Japanese sought recognition for Manchukuo. The Japanese sought and failed to obtain similar participation for Manchukuo at the Red Cross and the Far Eastern Championship Games. The Japanese Red Cross Society sought to invite the Red Cross International Conference in 1934 to Japan and sought Manchukuo’s participation in this conference.7 Manchukuo expressed its intention to join the Far Eastern Championship Games on May' 3, 1933. Manchukuo demanded the assistance of the DaiNihon taiiku kydkai (Japan Amateur Athletic Association; hereinafter, “JAAA”) by threatening JAAA’s withdrawal from the Far Eastern Athletic Association that organized the Far Eastern Championship Games. Although Count de Baillet-Latour, the President of the International Olympic Committee, was not opposed to the participation of Manchukuo, strong opposition from China prevented Manchukuo from participating in the Games.8 The Japanese sought recognition for Manchukuo not only from transnational nongovernmental organizations but also from international news agencies such as Reuters and AP, at which they partly succeeded.9

These organizations were characterized by strong ties to the state. Since the development of internationalism was closely related to nationalism, it is not surprising that transnational organizations took the form of a coalition of national units. However, there were shades of difference, and the close government ties of the International Committee of the Red Cross clearly played a key role in its global expansion.10 The YMCA, on the other hand, was from the beginning a geographically widespread scattering of private organizations from multiple countries. The relationship between each country’s YMCA and its government seemed not to be close, even though it was one of the transnational nongovernmental organizations.11 This was likely why recognition was not sought from the YMCA. The IPR was closely associated with the YMCA at the time of its establishment. However, a crucial difference between it and the YMCA network was that the network was formed with a strong sense of connection to national government.12

The second significant factor in the choice of the IPR as a forum for pursuing Manchukuo’s international recognition was the IPR membership that included both the USA and the Soviet Union. After failing to persuade the League of Nations, the Japanese sought an ideal substitute for the League. The Japanese IPR proposed “a Security' Pact for the Pacific” at the fifth IPR conference in Banff in August 1933. The proposal was to establish a Pacific peace organization centered on the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan, all of which had significant influence in the Pacific region but were not members of the League of Nations (Japan having withdrawn in February 1933 following the Manchurian Incident). Although this proposal did not include the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, and other countries that participated in the IPR, it is quite possible to see in this proposal the intention of the Japanese IPR to make the IPR an ideal substitute for the League of Nations in the Asia-Pacific region.13 Before the publication of the Litton Commission’s report on October 2, 1932, Takagi Yasaka, a senior member of the Japanese IPR and professor of American studies at Tokyo Imperial University, published an essay entitled “World Peace Machinery' and the Asia Monroe Doctrine” in Pacific Affairs, a journal of the IPR, seeking an understanding of Japan’s actions.14 It was the IPR that included not only the United States but also the Soviet Union, neither of which was a member of the League of Nations, while each had a stake in international order in Asia-Pacific.15 Since the Soviet Union was adjacent to Manchuria, it was only natural that the Soviet Union would be concerned about the development of the Manchurian state when seeking recognition. To begin with, the Washington system, the Asia-Pacific order after World War I, had been established to the exclusion of the Soviet Union, and it had been destabilized since the late 1920s when China, dissatisfied with the Washington system, became associated with the Soviet Union. This was a significant problem, along with the fact that the League of Nations was creating a vacuum in Asia because of the non-participation of the United States.

It was not only the Japanese who focused on the Soviet Union’s role in international order in the Asia-Pacific. From the beginning, the IPR viewed the Soviet Union as a Pacific nation and lobbied enthusiastically' for its participation. On November 29, 1927, B.E. Skvirsky (B.E. Ckbhpckhh), a diplomatic agent of the

Peoples’ Committee of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union in the United States, wrote to M.M. Litvinov (M.M. Литвинов), the Acting Secretary of the People’s Committee of Foreign Affairs. The letter reported that J. Merle Davis, Director General of the International Secretariat of the IPR, had visited Skvirsky and wished to meet with G.V. Chicherin (Г.В. Чичерин), Secretary of the People’s Committee of Foreign Affairs, to request the Soviet Union’s participation in the IPR.16 Some IPR members were academically interested in the planned economy of the Soviet Union. Others sought to complement the League of Nations, which was characterized by a power vacuum in the Asia-Pacific. Edward C. Carter, a Secretary’ of the American IPR and later an influential leader as Secretary General of the International Secretariat of the IPR, was one of the latter and was enthusiastic about the participation of the Soviet Union in the IPR.17

Because of the IPR’s enthusiasm, by the early 1930s, a difference arose in how the IPR and Soviet authorities perceived Soviet participation in the IPR. The IPR had regarded the Soviet Union as a member since 1931. The IPR invited the Pacific Committee of VOKS (Всесоюзное общество культурных связей, The Soviet Union Society' for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries) after the National Councils unanimously agreed.18 However, it was not until 1934 that the Soviet Union officially participated in the IPR.19 This was because of deep-rooted opposition to participation in the IPR within the Soviet government. Initially, the Soviet Union’s reluctance was caused by Profintern’s competition with the IPR. The Profintern was a Red Workers’ Union International founded under the leadership of the Comintern. The Pacific Trade Union Congress hosted by the Profintern competed in some respects with the IPR as an international organization, such as holding an international conference every two years and publishing a journal. Since the IPR, including the Japanese IPR, did not know the internal circumstances of the Soviet Union, its members considered that the Soviet Union had already' formally joined the IPR at the time of the Banff conference. In fact, after Profintern’s activities stagnated, Litvinov, Secretary of People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, insisted that the League of Nations should be given priority', preventing active Soviet involvement in the IPR. It was only in 1934 that the Soviet authorities were forced to consider some sort of appeasement of the U.S., overruled Litvinov’s objections, and supported participation in the IPR as US-Soviet relations worsened.20

The third reason for targeting the IPR was the venue of the fifth conference, which was located in Canada. This meant that the Canadian National Council had the main responsibility’ for holding the conference. Japan was attracted by' the Canadian government’s policy of appeasement.21 Furthermore, Canadian diplomats in Japan did not condemn Japan’s behavior over the Manchurian Incident. They' did not demonstrate solidarity with, or extend sympathy to, the Chinese. On December 8, 1932, Charles Cahan, a Canadian delegate to the League of Nations, made a pro-Japanese statement concerning the Manchurian Incident.22 Therefore, Japanese officials sought Manchukuo’s recognition. Tokugawa lemasa, Japan’s Minister to Canada, pressed the Government of Canada to recognize Manchukuo on December 30, 1932,23 just after Cahan’s speech in Geneva. It appeared to Japan as an opportunity' to gain recognition for Manchukuo. Tokugawa explained to Canadian Undersecretary for External Affairs O.D. Skelton that Japan was suppressing banditry' and reforming Manchuria’s laws, currency, and government and warned that the League might direct critical action at Japan to destabilize the region and force Japan to reconsider its membership in the League.24 Canada, of course, was not willing to respond positively to the recognition of Manchukuo, but Skelton did not strongly criticize Japan. Therefore, despite a lack of progress in the recognition of Manchukuo by the Canadian government, the Japanese side did not recognize the inappropriateness of this direction and moved toward recognition of Manchukuo by the IPR, which was considered to be a lower hurdle.

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