Gareth Jones

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from Chapter on Japan 

from Gareth Jones - A Manchukuo Incident 

by Dr. M.S. Colley

On this page can be found further information relating to Gareth Jones' interview notes from Japan in 1935, plus background information on journalists Jimmy Cox and Gunther Stein:








Cox held controversial views and asked awkward questions at the Japanese Foreign Office press briefings.  Raymond Lamont-Brown’s book Kempeitai, The Dreaded Japanese Secret Police states that:  “He made no effort to cover up his contempt and growing animosity for the Japanese militaristic state”.  In his book he also says that James ‘Jimmy’ Melville Cox, the Reuters’ correspondent in Tokyo:  “was arrested on 27th July 1940 by the Kempeitai on the usual non-specific charge of espionage”.  Two days later he was seen falling from an open window on the third floor of the Kempeitai Headquarters.  They claimed that he had committed suicide because he was guilty of espionage.  The foreign community very much doubted this and was fully convinced that he had been thrown out of the window to conceal damage done to his body by the Japanese secret police.  “The mercurial Gaimu-daijin (Foreign Minister) Matsuoka Yosuke issued a report exonerating the Kempeitai.” 


Günther Stein was a known socialist, but Gareth was probably unaware that he had become a committed Communist during his time spent as a correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt in Moscow before 1933.  During his period in Tokyo he became associated with Richard Sorge, the double agent.  Stein allowed Sorge to use his house as a base for radio transmitting and acted as a courier for him by taking microfilms to Hong Kong.  In 1941, Richard Sorge was tried by the Japanese and found guilty of spying for the Russians, for which crime they executed him.  The case against Günther Stein was never proven.  (Deakin, F W and Storry, G R (1966) The Case of Richard Sorge.  Chatto and Windus.)  Though Gareth had been David Lloyd George’s foreign affairs adviser, he gave no indication in his diaries that he had any strong political affiliations. 

The final five endnotes are taken from Gareth’s diaries referring to his interviews whilst in Japan. 


At his first press conference there were about fifty journalists assembled to talk with Mr Amau.  Amau introduced them to young Japanese diplomats who appeared very embarrassed.  They bowed to the journalists; some went to the English and some to the Americans.  Amau stated that:  

“The Japanese policy to China is to maintain peace and friendly relations.  It benefits to Japan to keep the peace in East Asia.  Japan has been standing like a watchdog in East Asia.  We have fought several times for that.  Other powers have an interest in China, but ours is more vital.  The Chinese question to us is a matter of life or death.  The British have a considerable interest, which is not necessarily vital.  The U.S. is interested but only economically and commercially.  China is a vast country.  At the beginning of the Washington Conference (1922), Briand asked,  “What is China?”   China failed to answer this.  In 1920 Soviet Russia compiled a Treaty with Outer Mongolia, by which each control ports in respect of recognising the benefited Government.  Since then Outer Mongolia has sent an Ambassador to Moscow and Moscow sent to Korea Government representatives. 

In 1924, our Government commanded a Treaty at Peking and Mukden with the authority of China by which the Government respected temporary integrity of China.  Our Government was helping the Sun Yat-sen Government in Canton.  Borodin represented the Government in Canton, and Canton government was dealt with independently.  Therefore at the time Canton was the Facto authority.  In 1920 Mongolia concluded a treaty with Soviets.  In 1924 Mukden concluded a Treaty with Government.  Today Sinkiary is virtually under the influence of the Soviet Outer Mongolia.  The other day a Chinese Consul in Novostrik, who was returning home to China had to apply for visa from the Soviet authorities. 

In the time of the Tsarists, there was a conference in the presence of the Tsar and it was discussed as how to find a way to penetrate the Far East and reach the ports.  A railway route was finally decided upon through Siberia, Manchuria, Harbin, Dairien and Port Arthur.  In 1895 we fought with China for the lease of Liaotung peninsula.  In 1895-1905 China concluded a secret alliance with Russia.  China promised materials for building of the Russian Court.  The Russians promised to help China in the war between China and Japan. 

“…We have been endeavouring to maintain peace in the Far East.  China has had a civil war for 25 years, but we desire China restored some day.  

We expect equal opportunities for foreign powers.  League of Nations attacked Japan, because Japan closed door on China and made the China Sea a closed sea.  But it is not Japan, but the League of Nations who closed the doors to Japan. 

At the time of the Manchurian Incident it was resolved by the League of Nations (Feb 24th, 1933) that the China boycott since September 18th 1931 is recognised as a reprisal.  The China boycott is legalised by the League of Nations decision and the principle of open door was closed to us.  It was instigated by the Euro-American powers.   

We are concerned about any communist presence in East Asia, but we have no intention of interfering with Chinese internal affairs.  Manchukuo will separate China and Soviet Russia.  We estimate there are 200,000 Soviet troops on the border.  We have no intention to fight, but if the Soviets interfere with Manchukuo affairs, we will fight.  We must defend Manchukuo”. 

At a later press conference Mr Amau discussed British dominions attitude to racism.  In South Africa the restriction of the Japanese immigrant was strictest.  There, even the consul had the greatest difficulty in entering a restaurant or finding a hotel.  Australia was very much better.  Japan only wanted free entry of their merchants.  Japan was not going to invade Australia.  In the Far East, Japan cannot compete with American but only the German goods, especially toys and sundry goods.  “We import more from Germany than we export.  Germany is restricting Japanese goods, and in banking and shipping they have a number of regulations by which they impose many different conditions on Japanese traders (shipping) e.g. currency.  Germany proposes to buy soya beans from Manchukuo and wants to sell more to Japan.  There is no political arrangement with Germany.” 

At the final press conference Amau reviewed the current aviation situation in Japan.  It was different in Japan compared with Britain and U.S. owing to the mountainous and atmospheric conditions.  In Manchukuo aviation was proceeding very rapidly, because there were plenty of landing places and atmospherics was good.  The Japanese Army and Navy made great progress.  They were one of the five largest aeronautic powers, but civilian aviation was very poor.  There was a lot of rivalry between civilian, some of whom were without jobs, and army and naval aviation.  In Japan it was difficult to find landing places as the land was over cultivated.  He emphasised the quality of the pilots, the number of planes and aircraft carriers and the faith in German airships.  He informed the journalists that the Pacific Aviation Co. would be organised in June or July to fly from Tokyo to San Francisco, via the Aleutian Islands and Alaska using Zeppelins.  Since the Manchurian and Shanghai troubles, the military flying corps had improved greatly and they had increased their equipment.  In the recent Jehol conflict in Manchuria the corps took part in the battle by bombing and carried ammunition to the advancing army.  In this region, where the transport by land was very difficult, the supply of goods and arms to the advancing army by aeroplane was the only means available at the time. 


1)       The recent British economic mission was a success, and reversed the grievances that Japan had against Britain. 

2)       The Americans were withdrawing from the Far East as they had no great interests in the area compared with those of the British. 

3)       The Australians were pro-Japanese in that they were exporting millions of pounds worth of wool to Japan

4)       Canada was diametrically opposed to the Australian point of view. (Canada insisted on a strong pro-American Policy.)  

5)       Japanese Foreign Policy aimed to show they were peaceful and co-operating with China and with Russia. 

6)       Sir Robert was amazed by an interesting change of relations with Soviet Russia - he had received an invitation from the Soviet Ambassador to dine with Prince Kanin, the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Army.  He could not recollect a Japanese Commander-in-Chief socialising with the Russians since Iswolski’s day, (Russian Minister to Japan, 1900) before the Anglo-Japanese alliance. 

7)       The Japanese Army was behind the Foreign Minister, Hirota, in his Chinese policy, because of their need for raw materials.  Hirota saw the world shutting out Japanese goods and believed that the future market would be in China. 

8)       They were very disappointed with Manchuria, as the resources were not so rich as they were hoped to be.  The invasion was mainly strategic against the Russians, as the Japanese feared Communism.  The Russians were experts in oil and were going to set up a refinery in Kharatorovik for their own use in the Far East to refine Sakhalin oil.  This, the Ambassador thought this might effect British oil interests.  The recent British economic mission which had been a success, and which had reversed the grievances that Japan had against Britain.   


Matsuoka had faced the world for his country at Geneva.  When asked about his political aims, he replied that he was agitating to abolish political parties as the West was already doing.  The disappearance of parties in Italy, Russia and Germany was too obvious to mention.  In Japan, due to their racial traits and their history, they could never introduce Fascism similar to that of Mussolini and Hitler because it was not in their temperament to allow a dictator to control the whole country, and therefore such a thing would never happen in Japan.  He believed that they should get away from the Western democracy that bred corruption and return to the rule of the Emperor as this was true Japanese democracy.  The Emperor was the mainspring of their country, he was responsible for all that happened in Japan and ruled according to the “Will of Heaven”.  (They had a saying that the will of the people was the Will of Heaven.)  The State Ministers were solely responsible to the Emperor, and through the Emperor the ministers were responsible to the people.  For 3000 years they had the idea that Ministers who were responsible to Parliament could have no place in their history.  Western civilisation was facing a kind of catastrophe as it had become too individualistic and egoistic.  The Japanese were obliged to care for their parents; their notion was that children would even offer their lives for their parents.  Gareth pressed his interview further and asked what was meant by ‘Asia for the Asiatics’.  Matsuoka replied: 

If that means the conquest of Asia, you cannot do it, even if we could it would take 100 to 200 years.  It must mean a step towards finally establishing peace through the world, to let all and every nation have its own place and be satisfied. 


General Araki was held to be the greatest opponent of Communism in Japan and had been a supporter of war against the Soviet Union.  He was the leader of the militarists and a champion of ‘Asia for the Asiatics’, a national figure in Japan revered by the young officers.  He kept at his side, until he died at the age of 90, a file on Emperor Hirohito as an insurance against untimely death.  He was opposed to many of Hirohito’s policies and was his last domestic adversary.  After a mutiny in February 1936, he and other supporters of the Strike-North faction were retired from the Army leaving the Emperor a free hand to plan to strike south.  Bernard Shaw met his match with Araki telling him: “If you had been born in Russia you would have become a politician greater than Stalin.  I should like to stay here talking with you until the Chinese land on the Japanese mainland”. 

Gareth interviewed Araki through an interpreter and he told Gareth that he thought that Communism might succeed in China, as conditions there were anarchical.  If Chang Kai-shek could unify China the young Communists might rise against him and drive him from power.  Gareth asked very directly whether a struggle was inevitable between Japan and the Soviet Union to which Araki responded that it all depended on the attitude of the other side and that he found it difficult to continue this line of conversation.  He considered it futile to help the Chinese against the encroachment of Soviet influence when asked what Japan should do to counter-act the growing Soviet influence in Inner Mongolia.  Gareth continued his searching questions and asked what would he advocate for Asia rather than Communism.  Would it be Pan-Asianism, that is ‘Asia for the Asiatics’?  The conqueror of Manchuria pondered and then replied that he was firmly convinced that the fundamentals of Asiatic civilisation are just as good as European.  

He ended the interview by saying that:  “Unless all the peoples of the world get together, disaster will befall humanity.  May the Twentieth Century be the century of transition from national separation to international harmony”. 

Gareth remarked that it was not these last sentiments, however that attracted many of the young Nationalists to the personality of General Araki. 


Admiral Osumi, the Naval Minister served Emperor Hirohito faithfully though even he opposed him during time of controversy.  Gareth asked Osumi very pertinent questions about what his attitude to America developing bases on the Aleutian Islands and Alaska was and whether the Japanese Navy would be prepared to maintain the independence and neutrality of the Philippines if that neutrality were guaranteed by an international agreement.  Osumi replied that he had nothing to say on either subject.  He did however express a desire for a new Naval Treaty between Japan, Great Britain and the United States, the three leading sea powers of the world.  Gareth had worked hard on a brief for Mr Lloyd George when the Naval Conference was convened in London in 1930.  He wrote in his diary that Lloyd George said that:  “The Conference is a farce, an absolute farce!”


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