Japan-Soviet Relationship During This Time

Discussing the current relations between Japan and Russia is not the purpose of this section, but I decided to point out a few things that will enhance the understanding of the environment that surround the formerly interned in Siberia.

However, to my regret, I still do not possess enough materials to clarify exactly what kind of agreement was made in regards to the invasion of the Soviet army into Manchuria. Colonel Ryuzo Sejima, who was known as someone who knew an important key factor as the staff member of Kwangtung army, already has passed away.

I thought he may have mentioned something to someone and asked around, but all I found out was that he never said anything to anyone.

I heard there are two other individuals who may be well informed about the Japan- Soviet conflict at the ending of WWII. One was the former Colonel Teigo Kusachi who was the chair of the operations department of the Kwangtung army headquarters, and the other was the first army officer Ryuichi Nakayama, who was the head of the instructors of war history in the Self Defense Force Executive School. Former Colonel Kusachi has already passed away, however, and I haven’t had any opportunity to meet Mr. Nakayama, either.

Now, I am going to point out some important factors of Japan-Soviet relations at that time, but would like to note that I am using expressions from some publications without naming them.

Having completed building the Siberian railway that connected the east and the west of the vast Siberian land, the Russian government was eager to pursue their invasion to the far east. Securing a port that would not freeze in winter was an important matter for them, so they were trying to explore going to the south. In the meantime, Japan was receiving pressure from the triple intervention, Russia, Germany and France in regards to its possession of Liaodong Peninsula which was given to Japan by Qing dynasty as a result of the Sino-Japanese War from 1894-5. As a result of this intervention, Japan was made to give up the Liaodong Peninsula.

However, in 1898, Russia leased Lushunkou and Dalian in the Liaodong Peninsula, made an army port in Lushunkou, and began to spread its power to Korea. This threat to Japan became a reason for Japan to start the Japan-Russo war in 1904. Japan defeated the Russian Army and Navy in the battle of Shenyang on March 31st and the battle in the Japan Sea on May 27th, and gained the southern half of Sakhalin in the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905.

The defeat in the Japan-Russo War set back Russian policy in the far east, and impacted the road to the revolutionary movement. This it eventually shook the foundation of Imperial Russia.

Then in the middle of the First World War that began in 1914, Imperial Russia, the house of Romanov, collapsed because of the bol’sheviki revolution. This so-called October Revolution gave birth to the revolutionary government by the Proletariat and farmers, led by Vladimir Lenin.

After the October Revolution, the Soviet government did not do well with Japan at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, and then there was Siberian Intervention by Japan with other countries such as England, US, France and Italy. The Nikolayevsk Incident was another conflict with Japan. Nevertheless, in 1925, normal relationship between the two countries was established by the ratification of The Basic Rules of the Relations between Japan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. After that, Japan-Soviet relations kept improving until the Mukden Incident which took place in 1931. The sudden change prompted the Soviets to focus on the expansion of armaments in the far east to become more vigilant of Japan.

During that time, the international league that received the appeal from China sent the Lytton Commission to Manchukuo. Japan, however, resisted the report and announced their withdrawal from the league. Because of this, Japan made the Japan-German Pact and Defense Agreement in 1936. It was joined by Italy in 1936 and became the Tripartite Pact.

When the Great East War began in 1937, the Soviets supported Chiang Kai-shek in order to prolong the war. At the same time, they started various conflicts at the borders so that Japan would be restrained. Of note, the Nomonhan conflict occurred in May 1939 which seemed like a crisis incident, but it did not develop to that point. The experience in this conflict brought a realization among leaders of the Japanese army as to the fact that the Soviet army possessed better modern weapons. Even though the Japanese army should have given a serious thought to it, they were too busy hiding how the conflict really happened, and did not spend time for reflection. This was an important point that could have altered the way the Japanese army would fight in the Great East War.

In the meantime, something highly unexpected happened to Japan. In spite of the
fact the Japan-German Pact and Defense Agreement existed with the support of Italy, Germany ratified the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in August, 1939. It was while Japan was fighting against the Soviets in Nomonhan. Prime minister
Hiranuma commented, “the world in Europe is so complicated and strange.” At that time, all his cabinet members resigned. Regardless of their efforts, World War II began in September.

Under this circumstance, the Japanese government made a plan to stabilize the relationship between Japan and the Soviets. This is how the signing of the Soviet- Japan Neutrality Pact in 1941 took place.

Throughout the Second World War that began in December 1941, Japan-Soviet relations were kept stable because of this treaty. During that time, the Kwantung army was in full mobilization, sending the elite army to the area of Southern Asia and China. The rest of the army was left in Manchukuo without sufficient equipment even though as many as 600,000 soldiers comprised this force.

In April, 1945, the Soviet government announced the pact would not be renewed. Then on August 8th, a war against Japan was announced even though the Neutrality Pact was still in effect. Immediately after that, on the 9th, the Soviets invaded Korea, Kuril Island, and Southern Sakhalin and occupied all the areas immediately.

Although the official announcement by the military headquarter did not mention it, people around me were able to grasp fairly accurately the situation. Day by day, our position in the war was worsening. Such news was provided by a group that was in charge of communication among army commanders. Although they were supposed to take care of the smooth communication between the Japanese military headquarter and each army unit, they actually listened to the shortwave radio broadcasting by the American army in order to report the news to the Japanese military officers.

As a result, we obtained the news that the Japanese government already accepted the conditions to end the war, but that the request for the Soviets to assist with the negotiation with the US, England and China was not accepted. Thus, we were already aware that the Japanese government would have to accept the Potsdam Declaration soon.