Libmonster ID: JP-1271
Author(s) of the publication: A. KOSHKIN


A. KOSHKIN, Doctor of Historical Sciences

What Molotov said to the Togo ambassador was certainly agreed with Stalin. And the very idea of concluding a non-aggression or neutrality pact largely came from the Soviet leader. Stalin controlled the entire course of the Soviet-Japanese negotiations.

He was concerned that the Japanese were delaying their response to the Soviet proposals of August 14, 1940, as well as the announcement by the new Ambassador Tatekawa that he "will not continue the negotiations that have been conducted so far, but will start all negotiations again." 28 This was all the more alarming due to the fact that on September 27, 1940, an agreement was concluded on the political and military - economic union of Germany, Japan and Italy - the "Triple Pact". Although the text of the pact included an article stating that the agreements reached "do not in any way affect the political status that currently exists between each of the three parties to the pact and the Soviet Union," the unification of the three most aggressive states in the world was perceived with alarm in Moscow. Togo's assurances that "the conclusion of the Japanese-German-Italian pact will not affect the negotiations on the fundamental issues of Japanese-Soviet relations" could not dispel this concern. Moreover, Moscow began to receive information about the likelihood of a German attack on the USSR in the spring of next year.

The Soviet leadership's concern about the current situation was also felt by foreign diplomats accredited in Moscow. Thus, the US Ambassador to the USSR, L. Shteyngardt, in a telegram to the US Secretary of State dated September 28, 1940, reported that the reaction of the Soviet government to the "Triple Pact" was negative. Employees of the German embassy in Moscow, he wrote, openly say that the USSR is dissatisfied with the "Triple Pact", German diplomats believe that the pact means a fundamental change in German policy towards the USSR, and in purely confidential terms express the opinion that next spring Germany will start a war against the USSR. According to them, there are unusually large numbers of German troops on the German-Soviet border, but they confirm that there will be no German invasion of England in the autumn of 1940 .29

Similar information was received from various sources in the Kremlin. This forced Stalin to take care of how to prevent Japan from participating in the impending German - Soviet war. The most effective way to solve this problem was to encourage the Chinese leadership to continue resisting Japan in China. Although, as noted above, in the summer of 1940 Stalin was ready to renegotiate his ties with China for the sake of a non-aggression pact with Japan, in the fall he decided that this should not be done.

This is evidenced by Stalin's personal message to Chiang Kai-shek dated October 16, 1940. The message said:

"...It seems to me that the conclusion of the triple alliance somewhat worsens the situation of China, and partly also of the Soviet Union. Japan was until recently alone, but after the Triple Pact, it is no longer alone, as it has such allies as Germany and Italy. But in view of the contradictory nature of the triple pact, this pact, in a certain international situation, can turn against Japan, since it undermines the foundations of the neutrality of England and North America in relations with Japan. This side of the triple alliance pact, as you can see, can create some advantages for China. The embargo on scrap metal and some other goods from America, as well as the opening of the Burmese Road, are direct evidence of this.

In this complex and contradictory situation, I think the main task in China is to preserve and strengthen the Chinese National Army. The National Chinese Army is the bearer of China's destiny, freedom, and independence. If your army is strong, China will be invulnerable.

Now there is a lot of talk and writing about the possibility of peace talks and peace with Japan. I do not know to what extent these rumors correspond to reality. However, one thing is clear to me: the Chinese National Army is strong and powerful, and China can overcome any difficulties.

I wish you good health and success in your business.

I. Stalin " 30 .

While strengthening military ties with Germany and Italy, the Japanese government did not abandon its intention to separate the USSR from China. Shortly after the conclusion of the" Triple Pact", the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs developed proposals on the conditions for concluding an agreement with the USSR. To facilitate negotiations, it was proposed to sign a pact similar to the Soviet - German one, and settle disputes after its conclusion. The point of this maneuver was to get the USSR to conclude a fishing agreement on favorable terms for Japan, terminate its assistance to China, and also try to force it to make territorial concessions, having already signed a non-aggression or neutrality treaty.


The eighth point of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's proposals read: "Subsequently, at an appropriate time, peacefully integrate Japan into the sphere of influence (as a result of the purchase or exchange of territories) Northern Sakhalin and Primorye". If the Soviet government did not agree to this, it was planned to achieve demilitarization of these territories. To encourage the USSR to reconsider its position on the Sino-Japanese war, it was planned to involve it in a conspiracy to divide spheres of influence in China. In the program of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, it was written: "The USSR recognizes the traditional interests of Japan in Inner Mongolia and in the three provinces-

Continuation. For the beginning, see: "Asia and Africa Today", 2001, N 5.

The numbering of links throughout the article is uniform.

page 31

Northern China. Japan recognizes the Soviet Union's traditional interests in Outer Mongolia and Xinjiang. The U.S.S.R. will agree to Japan's advance toward French Indochina and Dutch India. Japan will agree with the future advance of the Soviet Union towards Afghanistan and Persia (which later includes India). " 31

The participation of the USSR in such a division of Asia, according to the calculations of Japanese strategists, would help to involve it in a four-sided coalition (Japan, Germany, Italy, the USSR), which would facilitate its armed struggle with Western powers. The policy of "turning the enemy in the north into a friend" was supposed to exclude the prospect of the formation of a union of the USSR, the United States and Great Britain during the war, which was very worrying for Japan and Germany. On the eve of the signing of the Triple Pact, E. Matsuoka explained to the Privy Council: "While we are building a new order, we cannot allow the Soviet Union to see us as its enemies." 32 At the same time, the participants of the "Triple Pact" emphasized that the course chosen in relation to the USSR is temporary. On September 7, 1940, Matsuoka told the German representative G. Shtamer: "We need to realize that after the end of the war in Europe, Russia will remain a great power. This will threaten the new order in East Asia. Japan and Germany should stand together and work out a common policy against Russia. " 33

Under these circumstances, the Japanese government, although somewhat reduced its activity in negotiations with Moscow, nevertheless considered it inappropriate to interrupt them. Togo, who paid a farewell visit to Molotov on October 17, expressed his regret over the delay in concluding the agreement and indicated that he personally had previously believed that this agreement would be concluded in July or at the latest in August of this year. At the same time, the ambassador explained what happened with a change of cabinet in Japan.

Molotov, hinting that the delay may be due to the conclusion of the "Triple Pact", said:: "With regard to the three-Power pact, as far as can be judged from current data, the pact is not an obstacle to the improvement and further development of relations with the signatory Powers of the pact." 34 By doing so, Molotov made it clear that the Soviet leadership was ready to continue the Soviet-Japanese negotiations.

On the same day, Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs A. Y. Vyshinsky received the Ambassador of the Republic of China to the USSR Shao Lizi, who directly stated that "the conclusion of a non-aggression treaty (with Japan) would be a great blow for China." The ambassador further noted that "during his four-year stay here, he became convinced that in principle the policy of the USSR has not changed, but practical assistance to China has stopped during this time." 35

The Americans also disapproved of the prospect of Japanese-Soviet rapprochement. That recalled in his memoirs:

36 "...During the so-called "Matsuoka purge," I was recalled to my homeland, and negotiations had to be abandoned in the run-up to their completion. The American representatives in Moscow, who were closely monitoring the improvement of Soviet-Japanese relations, apparently decided that the negotiations on the non-aggression pact were over, since People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov, People's Commissar for Trade Mikoyan, and Deputy People's Commissar Vyshinsky attended my farewell reception at the Japanese Embassy for quite a long time. I was even told that newspapermen were on duty outside the embassy building, waiting for the signing of the pact. In any case, the Americans persistently sought to prevent rapprochement between Japan and Russia."


Appointed in September 1940 as the new Ambassador to the USSR, Ye. Tatekawa on October 30, in an interview with Molotov, said that his government was ending negotiations with the USSR on the conclusion of a neutrality agreement and putting forward a proposal to sign a non-aggression pact.

The ambassador said that after the Konoe cabinet came to power (July 22), Japan's foreign policy has changed radically. This was reflected, according to Tatekawa, in the conclusion of a military alliance with Germany and Italy. In this connection, the Japanese Government suggests that the Soviet Government conclude a non-aggression pact, rather than a neutrality pact, which, according to it, is insufficient .37

The ambassador handed over the text of the non-aggression pact, similar to the Soviet-German non-aggression treaty concluded in August 1939. The Japanese draft of the pact read:

"Both Contracting Parties undertake to respect each other's territorial rights and not to take any aggressive action against the other party, either separately or jointly with one or more third Powers. In the event that one of the Contracting Parties finds itself the object of hostilities on the part of one or more third Powers, the other Party will not support these third Powers in any form. Neither of the Contracting Parties will participate in any grouping of Powers that is directly or indirectly directed against the other party. The term of validity of the covenant is set at ten years. " 38 The Ambassador made two additions:

- Togo's previous negotiations on a neutrality agreement are being terminated.

"The Japanese government suggests that all other disputes should be resolved after the conclusion of a non-aggression pact.

When asked by Molotov what the difference was between the previous and new proposals of the Japanese government, Tatekawa repeated that the neutrality agreement was considered insufficient, because it did not clearly reflect the issue of non-aggression. And so, after the conclusion of the triple military alliance, it was found expedient to conclude a non-aggression pact. At the same time, he added that the former cabinet conducted negotiations cautiously, and the new cabinet wants to make a leap to improve relations .39

In a telegram from Molotov to the USSR Ambassador to Japan, K. A. Smetanin, dated November 1, 1940, the People's Commissar wrote::

"...Recalling my previous statements on the issue of the Treaty of Portsmouth and the 1925 Convention, I said that if Japan continued to maintain the 1925 Convention in improving relations with the USSR, it would not be productive, since the Treaty of Portsmouth had left the same bad mark on our people as the Treaty of Versailles...

I further stated that, following the example of Germany, I considered it appropriate to discuss the issue of concluding a non-aggression pact, while clarifying a number of practical issues of interest to both sides. Tatekawa reiterated that a non-aggression pact should first be concluded without any compensation, and after the conclusion of the pact, the Japanese Government is ready to negotiate a revision of both the 1925 Convention and other issues that he called secondary.

I returned to the question of compensation and pointed out to the ambassador that the conclusion of the pact would bring a number of benefits for Japan, freeing its hands in the south, and on the other hand, it would create difficulties for the USSR in its relations with the United States and China, and therefore it is necessary to take into account the compensation that is necessary accompanying the conclusion of this pact.

When Tatekawa asked me what I meant by refunds, I did not give a direct answer, but stated that our questions were not answered directly.

page 32

I do not yet have a response from the Japanese government, and if there was a response, I would be able to continue discussing this issue. " 40

On November 18, during a regular conversation with Tatekawa, Molotov, in agreement with Stalin, outlined the essence of the proposal made earlier about the desirability for the Soviet side to "receive compensation" if it concluded a political agreement with Japan. It was pointed out that public opinion in the USSR would link the issue of concluding a non - aggression pact with Japan with the issue of returning the previously lost territories of Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. It was stated that if Japan is not ready to raise these issues, it would be appropriate to talk about concluding a non-aggression pact, but a neutrality pact that does not provide for the resolution of territorial problems. The Soviet leadership also insisted on signing a protocol on the elimination of Japanese concessions on Northern Sakhalin.

From Molotov's telegram to K. A. Smetanin dated November 19, 1940:

"...I stated that the latest proposal of the Japanese Government for a non-aggression pact might cause some difficulties on the part of Japan itself. The fact is that, as you know, the conclusion of a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939 led to the fact that the USSR returned a number of territories previously lost by our country, and therefore the public opinion of our country will also naturally associate the conclusion of a non-aggression pact with Japan with the question of returning such previously lost territories to the Soviet Union territories such as South Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and at least for the first time, the question of selling a certain group of the northern part of the Kuril Islands will arise. If Japan considers it appropriate to raise these territorial issues, then it will be possible to talk about the conclusion of a non-aggression pact. But since I am not sure that Japan will consider this expedient, for my part, I consider it possible now not to stir up many questions, but to conclude a neutrality pact instead of a non-aggression pact and sign a separate protocol on the elimination of Japanese oil and coal concessions...

Tatekawa, while not objecting to the proposal to conclude a neutrality pact, said that, in his opinion, this pact can also improve Soviet-Japanese relations. When I asked if Tatekawa considered my proposals on the pact and protocol acceptable as a basis for negotiations, Tatekawa replied that he personally considered these proposals as a basis for negotiations and would report these proposals to Tokyo. " 41

The Japanese side was offered a Soviet draft of the neutrality agreement, which provided for the maintenance of peaceful and friendly relations and mutual respect for territorial integrity (Article 1).In the event that one of the parties becomes the object of military operations by one or more third powers, the other side will remain neutral throughout the conflict (Article 2). The term of validity of the agreement was set at five years with automatic renewal for the next five years, unless denunciation follows one year before the expiration of its validity .42


In the fall of 1940, Japan began to implement the southern expansion option: in September, it occupied Northern Indochina. Further advance to the south could lead to an aggravation of its relations with the United States and Great Britain. In this situation, delaying negotiations with the USSR was unprofitable for Japan. Therefore, on November 20, that is, two days after receiving the draft neutrality pact proposed by Molotov, its government announced that it considered the Soviet draft "worthy of study." On the issue of Japanese concessions on Sakhalin, Foreign Minister Matsuoka ordered Tatekawa to: "Consideration of the issue of liquidating concessions is difficult. Instead, offer to sell Northern Sakhalin. " 43 In a conversation with Molotov on November 21, the ambassador said that the Japanese government considers the draft protocol on the elimination of concessions "absolutely unacceptable." 44

Tatekawa told Molotov:"...Since Russia's sale of Alaska to the United States reduced disputes and conflicts between the two countries, he (the ambassador) firmly believes that the sale of Northern Sakhalin would put an end to disputes and conflicts between both countries and would contribute to the establishment of a lasting peace between Japan and the USSR."

Referring to the proposal for the sale of Northern Sakhalin, Molotov replied that he had nothing to add to what he had publicly said on March 29, 1940, at the session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In this speech, Molotov ironically referred to the proposal of a member of the Japanese Parliament to sell Northern Sakhalin to Japan and, in turn, stated that "there would be buyers for Southern Sakhalin in the USSR." 45 Molotov told Tatekawa that this speech gave an exhaustive answer about the sale of Primorye and Sakhalin, as well as other territories, and therefore such proposals can only be considered as a joke.

It should be noted that in the 1930s, the "idea" of buying Soviet Far Eastern territories was seriously considered by Japanese politicians. Thus, the prominent Japanese diplomat T. Shiratori wrote in 1935 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Arita: "First of all, Russia should... disarm Vladivostok, etc., and complete the withdrawal of their troops from Outer Mongolia... without leaving a single soldier in the area of Lake Baikal... The issue of transferring Northern Sakhalin at a reasonable price is also included here. In the future, we should also keep in mind the purchase of the Primorye Region of Siberia. " 46

Rejecting Japanese offers to sell Northern Sakhalin, Molotov, for his part, developed the idea of expediency of buying out the territories of Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands previously belonging to Russia from Japan. He said: "Japan has many islands that it doesn't need, but we don't have any islands in the Far East... Therefore, the Soviet side can raise the question of buying Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands for the appropriate price... If Japan agreed to the sale, it would be possible to agree on all other issues, and Japan would have free hands to act in the South, because, as you know, Germany, having concluded a non-aggression pact with the USSR and secured its rear, achieved great success in the West..."

After that, Tatekawa openly stated that the international situation is developing in favor of the USSR and

page 33

it is not surprising that the USSR wants to take advantage of this. However, when it comes to selling the Kuril Islands, this is too much of a requirement. "You seem to think," Tatekawa continued, " that Japan, which is engaged in a long war with China, is exhausted and therefore must make concessions. It is true that Japan has exhausted its forces to some extent, but now it has set about creating a new structure and rebuilding its forces contrary to your expectations, and he also believes that Chiang Kai-shek will also meet Japan halfway."

Not wanting to complicate the negotiations with the discussion of territorial issues, Molotov considered it appropriate to leave this topic, saying that"we are not talking about the sale of some islands in connection with the non-aggression pact, and the issue that was raised along the way (we) do not consider relevant."

In conclusion, the People's Commissar expressed hope for a response from the Japanese government, respectively, in the spirit of Tatekawa's statement in the conversation on November 18. At the same time, he stressed that if Japan does not consider it necessary to give such a response, then the agreement will not take place. Thus, it was made clear that the proposed pact equally meets the interests of both parties and its conclusion is possible only if the conditions and wishes expressed by the Soviet government are taken into account." 47

The next day, November 22, Molotov telegraphed Ambassador Smetanin in Tokyo: "On November 21, I had a conversation with Tatekawa. The conversation showed that so far nothing is working out with our negotiations. In any case, we will wait, we have no desire to speed up events. " 48

The Japanese Government also showed no desire to speed up reaching an agreement on the terms of concluding a neutrality pact. Moreover, it instigated an anti-Soviet campaign in the press, making various complaints and protests about fishing and Japanese concessions in Northern Sakhalin.


However, Tokyo remained interested in securing Soviet neutrality in relation to the Sino-Japanese war and Japan's expansion to the south. The Japanese government decided to take advantage of Molotov's visit to Germany and asked the Germans to persuade the Soviet leadership to make concessions to Japan and sell it Northern Sakhalin. On November 10, 1940, on the eve of Molotov's arrival in Berlin, Matsuoka instructed the Japanese Ambassador to Germany, S. Kurus, to ask the Reich leaders "to put before the Soviet representative the question of concluding a non-aggression pact between the USSR and Japan on Japanese terms." 49

Ribbentrop tried to fulfill this request. At the talks with Molotov, he said:: "If a Soviet-Japanese non-aggression pact is concluded, Japan will demonstrate a generous position in resolving all other problems... As far as I know, if a Soviet - Japanese non-aggression pact is concluded and China agrees, Japan will happily recognize Outer Mongolia and Xinjiang as the Soviet Union's spheres of influence... As for the Japanese oil and coal concessions in Northern Sakhalin, Japan is ready to show understanding of the Soviet position. However, this will require easing the existing contradictions within Japan on this issue. If the non-aggression pact is signed, it will be easier for the Japanese government to resolve this issue. " 50

At the end of 1940, the Japanese leadership learned that Germany was preparing for war against the Soviet Union. There was a situation in which Japan could be confronted with a fait accompli. In the context of its preparations for expansion in the south, Tokyo was concerned about the prospect of involving the country as a member of the "Triple Pact" in the war against the USSR on the side of Germany. This issue was discussed on January 16, 1941 at a meeting of the military department of the Imperial headquarters. Although the report of the Chief of Operations of the Army General Staff S. Tanaka stated that "the Soviet Union cannot prepare for a war on two fronts," it was decided to make appropriate preparations for events in the north. When asked by the Minister of War how long it will take to transfer troops allocated for the war against the USSR, Tanaka replied:: "About four months" 51 .

However, the Japanese were afraid to enter the war against the USSR at the same time as Germany. Their sad memories of the Halhingol events were too fresh. Therefore, Tokyo was once again talking about a pact with the USSR, which, on the one hand, was supposed to protect Japan from the north, and on the other, could be an excuse for refusing to attack the Soviet Union immediately after the start of German aggression.

Due to the unconstructive Japanese position in the negotiations on the conclusion of the pact and the increased anti-Soviet propaganda, the Soviet government pointedly cooled its relations with Tokyo in the winter of 1940-1941, switching to a tougher tone. So, for example, during the negotiations between Molotov and Tatekawa on the conclusion of a fishing convention, the Soviet People's commissar said:"...If Japan thinks to leave the Portsmouth Treaty unchanged forever, which is viewed in the Soviet Union in the same way as the Versailles Treaty is viewed in Western Europe, then this is a gross mistake. Japan violated this treaty. In addition, since this treaty was concluded after the defeat of Russia, it should be subject to correction. " 52

On February 25, 1941, X, the Japanese Ambassador to Germany. Oshima reported a possible sharp deterioration in German-Soviet relations. This is the impression he got from a conversation the day before with Ribbentrop, who made no secret of the fact that "from eighty to a hundred German divisions" were concentrated on the eastern borders of the Reich .53 The contents of this diplomatic dispatch were reported to Emperor Hirohito of Japan. The news thrilled the Japanese monarch. He told the Lord Privy Seal, K. Kido: "If Germany starts a war with the USSR in the near future, allied commitments will force us to prepare for action in the north... Since our hands are tied in the south, we will face a serious problem. " 54

It was decided to send Matsuoka to Europe in order to get the necessary information first-hand at the talks in Moscow, Berlin and Rome.

(To be continued)

28 DVP. T. XXIII. p. 678.

29 FRUS. 1940. Yol. 1, p. 565.

30 Diplomatic Bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, December 1994, N 23-24, p. 72.

Kudo Mumuxupo. 31 Edict. op., p. 80.

32 David J. Lu. From the Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor. Washington, 1961, p. 112.

33 Ibid, p. 110.

34 DVP. T. XXIII, pp. 677-678.

35 Ibid., pp. 685-686.

That Shigenori. 36 Edict. soch., p. 209.

37 DVP. T. XXI 11. 1940 - 22 June 1941. Moscow, 1998. Book Two (part 1), p. 10.

38 Archive of Foreign Policy of Russia. Foundation 4366, case 26, sheet 46-47.

39 DVP. T. XXIII. Book two, S. Yu.

40 Ibid., pp. 10-11.

41 Ibid., pp. 111-113.

42 USSR and Japan, Moscow, 1987, p. 194.

Kudo Michihiro. 43 Edict. op., pp. 87-88.

44 DVP. T. XX 111. Book two, p. 116.

45 Izvestia, 30.03.1940.

46 Cit. by: Kutakov L. N. Istoriya sovetsko - yaponskikh diplomaticheskikh otnosheniy [History of Soviet-Japanese diplomatic relations]. Moscow, 1962, p. 152.

47 For the full transcript of the conversation dated November 21, 1940, see DVP, Vol. XXIII. Book Two, pp. 116-120.

48 Ibid., p. 126.

Tamura Sachisaku. 49 Sekai gaiko si (History of World Diplomacy), vol. 3. Tokyo, 1964, p. 546.

50 Taisen no hiroku (Secret documents of the World War period). Tokyo, 1948 p. 326.

51 Daihonei rikugun bu. Tokyo, 1968. Part 2, pp. 207-208.

52 DVP. T. XXIII. Book Two, p. 191.

53 Taiheye sensho-e no michi. Sirehen (The Road to War in the Pacific. Collection of documents).Tokyo, 1963, p. 383.

Montgomery М. 54 Imperialist Japan: The Yen to Dominate. London, 1987, p. 461.


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