While Masahiro Yamamoto (below) sets us right about the Japanese delay in publication of the Iris Chang book 'The Rape of Nanking,' I often wonder why there is so little mention in Japan about the 1942 Singapore massacre. In many ways it is far more scarifying, and deserving of explanation, than anything that happened in Nanking.

1. It was highly selective, with Chinese chosen for alleged pro-British or pro-Chungking sentiments.(In Japanese it was euphemized as the Great Singapore Inspection - シンガポール大検 ). In one blow Singapore lost many of the the better educated in its small community. Another generation was needed to overcome the human capital loss.

2. It was done with deliberate brutality, with the selected batches taken away to secluded places to be shot or bayoneted to death. The Nanking excuse of gungho soldiers out of control cannot be used.

3. While the Japanese estimate for numbers killed is 5,000, Singapore estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000. (Lee Kwan Yew put it at a minimum of 70,000.) In other words, it is on a par with, or even exceeds, the more sober estimates of the Nanking numbers.

4. While the critics seem to enjoy tearing apart the rather emotional Nanking massacre account by Iris Chang, I wonder what they would say about Lee Kwan Yew's considered comment on what happened in Singapore:

"But they also showed a meanness and viciousness towards their enemies equal to the Huns'. Genghis Khan and his hordes could not have been more merciless. I have no doubts about whether the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary. Without them, hundreds of thousands of civilians in Malaya and Singapore, and millions in Japan itself, would have perished."
*Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times, 1998. [59-60]
Note: The Singapore massacre was followed by systematic massacres of the Chinese-origin population in a number of Malayan villages. No figures available there, unfortunately, and needless to say, no apologies.

5. In both scale and selectivity the Singapore massacre is on a par with the Katyn forest massacre of Polish officers by Stalin. The world is told repeatedly about that latter massacre as an indication of USSR and Stalin's brutality. Why the small attention to the Singapore massacre as an objective indication of Japanese wartime leadership?

And will the people who tell us how Japan has apologised sufficiently for its wartime behavior kindly tell us why Singapore is bypassed. And why do the people who downplay the Nanjing massacre so vigorously have so little to say about Unit 731. Or is that too supposed to be a fiction of Iris Chang-style imagination?

6. While Tokyo grudgingly agreed to some reparations for the Singapore massacre, sorry, the Great Inspection (but only after Singapore's independence), it has, as far as I know, refused any apology. In the travel advisory we received when accompanying the 1974 Tanaka Kakuei visit to Singapore, we were told not to raise the topic because it would only cause 'misunderstandings.'

Gregory Clark
In the early 1960s Ambassador Reischauer was calling attention to trends showing that in a few years the JSP would replace the LDP as majority party.

One of my first jobs in Canberra in the early sixties was wading through transcripts of US spy buggings against JSP politicians. We were told the eavesdropping was needed to warn against any leftwing pro-China tendencies, then seen as a major threat to US anti-communist goals for Japan.

In explaining the weakness of leftwing or progressive opposition movements in Japan today Peter Duus gives a neat outline of JSP failure to follow the more realistic West German model.

But for some reason he does not mention what I for one saw at the time as the main leftwing failing, namely the senseless rivalry between the JCP and the JSP. Differences between their ideologies and programs were slight. Yet their refusal to cooperate - even to the point of having rival Hiroshima Day ceremonies - was Japanese factionalism at its worst.

Both communist and socialist candidates would poll quite well in elections and time and time again one saw how dozens of seats could be won if the votes for both were combined. But no. Both doggedly would fight on separately, both seemingly convinced that faithfulness to their respective supporters was more important than gaining power.

Even today, when they are both shadows of their former selves and the current electoral system makes the need to cooperate even greater, both still insist on going their separate ways - to oblivion.

Note: In the early-nineties I was briefly consulted about the plans for the change from multi-seat to single seat electorates. I tried hard to suggest a shift to the Australian style preference voting system. This would have done much to strengthen the electoral position of smaller parties, particularly the leftwing parties, since it was likely they would exchange preferences to avoid splitting the vote.

It was seriously considered for a while, especially since there are or were similar systems in a few other nations. But eventually it ended up the in the 'too hard' basket.

Gregory Clark

the first Keynesian fiscal stimulus did not happen until August of 1993 in my recollection.

Yes, I corrected my earlier mistake (it was year 2000, not 1990, that Japan got a sustained Keynesian stimulus, only to see it killed by the Koizumi austerity), and I mentioned the Miyazawa stimulus of 1993. That 1993 stimulus was remarkably effective, though as someone who lived through that period I feel it was helped by a Japan still willing to believe there would be post-bubble recovery.

There were strong hopes of a soft landing for land prices, which for a while seemed possible.

It was not until the austerity people took over in 1996 under Hashimoto, with their calls for abolishing tobashi (the covert extension of troubled loans on the assumption that the recovery begun under Miyazawa would continue) and the bankrupting of Yamaichi Shoken and Hokkaido Takushoku (shades of the Lehman bankruptcy) that the rot set in.

Miyazawa was aware of Keynesian thinking, having made a special study of the works of my father (Colin Clark) who worked with Keynes in Cambridge in the mid-thirties.

Gregory Clark

On the topic of Japan's foreign policy, allow me to introduce a collection I have made over the years, and now published, of examples where Tokyo pointblank denies or cover ups foreign policy facts which it finds embarrassing or harmful.

It can be found at


I should add that in some cases, Northern Territories especially and to some extent over Senkakus, it would be much more in Japan's interests to admit the facts and use them to right alleged wrongs it has been made to suffer.

But psychologically it seems unable to do this.

Gregory Clark

If you believe that not sending in such forces into disputed areas is both illegitimate and foolish, than Japan's failure to send in paramilitary forces to Dokdo/Takeshima or the Southern Kurils/Northern Territories reflects a lack of moral courage and strategic vision.

Thomas Berger was writing in response to my claim that once Japan arbitrarily decided it had sovereignty over the Senkakus (contrary even to the 1971 judgement of its protector and Cold War ally, the US) China had no choice but to act as it has simply to persuade Japan to go back to its earlier promise to shelve the issue.

I assume he is consistent in his sarcasm, and is equally critical of Taiwan's action in organising a fishing boat invasion of the Senkakus.

Or perhaps no. I find that a clear sign of anti-China bias among the commentators is the inability to remember that it was Taiwan, not Beijing, that first queried Japan's claim to the Senkakus - to the point of having the US decline to endorse Japanese sovereignty in 1971.

Turning to Dokto/ Takeshima, yes, it could be argued that Japan should have taken stronger measures. But first it would have had to deny that its colonial occupation of Korea was in any way related to its claim to the islands. That would have been hard to sustain.

With Northern Territories it would have been in an even more difficult position.

It would have had to deny the ample evidence that Japan in 1951, contrary to what is written in the San Francisco peace treaty, did not, repeat not, renounce all right, claim and title to the Kurile Islands, later defined by the Gaimusho Treaty Affairs Bureau chief as including Etorofu and Kunashiri, the northern territories currently in dispute.

Compared with all that the claims by Beijing, and Taiwan, to ownership of the Senkakus approach a much higher level of reality. As such they justify some kind of immediate action - fishing boat invasions, patrol boat incursions etc - to prevent the freezing of a status quo that most unbiassed observers would agree is at least open to doubt. .

Gregory Clark

A recent monograph from the Australian National University - Breaking Japanese Diplomatic Codes - throws even stronger light on the Hasegawa Tsuyoshi 'Racing the Enemy' thesis that Moscow in 1945 sought eagerly to delay Japan's surrender to the Allies in order to facilitate its own attack into Manchuria. Its main technique was to encourage an obtuse Japanese establishment to believe that the USSR might somehow use good offices with the Allies, and so encourage a surrender delay.

The monograph deals mainly with the techniques used by Australian code breakers through to 1945. But it includes, almost as an aside, a fascinating detail which was new to me and maybe to some NBR members, namely:

From Verona we knew long ago that Soviet agents in Australia in 1945 were getting material from pro-Soviet sources in Australia's department of External Affairs in Sydney, one of which almost certainly was Allan Dalziel, secretary to then External Affairs minister Evatt. Included were plans for the US attack on the Philippines gained from MacArthur's headquarters in Australia.

What we (or at least I) did not know was that through Australian decoding of messages to Tokyo from the Japanese consulate in Harbin, these plans were then passed on by Moscow to Tokyo via that Harbin consulate. The Soviet aim in handing over the plans to the Japanese was to help Japan resist the planned US attack and so delay Japan's surrender. But it also helped feed the delusion that Moscow had good will to Japan.

We knew that Stalin was devious. But that devious?

The Dalziel connection only became public in Australia in 1954 following the Petrov affair. But no legal action was taken against him or his alleged helpers - two of whom were still working in External Affairs (though under a cloud) when I joined in 1956. The fact that their activities could have caused significant Allied casualties during the invasion of the Philippines was never revealed.

Perhaps one reason for not acting against them more severely was that Australian decoding of Japanese diplomatic and other materials continued postwar. More deviousness? They were finally revealed in 1976 by an Australian Financial Review journalist, Brian Toohey.

Strangely the Toohey story was ignored in Japan, until I wrote about it two years later in a book published by Simul. More Japanese obtuseness?

Incidentally, the Hasegawa book reveals an incredible 1945 offer by Hirota Koki to Malik, then Soviet ambassador in Japan, to have the USSR join with Japan in a war against the invading Allies (Hasegawa, while showing the extent to which Moscow was feeding Japanese delusions the USSR might act as intermediary to end the war, does not seem to know about the Harbin connection).

But before we ridicule the Hirota delusions, allow me to mention something even more extraordinary less than 20 years later. As an Australian Embassy first secretary in Moscow I was present in the Kremlin in October 1964 when an Australian foreign minister, Paul Hasluck, set out to persuade Kosygin and Gromyko to join the West in opposing alleged Chinese 'aggression' in Vietnam.

I have reason to believe it is very likely Hasluck was put up to this by Washington which, like many others, had misread the Sino-Soviet dispute as proof that a moderate Moscow was in deadly dispute with a militaristic Beijing.

(In fact the dispute was caused by Moscow reneging on its offer of nuclear help to China following the US threat to use nuclear weapons in the 1958 Offshore Islands dispute - a threat relevant to the current and very understandable Chinese dislike of having US naval vessels still patrolling its waters, by the way. I give more details both of this and the Hasluck demarche in my 1968 book 'In Fear of China', and on my website.)

As with the Harbin revelations, few in Australia's sleepy foreign affairs academic establishment have shown much interest in these details. It was a US academic, Peter van Ness, who brought the very important Harbin material to my notice.

Gregory Clark

Recent NBR Contributions
(Posted January 2014)