Regarding Sovereignty of the Spratleys, and the threatening neighbor

I have already considered, and rejected, doing some sort of detailed post on this subject (at least for the time being) as there is no shortage of such reporting already, but I did just stumble on one citation that is too good not to post.

From the September, 1941 issue of Pacific Affairs, an article entitled Third Conquest of the Philippines?, begins with a summation of the Japanese threat at that moment, which perhaps sounds a bit hysterical until one recalls that Japan was in fact, at that time, working quite hard to conquer the entire Pacific, and that they would very soon after attack both Hawaii and Manila.

There is a shadow of Japan everywhere you turn your eyes in the Philippines. Stories of Japanese fishing depradations, for instance, are almost a daily routine in the papers. When you hear Philippines independence discussed, Japan and her imperial conquests are mentioned in the same breath. The fact is that Japan’s adventures in Manchuria and China have sent chills down the spines of nationalist Filipinos.[…]

For it is being made apparent in the most realistic fashion that such a political freedom-soon to be realized- may yet expose the Philippines as ripe for spoilation by a powerful militaristic neighbor. This is no chimera or idle preoccupation; it is born of facts which are tell-tale evidence of a Japanese plan of conquest of the entire Asiatic Continent including all the rich island tributaries along the coastline. Japan has methodically followed a very logical course of action. The seizure of Hainan Island at the gateway to French Indo-China gave Japan tactical control of the French and British sea-lane to the East Indies.

And after that introduction, we get to what was to the author of this piece (S.P. Vak, Jr. – a name that could almost be out of Star Wars) probably considered to be an idle aside, but in light of current events I found to be the most fascinating lines.

The seizure of the Spratley Islands has tactically brought Japan near to a complete encirclement of the Philippines. The Spratley Islands are barely 200 miles west of the Palawan group. (It is of interest to cite in this connection a farseeing move on the part of Hon. Elpidio Quirino, who as Secretary of the Interior of the Philippine Government memorialized the State Department at Washington in 1937 for a formal declaration of claims to the Spratleys for national defense purposes. Unhappily, the State Department did not see fit to act ion the question. The islands apparently had no official owners, though geographically the Philippines should have been their rightful claimant.)

While we know from both looking at a map and from the current controversy that “geographically,” claims on the islands by Okinawa or Taiwan (which were both Japanese territory at the time), and China via a more convoluted legal route, also seem quite feasible, but it is interesting to see that this author did not even so much as consider those options.

Let us also take a moment to remember that Japan was also considered somewhat of a trade threat at the time, although hardly on the scale that it was in the 80s, or China is now.

Japanese industrialists employ every possible device to flood the market [note: the Philippine market] with cheap imitations of popular American articles. In 1937, for instance, Japan sold 32 million pesos’ worth of commodities in spite of the high tariff barrier, reaching as high as 65 per cent ad valorem on some articles.


Japan, fighting tooth and nail for markets, has resorted to all sorts of weapons. She has unscrupulously copied patents and designs which are purportedly American in Origin. Peculiarly Filipino textiles of the Ilocos and Visaya regions, copied on Japanese looms, sell for less than the originals because of the advantages obtained in organization, technology and cheaper cost of labor.

15 thoughts on “Regarding Sovereignty of the Spratleys, and the threatening neighbor”

  1. Very interesting.

    What is your read on the current Filipino view on China’s South China Sea claims (ie. its all ours mofos!)?

  2. In premium class, United is basically a no-brainer because their 747s (which fly Chicago-Narita) have flat bed seats in business and first. Assuming you are going in coach, here’s my run-down:

    ● PLUS: You can buy up to Economy Plus seating with extra legroom, or get it for free if you have Premier status (fly 25,000 miles a year)
    ● MINUS: Likely have to transfer in Chicago, which is often snowed in or otherwise delayed in the winter months (DC and the West Coast are smoother connecting points)
    ● MINUS: 747s which fly Chicago-Narita are old and falling apart with no in-flight entertainment (but 777s are OK)

    ● PLUS: Marginally better food and drink than United
    ● PLUS: Generally happier cabin crews
    ● MINUS: Likely have to transfer in Newark, which is often delayed or otherwise dysfunctional (Houston is smoother)

    One other factor to consider is that UA’s planes are either 2-5-2 (777) or 3-4-3 (747) in coach, whereas CO’s 777s are all 3-3-3. If you are flying alone, it doesn’t make a huge difference. As a twosome, a UA 777 will help avoid being seated with strangers. In a party of three or more, you will probably want a middle block on whichever carrier/plane offers the right-sized middle block.

  3. Excellent. Thanks. I was hoping to hear from The Expert.

    Will probably take United as the Continental run involves getting up at 2 in the morning and the advantages don’t seem super compared to that.
    Coach all the way (the price is right – zero).
    Fingers crossed, will probably squeak by before the snow.
    Flying out of Dulles on a 777 on the way over, 747 through Chicago on the way back.

    Are United crew the surliest of all? Their reputation precedes them.

  4. I’d love to, but this is a short trip packed with university business. I’ll be in Japan from next April to September, however, and I’ll do my best to make it happen then.

  5. Continental has marginally better food than another airline? Wow; I’d long since given up on Continental food (literally; I pack my own food and refuse everything offered to me) on their Newark-Narita flight, which I take once or twice a year.

    Continental’s service is pretty good, and they’ve never lost a bag; the only problem I ever had was being put on an overbook list (and almost not being able to board) despite being a “Silver Elite” member which is supposed to put you a step above the plebeians.

    They also seem to have taken the Japanese language out of their flight maps, and also removed metric distances and temperatures in favor of Imperial. No idea why they did this.

  6. Actually I’ll be around both Kyoto and Tokyo the same time, if anyone wants to grab a beer.

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