23 JUNE 1939, Page 1


THE seizure of Swatow, in South East China, by the Japanese on Wednesday may more properly be regarded as a normal military operation than as a move deliberately directed against British interests. Swatow, it is true, is a treaty port, and a good deal of British trade goes through it, but it cannot be held for that reason to be entitled to immunity from normal military operations. There is no British concession there, as at Tientsin. In the latter port the situation is little changed. The Japanese blockade im- poses inevitable hardships on the British population, but there is no food shortage, and the situation will be eased by the fact that most of the women and children are being sent to the seaside. The obscurity which still prevails as to the degree of responsibility the Government at Tokyo is willing to assume for what is happening at Tientsin is no doubt due to the strategy which keeps two alternative policies available for use as circumstances may dictate. Japan, with everything in her favour on a short view, is testing British resistance, carrying on the now familiar " war of nerves " in the form that suits her best. The military authorities at Tientsin can be supported or repudiated as developments may require. Lord Halifax in a speech on Wednesday ex- pressed hope that the Japanese Government might still refrain from challenging the whole position of Great Britain in China. But there would seem to be no very convincing grounds for optimism.