Foreign News: Thank You, Mr. van Mook

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Last week The Netherlands East Indies slapped Japan's face, and Japan took it with nothing more than a face-saving tightening of the features.

For months a Japanese commission under the polite but theoretically tough Kenkicho Yoshizawa has tried to get The Netherlands East Indies to promise Japan greatly increased shipments of rubber, tin, oil, other foods of war.

Opposite Commissioner Yoshizawa at the Batavia conference table has been The Netherlands East Indies' genial, broad-faced, bespectacled Economics Minister Hubertus J. van Mook. As the weeks went by Minister van Mook knew very well that Japan's Army and Navy were slipping down the Indo-China coast, ever nearer the riches of the Indies. But he also knew that the Indies were becoming a nest of gun emplacements, barbed wire, trenches, that scores of U.S.-made bombers were being unloaded and assembled. And he knew that he had a very favorably disposed, if distant, neighbor named Franklin Delano Roosevelt who commanded a big and not so distant Navy in the Pacific.

So Minister van Mook repeatedly stalled off the Japanese. Finally exasperated Commissioner Yoshizawa declared that relations were "on a precipice." He submitted a final bill of demands and named a day for decision—and not only a day but a deadline at noon hour on that day.

When that hot noonday came to The Netherlands East Indies last week, Netherlands. British and U.S. officialdom held its breath. Just previously Economics Minister van Mook had given the Japanese a ten-page answer to their demands. It was said to state in effect that The Nether lands East Indies would willingly continue trade relations with Japan on the basis of the annual average trade for the past five years. By inference this meant Japan would not get increased war materials either to use itself or to send to its Axis partners.

Commissioner Yoshizawa met this faceslap with the faint remark that it was "disappointing." By week's end the toughest statement he had permitted himself was: "We can agree on some points, but it is my impression that agreement will be very difficult on others." And he had plaintively telephoned Tokyo that The Netherlands East Indies might have shown "greater sincerity." It seemed that the stroke of noon had been Minister van Mook's.