FAR EAST: Porcupine Nest

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Abandoning his tour of Western Austral ia and summoning his Cabinet, Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies hurried back to Melbourne this week. The chips were down in the Far East ; the next thing to be seen was Japan's hand. Bob Menzies said that the people of Australia were standing with a catch in their throats in the most vital hour of their history. "In the mercy of God bombs have not yet fallen in this country. But they may."

Watching to see whether the Japanese would go north or south, or both, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden said: "Any action that would threaten the integrity or independence of Thailand would be a matter of concern to this country, particularly as a threat to the security of Singapore. I hope these words will be heeded."

The Thailand radio instructed the people to leave any invader only burned-out villages.

The Chinese Army talked of moving into the Japanese path at Canton.

Whimpering tensely like a nervous dog before a field trial, the Japanese spoke of being encircled, even complained because the British would not step out of the way of their march toward "Greater East Asia."

Cordell Hull in Washington growled that Japan was encircling herself farther, the farther she strayed from where she belonged.

In Peking, North China gate to Manchukuo, it was freely predicted that Japan would move against Siberia first.

Waiting for Japan's expected Thailand-Singapore-Netherlands East Indies-Australasia play, which might come first or second, last week everybody concerned gave anxious tongue. Everybody, that is, except No. 3 on the list, the Indies.

The Dutch stood pat. They had made their preparations. They expected major help from their neighbors, who shared their interests. But none of the world's weaker lands save heroic Greece had been ready to do so much defending of themselves by themselves.

Busy Year. Without the Indies, Japan will never have all the oil, rubber and tin she needs, nor the power and prestige she thinks she needs to be a great empire. All Japan's plans are made with an eye on the Indies, and the Indies in one short year have become bristling porcupines of resistance.

Before the fall of France the N.E.I. were no more cognizant of the Nazis' might than any other land on the hither side of the Rhine. When the Indies woke up they woke up with a bang and got to work immediately without any ifs, ands or buts. Their alarm clock was Hubertus J. van Mook, Director of the Department of Economic Affairs. In the summer of 1940 the U.S. woke up to the fact that available stocks of tin and rubber would not last a full normal year. Mr. van Mook had the tin and rubber, and the U.S. had the guns and airplanes that he needed. They traded.

From a strength of 175 old planes in March 1940 the Indies' Air Force grew to 700 planes by last November, to "over 1,000" by now. Present rate of shipment is 45 to 50 planes a month. Small arms and machine guns were, and are still, purchased in the U.S. The U.S. sends the Indies chassis for armored trucks and the Indies build the bodies. The Indies also are buying fn the U.S. machine tools, mining and factory machinery, shipbuilding equipment, steel for the four 10,000-ton warships the Indies plan to build.

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