500.A15a3/661: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan ( Castle ) to the Acting Secretary of State


14. Telegram to be repeated to London.19

Evidently acting under instructions, Hanihara20 last night spoke to me of the impression which prevails in Japan that the plans of the American Navy are based on the possibility of war with Japan in order to force acceptance of our ideas in regard to China. Japan realized, he said, that a war with the United States would be the worst possible disaster and that therefore Japan even from a selfish point of view could never think of it, but that unfortunately on account of the belief above expressed there was extreme nervousness here.

This fear would never be understood in the United States, I said, and I could conceive of no circumstances in which the United States would go to war with Japan over China, that our aims approximated the Japanese as both countries wanted only a China which was substantially and politically sound. I was assured by him that this impression which he said prevailed was not the belief of his Government but that popular opinion had to be taken into account and that popular opinion felt that this possibility of war over some Chinese question was the basis for our opposition to a slightly larger ratio for Japan. Dooman21 was told very much the same thing by Vice Minister Yoshida who stated that if I could make some authoritative statement contradicting the idea it might be most helpful. I had already planned to say in my speech at the dinner of the America-Japan Society that we have at present no quarrel on the subject of China and that I foresee none in the future but merely closer cooperation in forwarding our [Page 12] common aim to help China to achieve political and economic stability. There has been, as you know, a radical change in the Japanese policy toward China and it is now clearly recognized that friendly assistance must be the basis for their relations. The above suspicion of our purpose, in my mind, is certainly the principal reason that a higher ratio in large cruisers is insisted upon by the Japanese.

  1. Transmitted to the American delegation as Department’s telegram No. 39, January 31, 9 a.m.
  2. Masanao Hanihara, former Japanese Ambassador in the United States.
  3. Eugene H. Dooman, First Secretary of Embassy in Japan.