Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck) of a Conversation With the Japanese Chargé (Suma)

Mr. Suma called at his own request at 4:15 this afternoon. He said that he had come to give me his Embassy’s latest information. He said that his Government was awaiting a reply by the Nanking Government to a memorandum which it had given the Nanking [Page 329] Government the day before. He said that much would depend on the character of the Nanking Government’s reply. He then went on to speak of the general unreasonableness of the Chinese. He said that they had sent 60,000 troops to a point a little south of Paotingfu. He said that this was “very near” to the forbidden zone. To my inquiry, “How near,” he replied, “About 200 miles.” (Note: This is probably incorrect: the distance is probably nearer to 100 miles.) I replied that 200 miles would scarcely seem “very near.” Mr. Suma then inquired whether we had had any reports of anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese at Hankow. I replied that we had not. Mr. Suma said that there was growing anti-Japanese sentiment at Hankow and that his Government was apprehensive with regard to it. (Note: On thinking it over, this remark seems to me significant: if it should be the case that the Japanese military contemplate making a drive against the Nanking Government, an attack upon Hankow (in central China) would be a logical strategic stroke; and, preparation therefor by featuring anti-Japanese sentiment at that point would be a logical move in diplomatic tactics.) Mr. Suma said that his Government was very anxious to keep the peace, but that the Chinese were hard to reason with: they must cease their opposition to Japan. I remarked that it seemed to me that all occidental minds found it very difficult to understand how the Japanese could expect at the same moment to be bringing military pressure upon the Chinese and to have the Chinese not entertain an anti-Japanese feeling. Mr. Suma again spoke of growing anti-Japanese sentiment at Hankow.

I said that a few minutes before this conversation had begun I had been with the Secretary of State about another matter and had mentioned to the Secretary the fact that Mr. Suma was about to call on me. I said that the Secretary had asked that I speak again, as from him, of the importance which this Government attachés to maintenance of peace. I said that the Secretary had remarked that from point of view of Japan’s own interest he thought that to let this matter go to the point of major hostilities would be very detrimental. I said that we were saying the same things impartially to both sides and that both the American Government and the American people feel that a war between China and Japan would be very harmful to the interests of the whole world. Mr. Suma said that Japan did not want war.

Mr. Suma said that he had noticed accounts in the newspapers of an approach by the British Government to this Government and he would like to know whether it was true that such an approach had been made. I said that it was true. Mr. Suma inquired what the British Government had said. I replied that the British Government had given us information and had asked our views. Mr. Suma asked whether we had replied. I said that we had done so and that the [Page 330] exchanges between the two Governments had been in the nature of consultation. Mr. Suma asked whether this was “finished.” I replied that consultation can never be said to be “finished” and that in reference to any situation it is a natural process while the situation endures.

Mr. Suma then reverted to the matter of the reply which his Government awaits from the Nanking Government. He again said that much would hinge on that reply, and he again spoke of anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese. I again spoke of this Government’s desire and hope that peace will be kept.