Memorandum by the Ambassador in Japan (Grew)

Last night the press bureau of the Foreign Office informally issued a statement concerning the reports that a considerable number of Americans are planning to offer their services as aviators to the Chinese Army. The statement could be read as implying that the American Government is responsible for not deterring these aviators and that this may reflect on the good relations between the United States and Japan. The statement also invoked our Neutrality Act.20
I therefore called this morning on the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Foreign Office, telling him that I had come on my own initiative and not under instructions and that I was making no formal representations, but that since he himself had recently spoken to me of the present sensitiveness of the Japanese press and the importance of avoiding undesirable comment and speculation I desired to bring this statement to his attention. The statement had not been published in this morning’s Japanese newspapers but I said I hoped it would not appear in the afternoon press. I told the Minister that, as he must well know, the American Government will do everything in its legal power to discourage or deter Americans from fighting in foreign armies. I also pointed out that the Neutrality Act is a domestic matter and that its interpretation by foreigners is difficult.
The Minister seemed much upset and immediately telephoned to the chief of the press bureau who informed him that the statement had thus far been given only to one correspondent, Byas of the New York Times. Mr. Hirota promised me that it would not be permitted to appear in the Japanese press and he thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention.

Sino-Japanese Relations.

In the course of our conversation Mr. Hirota said, “As I told you some time ago Japan does not want war with China. If the Chinese Central troops which have come up to Hopei Province will withdraw there will be no more fighting.”
As on my own initiative and responsibility I took this opportunity to say to the Minister that I hoped he would not fail to let me know if he ever saw ways either now or in future by which I could be of help in this situation.

This conversation was reported to the Department in my No. 247, August 6, 4 p.m., and No. 248, August 6, 5 p.m.21

J[oseph] C. G[rew]
  1. See act of August 31, 1935, and amendments of February 29, 1936, and May 1, 1937; 49 Stat. 1081, 1152, and 50 Stat. 121.
  2. Neither printed.