Memorandum by the Ambassador in Japan (Grew)

1. I called this afternoon on the Minister for Foreign Affairs at his official residence and began by referring to the statement which I had made to Mr. Hirota on my own initiative at our last interview to the effect that the American Government will do everything in its legal power to discourage or deter Americans from fighting in foreign armies, and I then told the Minister that my Government had authorized me to inform him that this statement was entirely accurate. I said that I appreciated the steps which the Minister had taken to prevent [Page 340] the appearance in the Japanese press of adverse comment concerning reports that American aviators were trying to enlist in the Chinese Army, and I also expressed appreciation of his statement in the Diet to the effect that the American Government was taking all appropriate measures. Mr. Hirota said that he had made his statement in the Diet as a direct result of my talk with him.

American Offer of Good Offices.

2. I then referred to the statement which I had made to the Minister in our last conversations as on my own initiative and responsibility, that I hoped he would let me know if he ever saw ways in which I could be helpful in the present situation. I said that my Government had now authorized me to present this as a definite offer of good offices and that I was doing so in an informal, confidential and exploratory way, first because it seemed to me important to avoid publicity, and second because we wished to avoid any semblance of interference and were only anxious to be as helpful as possible. I repeated and emphasized this aspect of my remarks so that there could be no doubt in the Minister’s mind as to our precise attitude and intentions. I then said that it had occurred to us that either now or later it might be helpful for us to arrange some neutral ground for a meeting of Japanese and Chinese plenipotentiaries to conduct negotiations and perhaps to be helpful if difficulties in those negotiations should arise.

3. The Minister received this offer in an entirely friendly way but immediately said that an opening for such negotiations had already been made. It appears that in the conversation which had taken place in Shanghai yesterday between Ambassador Kawagoe and Mr. Kao, Chief of the Asiatic Bureau of the Chinese Foreign Office, Ambassador Kawagoe had presented a so-called “plan” for adjusting Sino-Japanese relations and that Mr. Kao had immediately left for Nanking to report this plan to General Chiang Kai-shek. Mr. Hirota said that he was not yet in possession of all the details of the conversation in Shanghai but that war might still be avoided if Chiang Kai-shek would respond with some “proposal” which would serve as a basis for negotiations. It was obvious from the Minister’s remark that this would be a counterproposal and not necessarily a reply to an ultimatum. Mr. Hirota however characterized the situation as critical and said that unless General Chiang Kai-shek should respond promptly and favorably it would be very difficult to avoid general warfare.

4. The Minister then said that the most effective action which could be taken by the American Government, if it desired to be helpful, would be to persuade General Chiang Kai-shek to make some kind of a proposal promptly.

5. I tried to get the Minister to reveal the general nature of the “plan” which Kawagoe had presented to Kao but Mr. Hirota seemed [Page 341] reluctant to do so, merely stating that it involved conditions for doing away with all anti-Japanese activities in China and also for establishing “good relations” with Manchuria. I asked the Minister if this involved recognition by China of “Manchukuo”, to which he merely replied, “that would be helpful”.

6. Mr. Hirota asked that I regard as strictly confidential the fact that this opening for negotiations had been made because, he said, the press knows nothing about the nature of the Kawagoe-Kao conversation.

7. Mr. Hirota added that matters had been rendered worse by the recent assassination of a Japanese naval officer in Shanghai and that the Japanese Navy is very angry about it, but in order not to enflame the situation in Shanghai it is observing self-restraint.

8. This conversation was reported to the Department in my telegram No. 254, August 10, 7 p.m.22

J[oseph] C. G[rew]
  1. Not printed.