393.1163Am3/236: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Japan (Grew)13

251. Supplementing Department’s 250, October 5, 7 p.m. Your 431, September 29, 8 p.m.; 435, September 30, 1 p.m.; 450, October 5, 7 p.m.14

The publication of the text of the Japanese reply of September 29 to this Government’s note of September 22 was followed by widespread comment in the press in this country to the effect that the reply was “unsatisfactory”. There was much comment, some of astonishment, some severely critical, and some expressive of perplexity, on the expression of hope that this Government would “cooperate with the measures taken by the Imperial Japanese Government”. We realize that Hirota’s statement in that context related to measures which the Japanese wish to take to avoid endangering or destroying American lives and property. But, many commentators failed accurately to grasp the intended application and dealt with this suggestion that we “cooperate” without reference to the limitation implicit in the context. Subsequently, both in the memorandum reported in your 435, September 30, 1 p.m., and in the last paragraph of Hirota’s note reported in your 450, October 5, 7 p.m., the Foreign Office again solicits our “cooperation” in relation to procedure for the safeguarding of American lives and property.

The idea that we should or that we can cooperate with Japan in anything related to or connected with the carrying on of the hostilities to which Japan and China are parties is an idea entirely contrary to our whole attitude and policy in regard to those hostilities. Disapproving as we do of the military operations in their entirety, we cannot take a step or make a contribution which implies assent on our part to [Page 511]such operations provided they do not endanger or destroy American lives and property. We must and we will do what we appropriately can toward causing American lives and property not to be endangered. But, in so doing, it should not be expected or be construed that we are “cooperating” with either of the parties engaged in military operations or that what we do is done in any sense for the purpose of facilitating the conducting by either party of such operations.

In view of the type of comment to which the Foreign Office use of this expression “cooperate” has given rise, both in unofficial and in official circles in this country, we feel that you should bring this matter to Hirota’s attention and make clear to Hirota that what this Government seeks and expects is not “cooperation” between the two countries in relation to any phase of military operations but that American lives and property shall not be endangered by and in consequence of any military operations. We appreciate the assurances and the apparently sincere effort of the Japanese Foreign Office to help toward avoiding endangering American lives and property, but in our opinion it would be advisable to avoid use of the term “cooperate” in any context relating to or bearing upon the military operations.

  1. Repeated by the Department to the Embassy in China as telegram No. 302, Oct. 6. 1937, 7 p.m.
  2. Telegram No. 450 not printed.