Draft Proposal Handed by the Japanese Ambassador (Nomura) to the Secretary of State on May 12, 1941

Confidential Memorandum Agreed Upon Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan

The Governments of the United States and of Japan accept joint responsibility for the initiation and conclusion of a general agreement disposing the resumption of our traditional friendly relations.

Without reference to specific causes of recent estrangement, it is the sincere desire of both Governments that the incidents which led to the deterioration of amicable sentiment among our peoples should be prevented from recurrence and corrected in their unforeseen and unfortunate consequences.

It is our present hope that, by a joint effort, our nations may establish a just peace in the Pacific; and by the rapid consummation of an entente cordiale [amicable understanding],20 arrest, if not dispel, the tragic confusion that now threatens to engulf civilization.

For such decisive action, protracted negotiations would seem ill-suited and weakening. Both Governments, therefore, desire that adequate instrumentalities should be developed for the realization of a general agreement which would bind, meanwhile, both Governments in honor and in act.

It is our belief that such an understanding should comprise only the pivotal issues of urgency and not the accessory concerns which could be deliberated at a conference and appropriately confirmed by our respective Governments.

Both Governments presume to anticipate that they could achieve harmonious relations if certain situations and attitudes were clarified or improved; to wit:

The concepts of the United States and of Japan respecting international relations and the character of nations.
The attitude of both Governments toward the European War.
The relations of both nations toward the China Affair.
Commerce between both nations.
Economic activity of both nations in the Southwestern Pacific area.
The policies of both nations affecting political stabilization in the Pacific area.

Accordingly, we have come to the following mutual understanding:—

[Page 421]

I. The concepts of the United States and of Japan respecting international relations and the character of nations.

The Governments of the United States and of Japan jointly acknowledge each other as equally sovereign states and contiguous Pacific powers.

Both Governments assert the unanimity of their national policies as directed toward the foundation of a lasting peace and the inauguration of a new era of respectful confidence and cooperation among our peoples.

Both Governments declare that it is their traditional, and present, concept and conviction that nations and races compose, as members of a family, one household; each equally enjoying rights and admitting responsibilities with a mutuality of interests regulated by peaceful processes and directed to the pursuit of their moral and physical welfare, which they are bound to defend for themselves as they are bound not to destroy for others; they further admit their responsibilities to oppose the oppression or exploitation of backward nations.

Both governments are firmly determined that their respective traditional concepts on the character of nations and the underlying moral principles of social order and national life will continue to be preserved and never transformed by foreign ideas or ideologies contrary to these moral principles and concepts.

II. The attitude of both Governments toward the European War.

The Governments of the United States and Japan make it their common aim to bring about the world peace; they shall therefore jointly endeavour not only to prevent further extension of the European War but also speedily to restore peace in Europe.

The Government of Japan maintains that its alliance with the Axis Powers was, and is, defensive and designed to prevent the nations which are not at present directly affected by the European War from engaging in it.21

The Government of Japan maintains that its obligations of military assistance under the Tripartite Pact between Japan, Germany and Italy will be applied in accordance with the stipulation of Article 3 of the said Pact.

The Government of the United States maintains that its attitude toward the European War is, and will continue to be, directed by no such aggressive measures as to assist any one nation against another. The United States maintains that it is pledged to the hate of war, and accordingly, its attitude toward the European War is, and will continue to be, determined solely and exclusively by considerations of the protective defense of its own national welfare and security.

[Page 422]

III. The relations of both nations toward the China Affair.

The Government of the United States, acknowledging the three principles as enunciated in the Konoe Statement and the principles set forth on the basis of the said three principles in the treaty with the Nanking Government as well as in the Joint Declaration of Japan, Manchoukuo and China and relying upon the policy of the Japanese Government to establish a relationship of neighborly friendship with China, shall forthwith request the Chiang Kai-shek régime to negotiate peace with Japan.

IV. Commerce between both nations.

When official approbation to the present Understanding has been given by both Governments, the United States and Japan shall assure each other to mutually supply such commodities as are, respectively, available or required by either of them. Both Governments further consent to take necessary steps to the resumption of normal trade relations as formerly established under the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United States and Japan.22

V. Economic activity of both nations in the Southwestern Pacific area.

Having in view that the Japanese expansion in the direction of the Southwestern Pacific area is declared to be of peaceful nature, American cooperation shall be given in the production and procurement of natural resources (such as oil, rubber, tin, nickel) which Japan needs.

VI. The policies of both nations affecting political stabilization in the Pacific area.

The Government of the United States and Japan jointly guarantee the independence of the Philippine Islands on the condition that the Philippine Islands shall maintain a status of permanent neutrality. The Japanese subjects shall not be supject to any discriminatory treatment.
Japanese immigration to the United States shall receive amicable consideration—on a basis of equality with other nationals and freedom from discrimination.


The present Understanding shall be kept as a confidential memorandum between the Governments of the United States and of Japan.

The scope, character and timing of the announcement of this Understanding will be agreed upon by both Governments.

[Page 423]

Oral Explanation for Proposed Amendments to the Original Draft22a

II. Par. 2.

Attitude of Both Governments toward the European War.

Actually the meaning of this paragraph is virtually unchanged but we desire to make it clearer by specifying a reference to the Pact. As long as Japan is a member of the Tripartite Pact, such stipulation as is mentioned in the Understanding seems unnecessary.

If we must have any stipulation at all, in addition, it would be important to have one which would clarify the relationship of this Understanding to the aforementioned Pact.


China Affair.

The terms for China-Japan peace as proposed in the original Understanding differ in no substantial way from those herein affirmed as the “principles of Konoe.” Practically, the one can be used to explain the other.

We should obtain an understanding, in a separate and secret document, that the United States would discontinue her assistance to the Chaing Kai-shek régime if Chaing Kai-shek does not accept the advice of the United States that he enter into negotiations for peace.

If, for any reason, the United States finds it impossible to sign such a document, a definite pledge by some highest authorities will suffice.

The three principles of Prince Konoe as referred to in this paragraph are:

Neighborly friendship;
Joint defense against communism;
Economic cooperation—by which Japan does not intend to exercise economic monopoly in China nor to demand of China a limitation in the interests of Third Powers.

The following are implied in the aforesaid principles:

Mutual respect of sovereignty and territories;
Mutual respect for the inherent characteristics of each nation cooperating as good neighbors and forming a Far Eastern nucleus contributing to world peace;
Withdrawal of Japanese troops from Chinese territory in accordance with an agreement to be concluded between Japan and China;
No annexation, no indemnities;
Independence of Manchoukuo.

[Page 424]


Immigration to China.

The stipulation regarding large-scale immigration to China has been deleted because it might give an impression, maybe a mistaken impression, to the Japanese people who have been offended by the past immigration legislation of the United States, that America is now taking a dictating attitude even toward the question of Japanese immigration in China.

Actually, the true meaning and purpose of this stipulation is fully understood and accepted by the Japanese Government.


Naval, Aerial and Mercantile Marine Relations.

(a) and (c) of this section have been deleted not because of disagreement but because it would be more practical, and possible, to determine the disposition of naval forces and mercantile marine after an understanding has been reached and relations between our two countries improved; and after our present China commitments are eliminated. Then we will know the actual situation and can act accordingly.

Courtesy visit of naval squadrons.

This proposal, (b) of IV. might better be made a subject of a separate memorandum. Particular care must be taken as to the timing, manner and scope of carrying out such a gesture.


Gold Credit.

The proposal in the second paragraph of V. has been omitted for the same reasons as suggested the omission of paragraphs (a) and (c).


Activity in Southwestern Pacific Area.

The words, in the first paragraph, “without resorting to arms” have been deleted as inappropriate and unnecessarily critical. Actually, the peaceful policy of the Japanese Government has been made clear on many occasions in various statements made both by the Premier and the Foreign Minister.


Political Stabilization in the Pacific Area.

As the paragraph (a) implying military and treaty obligation would require, for its enactment, such a complicated legislative procedure in both countries, we consider it inappropriate to include this in the present Understanding.

[Page 425]

Paragraph (b) regarding the independence of the Philippine Islands has been altered for the same reason.

In paragraph (c) [(d)] the words “and to the Southwestern Pacific Area” have been omitted because such questions should be settled, as necessity arises, through direct negotiation with the authorities in the Southwestern areas by the Government of the United States and of Japan respectively.


The stipulation for holding a Conference has been deleted. We consider that it would be better to arrange, by an exchange of letters, that a conference between the President and the Premier or between suitable representatives of theirs will be considered when both the United States and Japan deem it useful to hold such a conference after taking into due consideration the effect resulting from the present Understanding.


In regard to the statement to be issued on the successful conclusion of the present Understanding a draft will be prepared in Tokio and cabled to Washington for the consideration of the United States Government.

  1. For correction, see Japanese document of May 23, 1941, p. 439.
  2. For revision of this paragraph, see Japanese document of May 23, 1941, p. 439.
  3. For additional paragraph, see Japanese document of May 23, 1941, p. 439.
  4. See p. 398.