740.0011 Pacific War/475

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State

Owing to the absence of the Japanese Ambassador from Washington, the Minister of the Embassy, Mr. Wakasugi, came in to see me this evening at my request.

I expressed the hope to Mr. Wakasugi that the Ambassador’s absence from Washington at this time was not due to illness. Mr. Wakasugi replied that the Ambassador had left this morning by automobile to go to Maine to stay with Admiral Pratt,63 expecting to return to Washington on Saturday of this week.64 He had left word, however, that he would return to Washington at a moment’s notice should he be needed here.

I said that I wished to preface my conversation by saying that what I was about to say represented Secretary Hull’s views, as well as my own.

I stated that I was fully familiar, of course, with the details of the informal conversations which Secretary Hull had been carrying on with the Japanese Ambassador over a period of several months. I said that the maintenance of peace in the Pacific, the abandonment of the utilization of force or conquest in the national policies of the several governments vitally interested in the Pacific and the consecration of the rights of equality of opportunity and of equality of treatment to all of the powers concerned constituted the very foundation of the possible ultimate agreement between our two Governments which was the objective of those conversations.

I went on to say that in a recent conversation which I had had with the Japanese Ambassador he had referred to Japan’s fear of encirclement and I stated to Mr. Wakasugi, as I had to the Ambassador, that from the reiterated expositions of United States policy which had been made to the Japanese Ambassador by Secretary Hull in such detailed fashion upon so many occasions, I felt sure that the Japanese [Page 521] Government could not have the remotest belief that the United States Government had had in mind any such policy towards Japan as would be represented by a policy of encirclement.

I stated that in view of all of these facts I had requested Mr. Wakasugi to call in order to tell him quite frankly that from reports which had reached me during the past few days from many different sources, I could only assume that the Japanese Government had it in mind in the near future to occupy Indochina. I said that the carrying out of a step of this character would, in the opinion of this Government represent a policy so utterly at variance with the foundation stones of the agreement which had been under discussion as the objective of the informal conversations which had taken place and so completely divergent from the kind of policy which the Japanese Government would in fact pursue if it were undertaking the course which had been clearly defined in the informal conversations between the Ambassador and Secretary Hull, that I felt it necessary frankly to ask what the real facts might be.

I said that this Government fully appreciated the fact that the new government so recently installed in Tokyo had public opinion in Japan to reckon with and that, in view of the shaping of public opinion in Japan which had been taking place during the past year, we could fully understand that some time might be required before the new government could undertake the carrying out of new policies of the nature which had been under discussion in Washington. I said that if the Japanese Government was sincerely desirous of reaching the kind of agreement which had been under discussion and which required time because of the state of public opinion to which I had referred, this Government was willing to be most patient and understanding. I said, however, that should the Japanese Government embark upon a policy of the kind which would be demonstrated by the occupation of Indochina, the United States and all other peace-loving nations interested in the Pacific must necessarily be forced to reconsider their own individual positions.

Mr. Wakasugi looked me squarely in the eye and said that the Japanese Embassy had no knowledge whatever of any intention on the part of the Japanese Government of occupying Indochina or of taking any step which would be at variance with the policies indicated in the informal conversations which had taken place. He stated that he had assumed that it was too early for Admiral Toyoda, the new Foreign Minister, to have determined upon any questions of foreign policy, since, as the Minister had publicly stated in the press, he must first engage in the task of “learning diplomacy”.

I interjected by saying that Admiral Nomura had been good enough, in my last conversation with him, to speak of the intimate friendship [Page 522] and close relationship between himself and Admiral Toyoda and had clearly indicated that the policies of the Ambassador and of the new Foreign Minister would be identical.

Mr. Wakasugi then said that he was quite sure this was the case since the Ambassador had received immediately after the installation of the new Foreign Minister a most affectionate message from him urging the Ambassador to pursue with diligence the conversations with Secretary Hull to a successful conclusion.

Mr. Wakasugi then inquired point-blank whether, in my judgment, the occupation of Indochina by Japan would interfere with the successful conclusion of the conversations which Secretary Hull had been carrying on with Admiral Nomura. I replied that it seemed to me completely illogical for one party to these conversations to be carrying on discussions on a basis predicated upon the maintenance by the parties to the conversations of a policy of peace, no resort to force or conquest, et cetera, and at the same time for the other party to the conversations to be undertaking in practice policies utterly and hopelessly at variance therewith.

Mr. Wakasugi then said that he would immediately telephone the Ambassador of our conversation and he believed that the Ambassador would wish to return immediately to Washington to talk with me himself.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Admiral William V. Pratt, U.S.N., retired, Chief of Naval Operations, September 17, 1930–July 1, 1933.
  2. July 26, 1941.