Memorandum by the Secretary of State
At the request of the President, the Japanese Ambassador called at the White House this afternoon. The President proceeded at once to read the written oral statement (copy attached)91 which had been prepared in reply to the communication recently sent to the President by the Japanese Prime Minister. He emphasized certain points as he read. He particularly emphasized the fact that he appreciated the difficulties of Prince Konoye in connection with the Japanese internal situation, but he added that he has difficulties here which he hopes that Prince Konoye and his Government would appreciate. The President referred to his recent conversations with Prime Minister Churchill, especially that portion relating to plebiscites at the end of the war as the best means of settling many differences and as the soundest policy of dealing with conditions existing between different races. He cited several instances existing at the end of the World War, which were effectively dealt with by plebiscites.
The President then proceeded to read his letter to Prime Minister Konoye, a copy of which is hereto attached.93 The Ambassador inquired if the President was still favorable to a conference and the President replied that he was, but that it was very important to settle a number of these questions beforehand, if the success of the conference was to be safeguarded to the extent warranted by the holding of such a meeting. It was also emphasized that if and when we had secured sufficient assurances from the Japanese Government that it stands earnestly for all of the principles which this Government has been proclaiming as applicable to the Pacific area, it would be necessary for us to discuss the matter fully with the British, the Chinese and the Dutch, since there is no other way to effect a suitable peaceful settlement for the Pacific area; that any settlement must be on a basis that will restore confidence and friendliness among the nations concerned; in no other way can a suitable economic structure be rebuilt for that area. The Ambassador seemed to appreciate this viewpoint. Both the President and I repeatedly emphasized the necessity for his Government to clarify its position on the question of abandoning a policy of force and conquest and on three fundamental questions concerning which difficulties had been encountered in our discussion of the Japanese proposal of May twelfth and the discussion of which we had not pursued after the Japanese went into Indochina. The Ambassador said that Prince Konoye, while preferring to go to Hawaii, [Page 589] would be disposed to go to any place in the Pacific where there was suitable anchorage.
The Ambassador then proceeded to say that he had a despatch from Tokyo referring to the fact that certain elements of opposition to the proposals of the Prime Minister existed and were active in their opposition. He said that the Government, however, is determined to overcome such opposition. He stated that a meeting between the President and the Prime Minister would enable Japan to overcome these disagreements at home and that the opposition would gradually get in line with the Government. He said that Konoye thinks that he and the President can discuss the three questions which were left untouched when the Japanese went into Indochina in July, mainly the question relating to the complete evacuation of Japanese troops from China, the question of non-discrimination in commerce, et cetera, et cetera, and the Tripartite Pact.
It was made clear to the Ambassador that several days should be consumed by his Government both in clarifying and stating strongly its position on the principles already referred to and their application so far as China is concerned, and also that their Government should by word and act in every way possible devote some time at once to the education and organization of public opinion in support of the proposals for a peaceful settlement, as already set forth.