793.94/4233: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Forbes) to the Secretary of State

70. Replying to your telegram No. 55,55 the factors are:

The impending election of February 20 which creates distorted values and a condition of unusual tension and unrest, although overshadowed by public interest in military operations.
The country being dominated for the moment by war psychology, protests are likely to enhance this feeling and silence any conservative element which might otherwise make itself heard. While pressure is being exerted from foreign nations it is difficult for the conservative element here in Japan without the appearance of being unpatriotic to make an effective opposition to the policies of their Government, now apparently dominated by the military clique. These conservative elements have requested patience on our part and a little time for the war psychology to die down and sane conservative policies to gain force (see my telegram 65, February 13, 1 p.m.).
There is actual danger, that the military group might take advantage of the war psychology and of the fact that they are in the saddle to take some desperate step and though the chance is remote might even go so far as to plunge this country into war with a first-class power.
There seems still to be a real danger of a coup d’état which would result practically in a military dictatorship, and careful observers believe the best chance of avoiding this is to hold off for the present any further evidence of outside pressure.
The financial situation of the Japanese Government is going to be a serious problem and the cost of these military operations is sure to be embarrassing to the responsible Japanese officers.
Time is a factor working in favor of the operation of all these influences.
The longer the Japanese entangle themselves in the Shanghai area the more expensive and troublesome it will be. The movement has never been widely popular in Japan and is likely to become much more unpopular as it goes on. Outside influence is apt to leave heartburning and rancor in this country and not hasten the Japanese withdrawal.
It must be remembered that the Japanese regard their investment in Manchuria and the protection of interests in connection with it as essential for their economic existence and continuance as a first-class power and [Japan?] is ready to go to war in defense of this. Moreover, she regards her interests in China as of the first importance and no other country has as great an interest or as great a proportionate interest or as large a population resident in China as has Japan. The interests of other countries are not nearly so vital and hence movements that excite the Japanese people to a war frenzy have little effect in America or European countries. It is well to await the subsidence of these present excited feelings and return to normal before pursuing a policy likely only to increase the excitement.
It is manifest that China is wholly unable to control her own Government, army or peoples, and it is undeniable that Japan has had just grievances and it is unfortunate that her methods of seeking redress of these have been such as to arouse the Chinese to a pitch of resentment that has brought about the present situation.

If it results in China asking assistance from other powers to reorganize her internal affairs it might offer a happy solution, but further outside pressure on Japan would not necessarily be helpful in bringing this about.

I have had frequent contacts with the Belgian Ambassador, and he agrees with the views expressed by the other four.

  1. February 15, 5 p.m., p. 346.