Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck)


Mr. Hornbeck called on and had tea with the Japanese Ambassador. The conversation was leisurely and long.

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The Ambassador’s mention of Mr. Hirota afforded opportunity for Mr. Hornbeck to introduce the subject of Mr. Hirota’s recent approach to Mr. Grew on the subject of a possible Japanese “good will mission” to this country.54 Mr. Hornbeck said that he had noted with great gratification Mr. Hirota’s statement to which the Ambassador had just referred. The Ambassador would remember that Mr. Hornbeck had mentioned this matter at the time when the news had just been received that Mr. Hirota had made that statement. He was sure that the Ambassador realized that we believed that he was committed as are we to the important objective of maintaining peace and promoting friendly relations between his country and this country. The Ambassador said that this was absolutely correct. Mr. Hornbeck then remarked that it was gratifying to observe that Mr. Hirota was apparently committed to the same objective. There have been various evidences of this since Mr. Hirota assumed office. It would seem that Mr. Hirota was casting about for ways and means of promoting friendly relations. Mr. Hirota had indicated this to Mr. Grew. Among other things, Mr. Hirota’s inquiry of Mr. Grew with regard to the possibile advisability of sending from Japan a “good will mission” to the United States was an evidence. The Ambassador asked: “Has Mr. Hirota made such an inquiry?” Mr. Hornbeck asked: “Have you not been so informed?” The Ambassador replied: “No, I have had nothing from the Foreign Office about that”. Mr. Hornbeck said that the Ambassador would remember that there had appeared in the press about ten days ago statements from Tokyo to the effect that there was being considered in Japan the possibility of sending a good will mission. The Ambassador said that he remembered that. Mr. Hornbeck said that the stories from Japan had stated that news of this had been given out as a sort of “trial balloon” with a view to seeing what would be the reaction of public opinion in the United States; shortly thereafter, Mr. Hirota had asked Mr. Grew for Grew’s opinion; Mr. Grew had replied on his own responsibility that he did not believe that there was any need for such a gesture, as there was very little anti-Japanese feeling in the United States and the public, if not apathetic toward good will missions, was inclined to inquire “Why?” and “What for?” in connection with them; Mr. Grew had reported the conversation to the Department; and the Department in reply had expressed its concurrence in the views which he had expressed.55 The Ambassador said that he felt the same way about it. Mr. Hornbeck said that he [Page 431] hoped the Ambassador would not report to Tokyo that an officer of the Department had mentioned this matter and that he assumed that the Ambassador would probably not feel inclined to say anything to Tokyo on the subject unless the Foreign Office first raised the question with him. The Ambassador said that if and when his Foreign Office sent him any inquiry on the subject his reply would be confined to an expression of his own opinion which would be to the effect that the sending of such a mission would not be likely to serve a useful purpose; he would tell them that Viscount Ishii had been here and had been well received, that Matsuoka had been well received, that Komatsu had been shown every possible courtesy, that the sending of a mission, unless it came for a definite and announced purpose of transacting some business, would be gratuitous, and, in addition, that the American Government is at present very much preoccupied with urgent and pressing matters.

The Ambassador said that this idea probably had a background which he would like to explain. A year or so ago there had been talk of sending such a mission with Viscount Kaneko as its head and Baron Dan as a member. Kaneko had been a friend of Theodore Roosevelt and it was felt that he would have prestige in this country and the Japanese people would assume that to be the case. Then Baron Dan had been assassinated and that project had been dropped. Later, there had been talk of sending a mission headed by a prominent business man, Mr. Matsukata. But that idea did not come to fruition. Then there had come the accounts of Ishii’s conversations with the President and discussion of a possible arbitration treaty, and the thought had developed that there should be some sort of a follow-up. Now, it happens that there is a clan affiliation between Mr. Hirota and Viscount Kaneko. Probably admirers of Kaneko have conceived the idea, putting all these things together, of doing Kaneko honor and promoting a political objective at the same time: hence the idea of a mission. Then too, there is constant recollection of the success which Viscount Ishii achieved when he came over in 1917 on a general mission and succeeded in achieving a particular thing, the negotiation of the Lansing-Ishii Agreement.56 Mr. Hornbeck remarked that the whole situation, viewed from many angles, is very different now from the situation which prevailed in 1917. The Ambassador said that he fully shared that view.

Mr. Hornbeck then said that he would like to ask an indiscreet question,—and the conversation turned to a discussion of the present Russo-Japanese situation. (Note: Account of this is given in a separate memorandum.)57

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When that item in the conversation had been disposed of, the Ambassador said that he, too, would like to ask what might be considered an indiscreet question: he would like to know what Mr. Hornbeck thought and what might be the attitude of the American Government on the subject of a possible arbitration treaty. He said that there was actually outstanding between the two Governments a draft of such a treaty.58 The department had given him that draft a good while ago and his Government had never acted upon it. Mr. Hornbeck said, in reply, that it would be remembered that in certain periods the American Government had been especially interested in the concluding of arbitration treaties. In those periods there had been developed certain types of treaty and we had concluded several groups of treaties. The present Administration had so far not turned its attention to that subject and had apparently not made any effort to expand those groups. It would probably be a simple matter for any country which wanted to have with us an arbitration treaty of a type to which we were already committed to conclude with us such a treaty. But, if the Japanese Government were to conceive of making a project for the conclusion of such a treaty an instrument for introducing new features such as it had been reported that Viscount Ishii has in mind, if this were to involve a proposal for a “regional understanding” or some other new and special political undertaking, that would be quite another question; and he doubted whether the American Government would consider this an opportune time to discuss any such project. It therefore was his personal opinion that it would be inadvisable to bring up any such matter at this time and that it would be better if there were not newspaper discussion of such matters as possibilities. The Ambassador said that this was completely in accord with his own estimate. He said that he had doubted whether the American Government would be willing to conclude even the kind of an arbitration treaty the text of which was in his files if, in connection therewith, Japan sought to make special reservations.

(Note: For other items see separate memoranda.)

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. See telegram No. 149, October 3, 1933, 2 p.m., Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 123.
  2. Telegram No. 89, October 6, 1933, 5 p.m., Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 125.
  3. Signed at Washington, November 2, 1917, Foreign Relations, 1917, p. 264; for unpublished protocol, see ibid., 1922, vol. ii, p. 595.
  4. Infra.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. iii, p. 140.