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

No. 506

Sir: I respectfully refer to my cable No. 114 of June 8, 1933, 11 a.m., relative to the improvement in the Japanese attitude toward the United States, and to state that, although the press continues its anti-American campaign, there have recently been indications that the Government is endeavoring to encourage a feeling of friendliness between the two countries. Whether a specific plan has been drawn up with this end in view is difficult to ascertain, but it is obvious that a policy of friendliness toward the United States is at present being pursued, publicly at least. The first intimation of such an attitude occurred on July 16 when Mr. Takahashi, Minister [Page 707] of Finance, issued a public statement defending the American stand at the economic conference11 at a time when the American position was receiving severe criticism from other quarters. From this date on, numerous Japanese officials of high rank have apparently almost gone out of their way to make public utterances emphasizing the necessity of Japanese-American amity. The Japan Advertiser of August 21, 1933 reports an interview with the Foreign Minister, Count Uchida, in which he is reported as stating that hereafter his gravest concern will be the maintenance of the friendliest relations between Japan and the United States. This, the Foreign Minister is claimed to believe, is expedient in so much as in 1935 the Naval Disarmament Conference12 is due to be held in accordance with the terms of the London Treaty,13 and therefore it will be necessary to pave the way for a favorable reception of Japan’s intended demands. These, one is led to believe, will be that she be permitted to increase her ratio. The Foreign Minister is said to have propounded the following three points as essential to the promotion of Japanese-American relations:

  • “1. Japan makes every effort to inform the American people that the revision of the Washington14 and London treaties is absolutely necessary for Japan’s national defense.
  • “2. Japan expects the United States to ignore the Manchurian problem and the independence of Manchukuo as matters of the past and urges that the United States enter into trade relations with Manchukuo, independently of the recognition problem, as a gesture of good will to Manchukuo.
  • “3. Japan earnestly expects America to lend aid to the conclusion in the near future of the Japan-American Arbitration Treaty referred to by President Roosevelt and Viscount Kikujiro Ishii, chief delegate to the world economic conference, in Washington last May.”15

It is believed that the Japanese have at last realized, and rightly, that the rumors of American machinations such as are reported in my despatch No. 495 of August 14, 193316 were being overemphasized by the newspapers, and to alleviate the ill effects thereof have swung in the other direction. But whatever the motivating force, friendly sentiments are being broadcast. Another statement which is illustrative of this policy of courting American favor was made by the Japanese War Minister, Lieutenant General Sadao Araki, to Mr. Kent Cooper, [Page 708] the General Manager of the Associated Press. As this statement was published by the American press on July 18, specific quotations would be superfluous. Suffice to say that, like the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of War emphasizes his desire to promote friendship between his country and the United States. Of late, several instances have occurred which, though not of major significance, were distinctly anti-American in character. The incidents I have in mind are the matters of Dr. Teusler’s yacht and Lieutenant Sherr’s encounter with the local police (See Section I-a, despatch No. 490, Monthly Report on Conditions in Japan—July, 193317); the refusal of the authorities to permit the entry of Upton Close into “Manchukuo”; the expelling from this country of two American citizens, Langston Hughes and Alex H. Buckman, and, finally, the public revelation that the Army cadets now on trial who were involved in the May 15th incident last year had plotted to kill both the American Ambassador and the American Consul General. It is perhaps an endeavor on the part of the authorities to remove the unsavory odor which such incidents are likely to create in America that has acted as a stimulant to the present pro-American policy.

Recently, Prince Iyesato Tokugawa, former President of the House of Peers, and reputed advocate of Japanese-American cooperation, sailed for America. It is not at all inconceivable that his trip, in addition to its personal character, was the result of encouragement from the Foreign Office for the very definite purpose of making favorable Japanese propaganda in the United States. Such a surmise is strengthened by the radio speech delivered by Prince Tokugawa shortly after his arrival in San Francisco in which he stated that “our (the Japanese) friendly feeling toward America is not skin deep but has withstood many tests during difficult periods in our international relations.…18 There is a necessity for mutual understanding and friendly cooperation between the two nations. An encouraging factor is that the United States and Japan are bound by solid and growing ties of commercial relations. Japan is the largest buyer of American goods in the Orient, and the United States is the best customer of Japan. Even in China there is little conflict of commercial interests. Their trade is not competitive but complementary, as most of the goods America exports to China Japan does not produce.”

The action of the California State Chamber of Commerce in advocating the revision of the Immigration Laws to provide for a quota basis has met with a most favorable reception from the local press. Likewise the recent ruling of the Commissioner General of Immigration [Page 709] which permits Japanese students to go to America to work their way through college has called forth praise from the Japanese.

That there is some purpose behind this new attitude I have little doubt. It may be that the Japanese are specifically creating an atmosphere of friendliness prior to proposing the much rumored new arbitration treaty or leading up to some similar rapprochement. On the other hand, they may merely have come to the decision that, now that they have accomplished their ends in Manchuria, the wisest procedure for them to follow is to strengthen the ties between two of the great non-League Pacific nations. It is this latter view that I am inclined to favor, and I believe the following factors influenced its adoption:

Although the thinking Japanese realize that the primal motive of our naval expansion policy is to increase employment, the eventual result will be distinctly unfavorable to Japan. As I previously stated, the Japanese will undoubtedly demand in 1935 a change in the 5:5:3 ratio (the Naval Attaché is of the opinion that the Japanese will probably demand parity, or at least a ratio of 5:5:4.5 plus). The Japanese naval authorities believe that they would always be able to build up to parity with the United States in so much as they do not anticipate that the United States would ever build up to its full quota. Nevertheless, I do not believe the Japanese are anxious for a naval race with the richest country in the world.
The Japanese authorities are apprehensive of American recognition of Russia, possibly through fear of the assistance which such recognition would lend the Soviets in case of a Russo-Japanese war, which many thinking Japanese believe unavoidable.
Since their withdrawal from the League, the Japanese are experiencing the sensation of isolation from the rest of the world.…19 Their relations with Great Britain show little signs of improvement, and now comes the dispute with France over the ownership of the Parasel Islands. It is difficult to run counter to the entire world unsupported, and as I indicated in my despatch No. 491 of August 9, 1933,20 the impression is given that the Japanese nation, as well as its officials, are ill at ease in their present international position and are feeling around for some safe course to follow.

In casting about for a friendship to cultivate, that of the United States would be obviously, in view of many circumstances, the most useful. It seems probable, therefore, that we may anticipate further friendly gestures on the part of those in authority in Japan.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Edwin L. Neville

Counselor of Embassy
  1. Monetary and Economic Conference held at London June 12–July 27, 1933; see correspondence on this subject printed in vol. i.
  2. See Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, pp. 249 ff.
  3. Signed April 22, 1930, Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, p. 107.
  4. For text of the Washington treaty, signed February 6, 1922, see ibid., 1922, vol. i, p. 247.
  5. See pp. 745 ff.
  6. Ante, p. 387.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Omission indicated in the original.
  9. Omission indicated in the original.
  10. Not printed.