893.6363 Manchuria/122

Memorandum by the Ambassador in Japan (Grew)40

The Netherlands Minister, General Pabst, called on me by appointment this morning and we conversed for over an hour on a good many general subjects.


The Minister thanked me for having informed him, through Count Rechteren, of my recent third démarche in connection with the “Manchukuo” Petroleum Monopoly42 and said that he had reported the [Page 332] matter to his Government by cable and had recommended that he should be instructed to take similar action. He had proposed the text of an aide-mémoire along the lines of our own communication. I explained to the Minister the general policy of our Government in connection with this whole question.

The Naval Conversations43 and Japanese Plans in East Asia.

The Minister said that the Japanese claims for naval parity were obviously ridiculous and it was clear that what they want to do is to create a situation in which they can ultimately carry out their plans in East Asia without risk of interference by the United States or Great Britain or both acting together. In General Pabst’s opinion, these Japanese plans envisage complete commercial control over China, the Philippines, the Straits Settlements and Siam, and they further hope to be able to include the Dutch East Indies within the orbit. He said that the Japanese had shown their hand with surprising naivete by such indications as the statement by the Spokesman of the Foreign Office on April 17, the subsequent statement by the Japanese Consul General in Manila and the surprisingly naive attitude of Nagaoka and the Japanese Trade Delegation to Batavia. General Pabst said that the Japanese had come to Batavia for the obvious purpose of obtaining complete control of the market there for Japanese goods. The Dutch, on the other hand, had entered the negotiations in order to persuade Japan to buy Dutch goods and it was perfectly obvious that if the Dutch East Indies intended to dispose of their own commodities to other countries they must be prepared also to purchase from those countries and not exclusively from Japan. The Japanese Consul General in Batavia, one of the delegates, had made the astonishingly significant statement, “if you refuse our proposals it will be impossible for us to compromise with you”. The Japanese had begun by laying down four principles which were totally inacceptable to the Dutch and they had been categorically refused.

A Dutch correspondent had recently asked General Pabst to arrange an interview for him with Hirota, and as a few days later the Foreign Office made an indication on its own initiative that Hirota would be glad to give the interview, General Pabst had taken this man to the Minister himself. In the course of conversation the correspondent had asked Hirota whether Japan would in future respect the territorial integrity of other countries, to which Hirota, after considerable thought and after summoning an interpreter to express his views more accurately, replied, “Yes, if those countries do not bar Japanese immigrants and goods”. General Pabst was naturally astonished by this frank statement which was a pretty clear indication of the reservations [Page 333] always in the back of Japanese minds, in connection with their abiding by their treaty obligations in good faith. At the end of the talk Mr. Hirota had spoken of the difficulties of the Batavia conference much like a school master giving a lecture to a recalcitrant pupil and both General Pabst and the correspondent agreed afterwards that there was a distinctly spiteful tone in the Minister’s remarks.

General Pabst said that Mr. Sugimura, the newly appointed Japanese Ambassador to Italy, asked to come to see him before departing for Rome which General Pabst thought rather surprising and significant because Japanese Ambassadors do not generally call on Ministers, and he thought that Mr. Sugimura had probably come to see him at the behest of the Foreign Office. In the course of their conversation the subject of the rumors of an Anglo-Japanese rapprochement came up and General Pabst inquired what Sugimura thought would be the basis of such an understanding if it could be arranged. Sugimura, after much hemming and hawing, said that Japan might be willing to agree to British trade predominance in South China in return for an agreement to leave Japan free in the rest of China. General Pabst said, “how about the Yangtze where British interests are predominant?” Sugimura said “no”, but that Japan would recompense England by leaving the Indian market free for British goods exclusively. (In this connection General Pabst said that at the Batavia conference the Japanese had observed that Holland would of course be permitted to dispose of some of its goods in the Dutch East Indies!)

Sugimura then asked the Minister for a letter of introduction to the Dutch Minister in Rome. General Pabst thought this was an unusual procedure and explained it to himself on the grounds that the Dutch Minister in Rome is accredited to the League of Nations and Sugimura wished through him to keep in touch with developments at Geneva.

General Pabst is now inclined to feel that the talk of an Anglo-Japanese rapprochement was a ballon d’essai on the part of Hirota. General Pabst thinks that the only hope of curbing Japan’s ambitions to completely dominate East Asia is Anglo-American solidarity. If we were to agree to the Japanese proposals and scrap our battleships, large cruisers and air plane carriers, Japan would be perfectly free in future to carry out her plans. This is obviously the basis of her position in the naval conversations. If England and America work together and develop a solid front, Japan will eventually be obliged to climb down and the Japanese Government will then set about to remould public opinion in such a way that it will be able to climb down without too much loss of face.

[Page 334]

In the course of further conversation on the subject of Japanese propaganda the Minister considered very significant a recent pamphlet issued in the name of various subordinate Army officers and reservists explaining the position of the Japanese Army in connection with the political situation and enclosing a return post card in which the recipients of the pamphlet are requested to ask any questions if the contents of the pamphlet are not entirely clear to them.

J[oseph] C. G[rew]
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 1092, December 11; received December 28.
  2. For correspondence on this subject, see pp. 699 ff.
  3. See aide-mémoire of November 30, 1934, from the American Embassy in Japan to the Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 143.
  4. See vol. i, pp. 217 ff.