893.6363 Manchuria/83: Telegram

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

193. Your 254, November 22, 8 p.m. For your information:

Please reread Department’s 151, August 31, 5 p.m., especially first and last paragraphs.
When informed of Department’s position, as indicated in our instruction to London of August 31,59 a British Foreign Office official remarked “It is all right as far as it goes”.
On September 19, Foreign Office stated orally to our Embassy its opinion that, in view of similarity of interests, Department might wish to instruct you to make an approach to Japanese authorities similar to that made by British Ambassador at Tokyo about July 23; that it was understood that the Netherland Government was willing to make a similar démarche on behalf of Dutch oil interests; and that for the present the British Foreign Office did not plan to take further action. Department on September 21 instructed Embassy to inform Foreign Office to the effect that we naturally supposed Foreign Office would submit a plan for future cooperation and a statement of what it would be prepared to do or suggest for concurrent action with other interested governments; that the Department, however, had instructed you to approach the Japanese Government along the lines indicated in its telegram to you No. 162 of September 21, 8 p.m. Department also expressed the hope that the British Government might, in view of the fact that its representations to the Japanese Government made almost 2 months prior thereto had apparently yielded no favorable results, find it possible to express to the Japanese Government views substantially similar to those of the American Government, thus tending to confer on the independent démarches of the interested [Page 763] governments some of the advantages which might flow from simultaneous and joint action.
Please reread Department’s 184, October 31, 7 p.m.
Since September 19, Department has had nothing direct from British Foreign Office on this subject until, as stated below, on November 17. Meanwhile, we have been informed repeatedly by American interests that they have been informed by British interests at London that the Foreign Office was about to take action. It has been implied and inferred that the action contemplated was to be the making of an approach to us. Representatives of all the oil interests concerned were for several weeks in conference in London, and we were told that the British interests were in close contact with the British Foreign Office. We therefore have assumed that the Foreign Office was fully informed and was exercising a guiding influence; and we have awaited an initiative toward us by it.
On Saturday, November 17th, Wiggin60 of the British Embassy here informed Hornbeck by telephone of a receipt of a Foreign Office instruction to inquire “what we could tell them about the oil situation,” to which Hornbeck replied that we thought that they knew all that we knew and perhaps more but that we would be glad to attempt to reply to specific questions if and when put to us by them. On Monday, November 19th, Hornbeck asked Wiggin to call and gave Wiggin a full account of the developments up to date, repeating the offer to answer any specific questions. Hornbeck again stated that, as representatives of all the principally concerned oil companies have been conferring recently in London, the Foreign Office is probably more completely informed than are we; that in any event the attitude of the Foreign Office seems to be identical with our own and that we have assumed that the Foreign Office would make to us suggestions when it considers doing so opportune and convenient. On November 22 British Ambassador here orally requested of Under Secretary information whether we were satisfied with the cooperation of the British with regard to oil problems in Japan and Manchuria and intimated that British Foreign Office was slightly piqued at our attempt to place the greater responsibility for action upon the British Government. In reply British Ambassador was informed orally that the British Government had first approached us in the matter; that we had replied most sympathetically; and that, inasmuch as British oil interests involved, particularly when added to Dutch interests, are greater than American interests, the Department has naturally assumed that the British Government would wish to accept a major responsibility in the matter.

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Comment and queries:

There seems to be some confusion as to whether in various references to “the oil situation” there is meant the situation in Japan or in Manchuria or both. Although those two situations are separate, they are closely related and they are both situations with regard to which control and ultimate responsibility lie, in our opinion, with the Japanese authorities; and in connection with both, the problem confronting foreign interests and governments is that of preserving actual investments and markets.
Could you conveniently ascertain from Clive what is the nature of the latest representations which he is under instruction to make or has made with regard to the Manchuria situation?
In the light of all that you now know, would you advise that we instruct you to make to the Japanese another démarche similar to that which Clive is under instruction to make in regard to the Manchuria situation?

  1. Not printed; see last paragraph of Department’s telegram No. 151 to the Ambassador in Japan, p. 728.
  2. Arthur Francis Holme Wiggin, First Secretary of the British Embassy at Washington.