893.01 Manchuria/988: Telegram

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

12. Publicity has been given here to Dr. Hornbeck’s speech on January 188 in which he is reported to have said that “the nonrecognition of government made by swords” is still the policy of the United States. In view of the Far Eastern context of the speech the Japanese interpret Dr. Hornbeck’s remarks as referring to Manchukuo. The spokesman of the Foreign Office9 has issued the following statement to the press:

“It is most regrettable that the Chief of the Far Eastern Bureau of United States State Department should at this particular moment, when the Japanese authorities are exerting their utmost efforts for the promotion of friendship between Japan and America, deliver a speech in which he reviews the argument of the much-contested Stimson doctrine, and further suggests the application to East Asia of America’s traditional policy toward the Latin American countries. His utterances convey an impression of wilfully ignoring the existence of a great power bearing the responsibilities for the maintenance of [Page 7] peace in East Asia. It should not be forgotten that the Empire of Japan exists in the Far East as much as does the United States on the Continent of America.”

It is still too early to foresee the extent of the repercussion from this publicity although it is certain to have a temporarily disturbing effect on Japanese-American relations.

I appreciate of course that the Department had good and sufficient reasons for the delivery of Dr. Hornbeck’s speech. The following points are therefore respectfully submitted without any thought of caviling at a step which might have been given mature consideration but rather in the hope that they may be weighed in determining future procedure.

So far as we can maintain unimpaired, but without public reiteration, the position of our Government regarding the nonrecognition of the fruits of armed aggression, published and compiled at the commencement of the present administration,10 just so far shall we avoid inflaming public opinion in Japan at a time of acute sensitiveness.
The controversies which are certain to arise in the Naval Conference of 1935,11 if it takes place, will inevitably subject Japanese-American relations to a strain in which we shall need every asset of which we can avail ourselves.
If we can even partially overcome the antagonistic attitude prevailing in Japan towards the United States, or at least avoid rendering it more acute, the dangers of that coming strain will be correspondingly lessened and we shall be in a better position to work out our policies effectively. I have, therefore, been working steadily, and not without some favorable result in spite of many local handicaps and setbacks, to improve that attitude.
Public reiteration of our determination not to recognize Manchukuo will inevitably tend to undo that work and will render it more difficult for Hirota12 to carry out his prime policy of improving Japanese-American relations, a policy which I believe to be genuine and which in the long run may prove to be decidedly helpful to American interests if allowed to bear fruit.
If and when further reiteration of our policy concerning Manchukuo is considered necessary, less disturbance of our relations with Japan will be caused by doing so in diplomatic conversations than in public speeches.

Please let me make it perfectly clear that I staunchly support the Far Eastern policy of our Government and that the foregoing considerations have to do purely with matters of procedure and not of principle.

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Address delivered by Stanley K. Hornbeck, Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State, on “Principles of American Policy in Relation to the Far East,” before the Ninth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War, Washington, D. C. For text, see Department of State publication No. 567 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1934).
  3. Eiji Amau.
  4. Conditions in Manchuria, Senate Document No. 55, 72d Cong., 1st sess. (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1932).
  5. See Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, pp. 277 ff.
  6. Koki Hirota, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs.