793.94/7017: Telegram

The Minister in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

285. A Japanese long known to the Legation for frankness and veracity, who is on good terms both with the Japanese military and Japanese diplomats in China, has informed a member of my staff as follows: The immediate purpose of the Japanese military is to obtain substantial political control over Hopei Province by obtaining, (1) removal of all troops of Chiang Kai-shek and of Chang Hsueh-liang to positions south of at least Paotingfu (while some Japanese military want them sent south of the Yellow River); (2) removal of Kuomintang branches; (3) removal of Yu Hsueh-chung from Provincial chairmanship; (4) appointment of a new Mayor at Tientsin and (5) transfer of Provincial capital to Paotingfu. These developments in Hopei will also give the Japanese military preponderant influence in Shantung Province and will make it unnecessary for them to bother about Chahar and Suiyuan. The real object to the Japanese military is to eliminate Chiang Kai-shek as a potential menace to Japanese interests; and the Japanese hope that his loss of prestige through capitulation to Japanese demands with regard to North China, together with the effects of rebellion by the southwest which the Japanese military are anticipating, will force Chiang out of the picture. The informant views the present situation as being [Page 215]as serious as the situation was in 1931 because today the attitude of the Japanese military toward Chiang Kai-shek is the same as it was then toward Chang Hsueh-liang.

This informant anticipates that Shang Chen will be put in charge of police forces in the area after demilitarization, that Ho Ying-chin may remain in temporary direction of the situation now in the National Government, and that Huang Fu is politically finished. He regards Chiang as having three courses of action, (1) to remain in West China, adopt communism and with Russian assistance maintain himself there; (2) to fight Japan; and (3) to capitulate to Japanese demands. The possibility that he may fight Japan is strengthened in the informant’s opinion by the possibility that T. V. Soong, who is anti-Japanese and ambitious, may give money to Yu Hsueh-chung to cause the latter to resist the Japanese, a course which Yu might be headstrong enough to follow. Capitulation to Japanese demands will so discredit Chiang that he will be forced out of office.

I am inclined to take the view that elimination of Chiang is now the purpose of the Japanese military and the Japanese policy in China, a purpose which was previously held only by an important section of them. This view is supported by statements of Japanese military to the press in which they blame Chiang for the present situation. (The Japanese Military Attaché Isogai informed the press yesterday that Chiang is to blame for the situation.) This opinion is also supported by a statement of Suma, Japanese diplomat who is of the military party. During a tirade against Chiang, Suma told a member of my staff that Chiang is to blame for the present difficulties and that there is no hope for smoothing Japanese relations as long as Chiang is in power.

As for the [claim of?] Japanese military that their ambition will be assisted by rebellion in the Southwest, where Japanese military have been intriguing for some time, I am inclined to believe that they will be disappointed unless Chiang’s present strength in area adjacent to Kwangtung and Kwangsi is diminished as a result of entanglements elsewhere.

According to my informant, the Japanese might chose the present time for demands respecting North China because they saw that Hirota’s policy of rapprochement was diverging too greatly from the military’s China policy. They decided that delay might make it more difficult for them to take over complete direction of Japanese policy in China. (Suma recently stated that, although since the [winter?] he has been working for the rapprochement, neither he nor any other Japanese had any belief in the efficacy of such efforts). In this connection I find interesting the statement of my informant to the effect that the Japanese Military Attaché left Shanghai for Peiping yesterday [Page 216]for the primary purpose of being absent when Ariyoshi presents credentials as Ambassador. My informant and also Japanese diplomats in Nanking believe that Ariyoshi will probably arrive within a few weeks. Suma hints that he himself will be transferred to the United States in the very near future, and I feel that these two developments may be a part of some sort of a compromise within the Japanese Foreign Office, not unlike the compromise which authorizes the removal of Ariyoshi from his post as Foreign Office spokesman.

Repeated to Peiping.

By mail to Nanking Legation and Tokyo Embassy.

For the Minister:
Cunningham