The Chargé in Japan (Dickover) to the Secretary of State

No. 2107

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report on Sino-Japanese relations supplementing that contained in my despatch No. 2086 of October 16, 1936.50

[Here follows summary of events reported in the Japanese press.]

From what has transpired during the last two weeks in connection with the developments in the China situation it is apparent that the Japanese Government perceives no alternative for the present to the continuation of its efforts to seek its ends through diplomatic means. Although the press still contains intimations of “independent action” to be taken if China persists in its refusal to accede to the demands in regard to North China and joint defense against communism, these intimations sound less ominous than the allusions to the “steps which Japan has prepared in reserve”, of which so much was heard a few weeks ago. The continuation of a deadlock like the present for so long without ultimatums or other forms of intimidation is a new phenomenon in Sino-Japanese diplomacy. It can only mean that Japan has become aware of a change in the Chinese temper and that Japan does not wish to risk the consequences of action which would be almost certain to lead to armed resistance. Although there are advocates in Japan of breaking off the negotiations at Nanking and pursuing an “independent course” in North China, which means a resumption of the old tactics of seeking to gain ground by intrigue with local leaders and abandonment of the effort to legalize the Japanese position by dealing with Nanking, it is obvious that to break off the negotiations would mean not only the sacrifice of an agreement with Nanking on those points on which China has indicated a willingness to make terms but also the end of hope for future reconciliation and cooperation with the National Government.

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Japan has probably already lost much prestige in China with corresponding gains for Chiang Kai-shek as a consequence of the stiff front that has been put up against the Japanese demands. There are indications from the press comments in Tokyo that the Japanese Government, fearing that further protraction of the negotiations will render the situation increasingly disadvantageous to obtaining favorable terms, is approaching, if it has not already reached, the point where it would be willing to make the best bargain obtainable. As it is clear that China will not yield on the two points to which Japan professes to attach the most importance, the outcome at Nanking may be an agreement on the other proposals with these two points left in abeyance for the time being or covered by face-saving formulae. This would mean a continued impasse on the North China and anti-communist defense questions, as it is not likely that Japan would withdraw its proposals.

The foregoing observations from the very nature of the situation can be offered only as tentative. Further incidents may occur involving Japanese in China which might bring sudden changes in the aspect of affairs, or again the Chinese becoming over confident over the apparent success that has already attended their tactics might take so strong an attitude as to force Japan to decisive measures in defense of its prestige on the continent.

Respectfully yours,

E. R. Dickover
  1. Not printed.