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

No. 2613

Sir: I have the honor to report that the recent visit of Mussolini to Berlin, on which occasion the heads of the two outstanding anti-Communist states assailed communism and reasserted their common determination to save Europe and the world from the menace of bolshevism, naturally brings to mind the German-Japanese anti-comintern pact of November, 1936, which completes two sides of what might logically be termed an Italo-German-Japanese anti-communist triangle. The question now arises as to whether the third side of the triangle has been, or will be, completed in the form of an Italo-Japanese agreement to combat bolshevism.

Except for the sake of symmetry, it appears doubtful that the last-named agreement will prove necessary, that is, in an open, published form. It must be conceded that one of the effects of the agreement of November, 1936, with Germany was to bring about a sharp and sudden halt in the tedious but slowly progressive improvement in relations between Japan and Soviet Russia. At this time last year it will be recalled that following the sale of the Chinese Eastern Railway in March, 1935, the outstanding questions at issue between the two countries were being slowly but surely disposed of, one by one, but that with the announcement of the German-Japanese anti-Comintern pact all negotiations were abruptly terminated by the Soviets and have not since been resumed. It can only be logical to [Page 607] deduce, therefore, that the announcement by Japan of a similar agreement with Italy, especially at this time when Japan is locked in a bitter military struggle with Russia’s virtual ally, China, would cause great resentment at Moscow and might serve further to stimulate the Soviet Government to livelier and even more dangerous, though at present indirect, action against Japan.

It will be recalled that the pact with Germany was engineered by the military and apparently without the knowledge or approval of the Foreign Office. As the military are at present otherwise engaged it appears doubtful, therefore, that the Foreign Office in the light of the former experience would undertake to conclude any agreement with Italy at the present time which would be calculated to affront the Soviets.

Another reason why it appears unnecessary to complete the triangle—to use the figure employed in the first paragraph—is that the anti-communist philosophies of both Italy and Japan are in any case recognized to be identical by both countries and by the rest of the world. There exists, therefore, an identity of interests in this respect which would make it possible for a tacit understanding to be arrived at without the necessity of the signature of a formal agreement on the subject. And there is some slight reason to believe that such may be the case.

A member of my staff had occasion to discuss the question recently with the Counsellor of the Italian Embassy, in connection with the negotiations which are going on concerning the Italo-Japanese trade agreement begun last spring by Ambassador Sugimura in Rome and continued by his successor, Mr. Hotta. During the course of the conversation the Counsellor of the Italian Embassy gave the strong impression that the question of Italo-Japanese solidarity against the communists had been discussed in connection with the trade agreement conversations but, as he put it, “our views being so similar in such questions, it seems both unlikely and unnecessary that a formal agreement be entered into.” This, however, he gave as his purely personal opinion and he emphasized the fact that his Embassy had no information from Rome on the matter. As an interpretative view it appears reasonable to suppose that the Counsellor’s statement is not far from the fact. At any rate it may be taken, without stretching the point too far, as a strong intimation that the question has at least been discussed between the two countries.

Regarding the trade agreement, the Counsellor said that it dealt chiefly with the question of extending the existing trade facilities between Japan and Italy to include trade with Ethiopia and he also remarked that only the “second stage” had been completed. It was gathered from the conversation further that “Manchukuo” was later [Page 608] to be included, either in the agreement under discussion or in a separate agreement. It was, however, emphasized that de jure recognition of “Manchukuo” was not contemplated; that while an arrangement had been concluded “with the assistance of the Japanese Foreign Office” providing for the stationing of an Italian Consul General at Mukden and for “Manchukuo” Consuls to be stationed in one or more Italian maritime cities, neither was to station representatives in Hsingking or in Rome lest such move be subject to misinterpretation as constituting de jure recognition.

Respectfully yours,

Joseph C. Grew