Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck) of a Conversation With the Counselor of the Japanese Embassy (Suma)

Mr. Suma called on me at his request this morning.

Mr. Suma opened the conversation with a narrative of events at Shanghai, in the course of which he mentioned nothing of which we [Page 411] had not already had reports either in telegrams or in press dispatches. He interspersed his account with statements attributing all blame and responsibility for the military situation around Shanghai to the Chinese. He affirmed that the Japanese were acting under necessity and that it was “impossible” for them to withdraw from the scene. At that point, on the basis of authorization given me by the Secretary before Mr. Suma arrived, I first asked Mr. Suma why it was “impossible,” and, after he said that the Chinese made it impossible, I said that I would like to repeat, under instruction, in substance something which the Secretary of State had said on the previous day to the Japanese Ambassador.10 I said that in our opinion both Japan and China are responsible for the present military situation at Shanghai. I said that it takes two parties in conflict to make a fight. If neither the Chinese nor the Japanese had sent armed forces to Shanghai there could not be a fight there; if either side had stayed away there could not be a fight; if either would withdraw there could not be a fight. We could not—and we felt that the world would not—be impressed by an affirmation of either side, in repudiation of its own responsibility, that the whole blame lay with the other side. I said that I was not expressing a personal opinion, I was expressing an official opinion, I was telling Mr. Suma how it looked to the American Government. I said that we were saying the same thing to the Chinese and that we wanted each side to understand that we considered each and both sides responsible.

I then suggested to Mr. Suma that in whatever report he made of the conversation he should make clear the whole of what I had said and that it might be helpful if he were simply to say that this was what had been said to him at the Department of State, without needing to attribute it to any particular officer by name. Mr. Suma said that he would be very careful in the making of his report.