793.94/9732: Telegram

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

187. Your 321, August 27, 4 p.m. With your outline of the Embassy’s estimate and views before me, I hope that you will find it useful, toward understanding and interpreting our position, to have an [Page 506] outline of our general reaction to developments in the situation under reference and our present thoughts in regard to policy and methods.

The course which this Government has pursued with regard to the Far East during recent years has been animated in part by the thought that it would be advantageous to encourage effort on the part of the Japanese and the Chinese to develop attitudes of real cooperativeness toward each other and toward the rest of the world. The hostilities which have been and now are going on between those two countries have produced a situation which leaves little room for hope of there being in the near future developed by and between them reciprocally any such attitude or practice.

In the light of the methods which the Japanese military forces are employing, especially of their complete unresponsiveness in action to suggestions which have been quietly and patiently offered them by this and other Governments that they give reasonable consideration to the rights, interests, susceptibilities, safety, etc., of persons and countries not parties to the conflict, there is warrant for doubt whether the elements that actually control Japan’s policies and action set any appreciable value upon the friendship of other nations or the efforts toward cultivation of good will, confidence, and general stability which this and other Governments have made.

This Government has endeavored in the current crisis to follow a course of absolute impartiality. We realize that manifestations of disapprobation on legal or moral grounds are not likely to bring the hostilities to an end. However, in shaping our course, it is necessary for us to have constantly in mind not only the possible serving of that objective, not only the possible effects of possible steps, upon Japan or upon China or upon both of those countries, but the attitude and wishes of our own people, the principles in which this country believes, the courses pursued by other countries, and various general and ultimate as well as immediate and particular objectives.

My statement of July 1694 made clear the principles which are guiding this Government, principles in general support of which more than 50 States of the world have expressed themselves affirmatively. My subsequent statement of August 2395 makes it clear that we regard these principles as applicable to the Pacific area. We consider those principles fundamental to a well-ordered existence of and in the society of nations. It is evident that neither Japan nor China in their present courses of action are acting in accordance with those principles and that the course which Japan is pursuing is in direct conflict with many of them.

I am gratified to know that the Japanese have felt that our course has been indicative of a desire on our part to be fair and impartial. [Page 507] However, our first solicitude will have to be not for the maintenance of unqualified good will toward us by either or both of the combatants; it will have to be for the welfare of our own people and the broad interests and general policies of the United States; it will be guided by laws and treaties, public opinion and other controlling considerations. I share your view that among our fundamental objectives there should be (1) to avoid involvement and (2) to protect the lives, property and rights of American citizens. I doubt whether we can pursue those objectives and at the same time expect to pursue the third of the objectives which you suggest. I therefore do not feel that we should make it a definite objective to solidify our relations with either of the combatant nations. We are opposed to the courses which they are pursuing, especially the course which Japan is pursuing. We have no desire to injure either country, we wish to be a good neighbor to both, but we should not permit ourselves to be hampered in the making of our decisions by being especially solicitous that what we do shall not be displeasing to one or the other or both of the combatant countries.

We do not desire that the Japanese shall entertain any impression that this Government looks with less disapproval or less of apprehension upon the course which Japan is pursuing than does the British Government or that we condone Japan’s course in any sense whatever.

Public opinion in this country has been outraged by the strategy and methods which the combatants, especially the Japanese military, are employing. It has become increasingly critical of Japan. Events of last week, especially the circumstances of the shooting of the British Ambassador and the statement of the Japanese Premier96 that the representations of the powers are of little or no importance, intensified this divergence in popular thought and feeling from the standard of impartiality. The Chinese bombing of the Hoover97 has, of course, tended somewhat to offset this.

I do not intend, in addressing either the Japanese or the Chinese authorities, to call names or to make threats; I heartily approve of the dignified and tactful manner in which you are conducting your approaches to the Japanese Government; but I desire that it be fully understood by the Japanese that this Government looks with thorough disapproval upon the present manifestation of their foreign policy and the methods which the Japanese military are employing in pursuit thereof. I feel it desirable that you overlook no opportunity to impress upon Japanese officialdom the importance which we attach to the principles laid down in my statement of July 16 and the significance of my statement of August 23, and to suggest to them that [Page 508] by the course which she is pursuing Japan is destroying the world’s good will and laying up for herself among the peoples of the world a liability of suspicion, distrust, popular antipathy and potential ostracism which it would take many, many years of benevolent endeavor on her part to liquidate.

This Administration has repudiated nothing in the record of the efforts which the American Government made, on behalf of peace and of principles, at the time of the Manchuria affair. In the present crisis, we have endeavored to dissuade the present combatants from entering upon and from continuing their hostilities; but we have not offered to mediate. I am by no means sure that we shall wish to assume the role and the responsibilities of a mediator. For the present at least, I should not want to encourage on the part of either side a belief and expectation that, having rejected currently our many suggestions that they exercise restraint, they can whenever it may suit their convenience rely upon this Government to serve them as a friendly broker. I should want them both to feel that, if they wish from us good will and from us any form of impartial assistance the time for them to show appreciation of our policies and methods, by being considerate of our legitimate interests and our essential solicitudes, is now.