Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The British Ambassador called to see me this morning and left with me a memorandum which his Government had instructed him to communicate, covering the conversations between Hitler and Lord Halifax89 and the recent conversations held in London between the British Government and the French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.90 I expressed to the Ambassador my appreciation of the information so given me which I assured him would be very helpful to this Government.

The Ambassador then said that he had two matters he would like to take up with me. The first was the continued insistence on the part of the British Ambassador in Tokyo, Sir Robert Craigie, that the Japanese Government was in a receptive frame of mind towards the utilization of good offices of the United States and Great Britain between China and Japan. The Ambassador said that in the opinion of his Government this possibility had died down and there was nothing immediate, but that he would like to have an expression of opinion from the Department with regard to Sir Robert Craigie’s insistence that if and when good offices might be considered, the two Governments should not at the outset state to the Japanese Government that they would refuse to transmit to the Chinese Government any peace proposals other than proposals strictly in accordance with [Page 776] the provisions of the Nine Power Treaty. According to Sir Ronald Lindsay, Mr. Grew had indicated to Sir Robert Craigie that he himself believed that, for reasons of expediency, a preliminary flat statement that the two Governments would refuse to transmit any proposals other than those in accordance with the Nine Power Treaty might not be necessary.

In reply I said to Sir Ronald Lindsay that my recollection was very clear that, in reporting upon conversations of this character which he had had with Sir Robert Craigie, Mr. Grew had indicated plainly that he felt it would be inadmissible for the two Governments to transmit peace proposals which were in any way counter to the provisions of the Nine Power Treaty and that he had felt that it would be essential for this position to be made clear to the Japanese Government. I said that I felt that the position of this Government in that regard had already been made clear to the British Government, and that I considered it inconceivable that either the British Government or the United States Government would be willing to act as intermediaries in the reaching of a peace between China and Japan of a character contrary to the principles embodied in the Nine Power Treaty. The British Ambassador reaffirmed my prior understanding that the position of his Government was entirely that of the Government of the United States in this matter, but that, as a practical matter and for reasons of expediency, it might be difficult for the Japanese Foreign Office to procure the assent of the Japanese Army and Navy to the good offices of the United States and Great Britain if at the outset the two Governments came out with a flat and public statement to the effect that they would not transmit any proposals other than those consistent with the Nine Power Treaty provisions. I said to the Ambassador that, in a negotiation of that character, the precise position to be taken by the Governments concerned would, of course, depend upon conditions as they existed at that particular moment, but that it seemed to me that the only sound position for Great Britain and the United States to take in such eventuality was to make their position morally secure and perfectly plain to the two parties to the conflict from the outset.

The Ambassador said that the second point which he wished to take up with me was another suggestion made by Sir Robert Craigie with regard to an agreement on the part of the British, French and United States Governments that they would prohibit any financing of Japan by their respective financial interests.

I said to the Ambassador that I was already familiar with this suggestion which had been proffered, and that I felt sure it was not necessary for me to make it clear to him that the United States Government in this question had no such power as that held by the British Government. [Page 777] I said that the British Government already had in force an embargo on loans by British interests outside of the Empire unless such loans had received the approval of the British Government. I stated that the United States Government had no such power and that, furthermore, he knew that it was the policy of this Administration in Washington to refuse either to approve or disapprove financing by private interests. For these reasons, it was impossible for us to make any commitment in this regard. I said, however, that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, private financial interests in the United States were not at present receptive to any financing of Japan and that, purely as a private opinion, it seemed to me very doubtful whether under present conditions that attitude would be modified.

The Ambassador talked at some length with respect to the general situation in the Far East and the increasing difficulties of the British Government with regard thereto. He had no precise information to communicate and volunteered the information that he was without recent advice as to the situation in Spain.91 He said, however, that his own Military Attaché had received word that the anticipated Rebel offensive in Spain would definitely not materialize this winter but would be postponed until the spring.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. British Lord Privy Seal.
  2. See vol. i, pp. 183 ff.
  3. See vol. i, pp. 215 ff.