793.94 Conference/236: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis) to the Secretary of State

33. For the President and the Secretary. The effort of this Conference to bring about conciliation has been doubly difficult because [Page 184] it was preceded by condemnation of Japan at Geneva and Washington. The French attitude has improved appreciably of late and Delbos has been cooperative and helpful. However, he is convinced entirely that it is futile to expect that moral pressure will have any appreciable effect upon Japan; that Japan is relying upon force and is impervious to reason; and that since Japan has spurned every effort toward conciliation the Conference must soon decide what further pressure the principal powers can and will exert.

Eden seems to believe that there is still some chance that some way may be found to bring Japan into some sort of a negotiation; feels that this may have to be done by a few powers outside of the Conference and its reporting to the Conference; feels that we cannot usefully and with dignity continue much longer to confine ourselves to an expression of principles and pleas to Japan to accept our good offices only to be rebuffed; and is convinced that our efforts to bring about a practical and just settlement would succeed if Japan really believed that at least our two Powers would take some positive action. He has repeated to me that the British Cabinet favors doing anything that the United States may be willing to do and he agrees that whatever is done or is not done should be so handled as not to put the responsibility or blame on either country only and that whatever courses we pursue should be along parallel lines.

He has spoken of the possibility of embargoes without enthusiasm but with the indication that the British would be willing to proceed on that line if we were willing. I have told him that I have no authority even to discuss that possibility seriously. He has stated that although Great Britain could not possibly challenge Japan single-handed with the situation in Europe what it is, they could send several battleships, et cetera, to the Far East and he is inclined to think that a concentration of naval forces might be an advisable and useful gesture.

Delbos has tried repeatedly to discuss positive joint action with Eden and me but I have avoided such discussion. He told us on Friday that the Japanese Ambassador in Paris had threatened that if France did not soon stop transit of arms through Indo-China Japan would occupy Hainan and take retaliatory measures. He gave me the impression that while they did not want to knuckle down to Japan they were afraid not to do so unless they could get some assurance of aid from Great Britain and ourselves. I told him that I could of course give no such assurance but that I thought they were unduly afraid of what Japan might do as she has her hands very full and would be foolish to bring on herself trouble with some other power. He then told me that Stern and Henry had recently had a very encouraging conversation with the President on this question.88

[Page 185]

He showed me Henry’s telegram giving an account of the conversation in which you were reported as having said in substance that you thought France ought to keep open the transit through Indo-China, that they had expressed their fear of retaliation on the part of Japan and that you had replied that they ought to bear in mind that because of the inter-relation of communication and interest between Indo-China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines it was possible that the United States would regard an attack on one as in the nature of an attack on all.

I am going into some detail because I feel that unless we are prepared to participate in some positive steps in case Japan does not within the near future enter into some discussion looking toward a peaceful settlement, most countries will lose their nerve and fold their hands. The minimum step that will in my opinion hold them in line would be the adoption of a resolution calling for non-recognition of changes brought about by armed force, prohibition of government loans and credits and discouragement of private loans and credits. There are indications that Japan is nervous over this Conference and is maneuvering in various ways to undermine it; and she is believed to have been making veiled threats to practically all of the powers except Great Britain and ourselves.

What concerns me somewhat is that while Japan is now nervous for fear we may agree upon something positive, if we go on much longer without any evidence of intention to do anything more than preach she will soon become firmly convinced that she can pursue her course without any danger of interference.

  1. See Department’s telegram No. 568, November 9, 5 p.m., p. 170.