793.94/9037: Telegram

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

230. Department’s 128, July 27, 1 p.m.

1. The British Chargé d’Affaires and I saw the Minister for Foreign Affairs24 separately this morning. I carried out your instructions [Page 240] fully and with emphasis. In the course of my representations I made the following oral statement:

“Information issuing from various authoritative Japanese sources indicate that military operations may be imminently initiated by the Japanese military command in North China.

Since the initiation on July 7th of the current incident in North China, the Japanese Government has on various occasions and in various ways taken cognizance of the presence of American nationals, along with nationals of other foreign countries, in the affected area, and of the existence in that area of the rights and interests of the United States, along with rights and interests of other foreign countries, which are based on the Boxer Protocol and on other international instruments. There are cited in this relation a memorandum of the Japanese Ambassador which was delivered to the American Government on July 12th by the Japanese Ambassador at Washington numbered paragraph 6 of which concludes: ‘In any case the Japanese Government is prepared to give full consideration to the rights and interests of the powers in China’; and to the statement issued yesterday by the Cabinet, in which there is contained the statement: ‘It goes without saying that Japan will make every effort to give protection to the vested rights and interests in China of other foreign powers.’

It is earnestly hoped that the Japanese Government will give effect to the assurances which it has directly and indirectly conveyed to the American Government and that it will take effective measures toward dissuading the Japanese command in North China from proceeding with any plan for military operations which would be likely to endanger lives and property of American nationals.”

2. The Department’s directions specified precisely that I was authorized to dissuade the Japanese authorities from proceeding with any plan for military operations “which would be likely to endanger lives of American nationals” or to jeopardize the rights and interests of the powers in China. I therefore placed the emphasis accordingly rather than on the avoidance of hostilities per se.

3. In this respect there seems to be a discrepancy between the instructions as expressed in the Department’s 12825 and your statement in press conference as reported in the Department’s 12926 which does not appear to mention the factor of the protection of foreign nationals’ rights and interests.

4. I have declined to make any statement to the foreign or local press correspondents here, feeling that such statements should be issued only by you in Washington and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. Otherwise, there is liable to be a crossing of wires.

5. The Minister for Foreign Affairs stated to me categorically that it is not true that the Japanese intend to launch a general attack against all Chinese forces both within and without the city of Peiping [Page 241] regardless of whether the withdrawal of the 37th Division is proceeding satisfactorily. He said that over 2 weeks’ warning had been given to the Chinese troops to withdraw from Peiping on the basis of the agreement of July 11 and that since this warning had not been acted upon it had finally become necessary to set a time limit at noon today and that a Japanese attack would be carried out only if withdrawal of the 37th Division has not already taken place. He said he had no news today as to whether this withdrawal had been effected. The Minister appeared to ignore the sporadic Japanese attacks already reported from Peiping.

6. The Minister gave me explicit assurances that every effort would be made to protect the lives and property of American and other foreign nationals and the rights and interests of the United States and other powers in the affected area and he has confidence in General Kazuki who, the Minister says, has complete control of his troops. The Minister added however that the Japanese Consulate in Peiping had informed other foreign Consuls that Japanese subjects in outlying districts had been advised to concentrate in the Legation quarter in Peiping. The Minister thought that similar steps would therefore have been taken by the other foreign Consuls with respect to their own nationals.

7. Whatever may be the results of the repeated American and British representations in Washington, London, and Tokyo, the British Chargé d’Affaires and I are convinced after most careful thought that no step has been left untaken by our respective Governments or ourselves which might have averted the present crisis. As matters have developed, the crisis was inevitable but having seen many serious crises in the Far East overcome I cannot yet conclude from this angle that the situation is hopeless or that general warfare may not still be avoided.

Repeated to Peiping.

  1. Koki Hirota.
  2. July 27, 1 p.m., p. 238.
  3. July 27, 6 p.m., vol. iii, p. 274.