793.94 Conference/24: Telegram

The Ambassador in China ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

806. 1. In response to an invitation I called on General92 and Madame Chiang yesterday afternoon accompanied by Peck.93 Chiang’s mind was full of the statements made by the President94 and the Secretary of State95 and of the forthcoming Conference of Nine-Power-Treaty signatories. He inquired what policies the United States would advocate at the Conference and what decision the Conference probably would reach. I replied that the view taken by the American Government of the Far Eastern situation was indicated by the two statements mentioned but I was unable to venture any opinion regarding what steps would be advocated either by the American Government or by the other governments represented in order to meet that situation. I said the problem was rendered even more difficult than it would be otherwise by the outspoken intention of Japan not to attend the Conference and to reject all third party mediation as a basis of negotiation.

2. General Chiang asked me to convey to you his firm belief that the decisions of the Conference would be determined by the position taken by the United States. He said it was clear that the British Government for one was waiting to follow the lead of the American Government. I attempted to observe that this had not been the case in the past but he pursued his argument that Europe was preoccupied with its own threatened dangers while the United States excluded from this issue was free to act. He said that unless the principles set forth in the President’s speech were practical and unless the Nine Power Treaty were implemented there was no hope of peace in the Far East. He earnestly hoped that as one step toward some result from the Conference the United States would persuade Japan to participate.

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3. General Chiang said in the most positive way that no settlement of the conflict between China and Japan could possibly be reached by those two nations alone. In the light of past experience China could place no reliance on undertakings given by Japan unless one or more third parties supported them as witnesses and guarantors. Rather than enter into a purely bilateral agreement with Japan, China will fight to the point of extinction. In view of the appalling loss of life this would entail he asked that the American Government inform the Japanese Government of the determination of the Chinese Government to fight to the end rather than accept a direct settlement between the two nations. At the same time he said with equal force that China felt no enmity toward the Japanese people, its distrust being confined to the dominant military party, and was not only willing but anxious to accept a settlement of the relations between the two countries based on international justice. I inquired whether he thought it conceivable that terms could be devised that would be acceptable to both the Chinese and Japanese Governments and he said he thought such terms could be devised.

4. I inquired whether Chiang thought it was true as currently reported that the Japanese Government is pursuing a systematic plan of military domination which includes war with the Soviet Union. He replied that there could be no doubt of this; that the military party in Japan were keeping the common people in the dark regarding the real object of these military operations which were impoverishing the people, especially the farmers, and that it was these insane ambitions of the military party which made Japan as now governed a menace to the world.

As I told General and Madame Chiang that the attitude of the American Government towards the issues involved in the Sino-Japanese conflict had been made perfectly clear and that while I had received no official information regarding the intentions of the Government with respect to the proposed Conference, I felt confident that the United States would cooperate in attempts to end the conflict; but I urged them most emphatically not to look for armed intervention by the American Government because the Government could act only with the approval and support of the people and popular sentiment in America was invincibly set against involvement in such a war. He said most earnestly that China does not expect or want the United States to go to war with Japan but it does look to the United States for action in accordance with the principles enunciated by the President directed towards the end of curbing Japanese aggression and upholding international justice.

Sent to the Department, repeated to Peiping, Tokyo, and Shanghai. Shanghai inform Commander-in-Chief.

  1. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Chinese Executive Yuan (Premier).
  2. Willys R. Peck, Counselor of Embassy in China.
  3. For text of address delivered at Chicago October 5, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 379.
  4. See ibid., p. 396; see also telegram No. 10, October 6, 6 p.m., to the Minister in Switzerland, ante, p. 62.