Memorandum by Mr. Joseph W. Ballantine of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs
Prince Fumimaro Konoye (Konoe), who has been commanded to form a Cabinet in Japan, is the first and highest noble in Japan. The family traces its lineage back to the “Age of the Gods”. With the exception of Prince Saionji, he is the only representative of the pre-Restoration Court Nobility who has been active in Japan’s political life since the Restoration of 1868. It will be recalled that after the February 26, 1936, Incident, Saionji recommended Konoye as a successor to Okada, whose ministry fell after that Incident, but Konoye declined at that time. The fact that Konoye has again been sought for the premiership is of exceptional significance. Not because of any demonstrated political ability on his part but because of his great family and personal prestige, which should enable him to enlist the support of the ablest statesmen, he, if anyone, may be expected to be able to bring the opposing elements in Japan out of the deadlock which has been created by the inept methods of General Hayashi.
Konoye, who is forty-five years of age, will be the youngest man who has been Prime Minister of Japan within the last half century at least. So far he is without experience in party politics. The positions [Page 717] of Vice President and President of the House of Peers which he has held successively since 1931 are traditionally regarded as requiring aloofness from politics. Nevertheless, with the possible exception of Hirota no recent Prime Minister has been better trained to deal with affairs from a world point of view. Konoye was on the staff of Prince Saionji, the principal Japanese delegate to the Versailles Peace Conference; he visited the United States in 1934, when he was received by the President and by the Secretary, and he had at that time a number of conferences with other statesmen, publicists and business leaders. Articles published by him upon his return to Japan and interviews given by him show that in the course of his American visit he obtained a good grasp of the American attitude toward Far Eastern questions. He has a strong tie with this country in that he has a son at Princeton.
It should not be understood, however, that Konoye’s selection for the premiership represents a triumph for liberalism. It is true that he himself is inclined toward liberalism, but his selection as Prime Minister is undoubtedly based upon the expectation that he will remain a neutral in politics. His selection, therefore, represents rather a compromise, and his Cabinet will probably be a coalition formed by the retention of the Ministers of War and of the Navy of the outgoing cabinet and the inclusion of representatives of the political parties. While it is not yet definite that he will succeed in forming a cabinet, there is little likelihood that he will fail.