793.94/18292: Telegram

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

401. 1. The Nichi Nichi states today that, in connection with criticism during a recent press interview by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of those countries supplying arms to China, Ugaki has under active consideration the possibility of a Japanese declaration of war against China. It is argued in the article that, although Ugaki has indicated that he is endeavoring to attain the desired end through diplomatic channels, it is unlikely that the countries concerned can be persuaded to refrain from exercising their right to supply arms to China unless Japan offers satisfactory quid pro quo; but that he could force these countries to weigh more carefully the advantages and disadvantages of this practice if war were declared. The army and navy further states that diplomatic officials in the field have been instructed to submit to Tokyo all data necessary for final decision on the matter.

2. As we have stated on several occasions, the question of a declaration of war will revolve around the effects on the military operations of imports of munitions by China. We believe that this aspect of the question has all around been kept under observation, and that, if China’s imports of arms are now such as to be an important factor in the continuation by China of its resistance, declaration of war might well be under active consideration. However, it would be well to bear in mind that today’s story appears in no other paper, which indicates at least that the Government is not actively interested in giving it publicity. It seems to us that the story may have some basis in fact, but that it has not been presented in accurate perspective.

3. The spokesman of the Foreign Office is reported as having characterized the Nichi Nichi story as groundless and false, adding that Japan could not declare war on China unless she discontinues adherence to various treaties concerned, including the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact and the Nine Power Treaty “by which she is now bound”.

4. We are, of course, endeavoring to obtain some authoritative information on the subject, which the Department will realize is no easy matter. The only suggestion which we have obtained directly from Japanese official sources thus far is that the Nichi Nichi story “should not be taken too seriously”.

Repeated to Shanghai for Hankow.