793.94119/433: Telegram

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

510. Johnson’s 376, July 27, 2 p.m.

With regard to the question presented by Johnson whether “the time might or may have come when an offer of good offices to Japan by the United States and Great Britain would be useful”, I am assuming that it continues to be the position of our Government that if the tender of good offices were made by the United States to Japan and China, it would be clearly indicated that terms of settlement could not be recommended to China by us which would be inconsistent with the Nine Power Treaty (Department’s 305, November 19, 2 p.m.44).
To us who are in direct touch with Japanese of all classes and who would be bound to sense a war weariness, however sedulously and effectively overt manifestations thereof were suppressed, it is surprising that there should prevail belief in despatch of responsible quarter abroad that there is “weakening of Japanese spirit”. Indeed there persists especially among the urban population a noticeable attitude toward the conflict of levity and mock seriousness which the official movement for “spiritual mobilization” has not eradicated. With reference to the indications of such weakening cited in the second paragraph of Johnson’s telegram, the events of the last few days on the Soviet border45 rule out the previous negative Japanese attitude on the Changkufeng incident as evidence of Japanese weakening; of others [I?] dare say that if all the facts of the Hainan issue were known a substantially different conclusion from that apparently reached by the Chinese might reasonably be drawn. Possibly the various Japanese restrictions on commerce and on the non-military uses of essential war materials have stimulated (and perhaps not unnaturally) the belief abroad that there is growing discontent with the protracted hostilities. I refer the Department to our despatch No. 3100, June [July] 1146 in which this subject is discussed. Actually the restrictions apply in the main to commodities which are still exotic to the indigenous mode of living and thus do not work hardship on the mass of the people. While emphasizing the gravity of the problems with which Japan is confronted and our doubt whether the continental policy can ever be successfully implemented by methods which must forfeit the cooperation of the Chinese people we perceive no evidences [Page 251] of any serious movement in opposition to drastic reorganization of the economic, industrial, (and possibly political) systems to meet the exigencies of a war of endurance.
The official Japanese declaration of January 1647 that Japan would no longer deal with the “Nationalist Government of China” has been reaffirmed on every conceivable opportunity by responsible Japanese. At the same time it is privately admitted that any settlement with any Chinese personage other than Chiang Kai Shek would not be worth the paper it was written on and there is cherished a lingering hope that eventually Chiang might disassociate himself from uncompromising anti-Japanese elements and come to a settlement with Japan. But that there is at present disposition on the part of Japan to entering into a settlement with the Chinese Government as now constituted, I cannot bring myself to believe. Certainly there is no manifestation of any such disposition.
There is finally the fundamental and irrevocable conflict between Japan’s objectives in China and the determination of China that a negotiated peace shall be consistent with the Nine Power Treaty. Even before the fall of Nanking it seemed to us highly doubtful if an offer of American good office bridged the gap between Japan and China and led to a settlement consistent with the letter if not the spirit of that treaty. If any Japanese thought with regard to the conflict has subsequently been crystallizing and promise[s] soon to become dominant, it is that the eventual settlement, if and when made, shall bring to Japan material advantages commensurate with the cost of the hostilities. Far from any thought of withdrawing from China, the human and material resources of the nation are being mobilized against the time when the unfolding of the military campaign will enable Japan to maintain a permanent domicile in China. In the light of Johnson’s estimates of China’s position an offer at the present time of American good offices would in our opinion immediately betray any Chinese expectation that terms of peace acceptable to Japan would also be acceptable to China. We believe that such an offer if made today would (a) be abortive and (b) probably by reviving controversy over principles over which issue has long been joined between the United States and Japan render more difficult the problem of maintaining relations of peace between the two countries.
In view of Johnson’s having scheduled departure on August 1 from Hankow,48 I have not repeated this telegram to him.
  1. Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iii, p. 699.
  2. See pp. 441 ff.
  3. Not printed; for enclosure to despatch, see statement by the Japanese Prime Minister on July 7, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 467.
  4. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 437.
  5. Ambassador Johnson with Embassy staff left Hankow on August 2 aboard the U. S. S. Luzon for Chungking, new Chinese capital. See ibid., p. 470.