793.94/12155: Telegram

The Chargé in Germany (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

22. With reference to a report from Tokyo that the Japanese Government had thanked Germany for its attempt at an adjustment in the [Page 40] Far Eastern conflict, the Deutsches Nachrichten Buro last evening carried the following announcement:

“It is learned from official quarters that in the course of conversations which took place at the end of October 1937 between the German Ambassadors in Nanking and Tokyo and the Governments there, the wish was expressed by the Governments of the two countries in conflict for the assistance of Germany in the attempt to find an adjustment. In order to serve the interests of peace in the reestablishment of which Germany is as interested as the rest of the world, the German Government believed it should place itself at the disposal of the two countries with which it was on friendly terms for the proposed purpose. Hereby Germany from the beginning stressed that its attitude in the conflict was neutral and that therefore its cooperation could not transcend the simple transmission of communications which one of the two Governments might wish to transmit to the other. This principle has been observed.

“With the publication on January 16 of the manifesto of the Japanese Government the conflict between Japan and China has entered a new stage”.

Referring to a report in the Paris Temps concerning the possibility of a joint German, French, English, American mediation in the conflict, this morning’s DAZ56 points out that the last three countries had so far shown very little understanding for Japan’s action, that they had not like Germany observed a neutral attitude and that the proposed démarche is apparently primarily to be directed against Japan. It is intimated finally that the step would probably be of little use in view of the Japanese manifesto on January 16.

I inquired as to the basis of this announcement of Bismarck57 at the Foreign Office this morning who informed me in substance as follows. The German Ambassadors at Nanking and Tokyo had facilitated the transmissions of two series of communications between the Chinese and Japanese Governments, one of which commencing in October last had extended into November and the other beginning at the end of December had continued for a time in January. Germany had not, however, acted in any capacity other than as a forwarding agent and had added nothing whatsoever to the communications except to express the wish to both parties that a settlement might be achieved. Germany had undertaken this in response to the request of the parties both of which had expressed the view that Germany afforded a suitable agency inasmuch as she was the only great power which through the Brussels Conference58 or otherwise had not taken a position in the matter. Both parties had requested at the time that [Page 41] Germany not make her action public. He was aware that this had been the cause of “misunderstandings” in the press (Department’s 115, November 5, 1 p.m.59) and that Germany was thus pleased that on the initiative of Japan the matter was being cleared up. The fact that the announcement came at this time had no special meaning except that Germany’s action having come to an end rendered it opportune.

Respecting the general situation in the Far East, Bismarck expressed the view that the breaking of relations between Japan and China would not affect the status of affairs unless Japan should declare war. He believed that the conflict had now entered on a phase which meant that it would be long protracted. He could see no hope for success of mediatory efforts at this time.

He said that Germany was maintaining her attitude of complete neutrality and had informed the Chinese Government that it intended to continue that course unless Russia should enter the conflict in which case Germany would have to reconsider her position. He said, however, that the Foreign Office did not perceive any indication of Russia’s taking such a step.

Regarding the item in the Temps cited above, Bismarck said that he was not aware of its having any official basis.

  1. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.
  2. Acting Chief of the Political Bureau, German Foreign Office.
  3. November 3–24, 1937; see Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iv, pp. 155 ff.
  4. Not printed.