711.008 North Pacific/274: Telegram

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

54. Department’s 20, January 22, 3 p.m., Alaskan salmon fisheries.

1. In a long conference with the Minister for Foreign Affairs last night I made the desired representations, elaborating and accentuating all of points brought out by the Department.

The Minister was obviously very tired from the daily sessions of the Diet and said that he would refer the matter to the Ministry of Agriculture, but I told him that the only reason I had disturbed him at this busy moment was because the problem was one of prime importance in the relations between our countries for which he and not the Minister of Agriculture is responsible. He said that he himself knew nothing about the details of the matter but that he feared it would be very difficult to agree to the right of friendly visit and investigation of Japanese vessels on the high seas and he thought the proper way to solve the problem would be for the Japanese authorities themselves to take steps to prevent the crab-fishing vessels from salmon fishing. I pointed out that the refusal to issue licenses was not in itself effective and that we have definite evidence of such salmon fishing. The Minister replied that this was the problem to be studied. He was noncommittal with regard to the publication of a statement by the American Government but said that my presentation of the situation would be carefully considered.

2. Dooman took up the matter in detail with Yoshizawa today and supported my representations, which were as emphatic as I [it?] was possible to make them. The views expressed by Yoshizawa during the course of an extended conversation in which the arguments pro and con were repeatedly gone over may be summarized as follows:

[Page 168]

3. The Japanese Government has been sincerely cooperating with a view to the settlement of the fishery problem to the satisfaction of the American Government and people and it has believed that, in view of the long time that had elapsed after the presentation of the Japanese Government’s reply of December 22,7 the position taken by the Japanese Government had been satisfactory to the American Government, Yoshizawa had been unable to discuss at length with the responsible officials of the Ministry of Agriculture the views which I presented last night to Hirota, but he believed that the Japanese Government might be willing to go a step further toward meeting the desires of the American Government in the conclusion of an agreement substantially along the lines indicated by the Department in paragraph 5 of the telegram under reference. His impression of the position which might eventually be taken by the Japanese Government with regard to the various points enumerated are:

The reason the reference in the Japanese Government’s note of December 22, to the matter of assurance that Japanese nationals will not be granted licenses to fish for salmon in Alaskan waters, was obscurely phrased was that the Japanese Government could not afford to put into the official record any statement which might prejudice its rights under international law to fish on the high seas. However, the Japanese Government might be prepared to agree to some appropriately worded reply by the Department in which the fact that such an assurance had been given would be made public, on the understanding that the release would be referred to the Japanese Government prior to publication.
The Japanese Government has agreed to the discontinuance of its fishery survey.
The Japanese Government cannot accept the assertion that the crab and fish meal vessels are fishing for salmon unless indisputable evidence to the effect is presented. It is believed that it is physically impossible for such vessels to fish for salmon for the reason that they are equipped only with nets used to catch crab which have a mesh too large to permit of the capture of salmon or to catch ground fish. Such nets are submerged and dragged along the sea bottom whereas salmon are caught with nets of small mesh which are floated on or near the surface of the water. If, however, the required indisputable evidence is presented, the Japanese would be willing to consider taking some domestic measure (the character of which was not indicated) which would safeguard against violation of the assurance given under point (a) above.
Yoshizawa stressed that, even if the right of friendly search were accorded to American public vessels and if Japanese crab vessels were found to be catching salmon, the necessary remedial measure could be taken only by the Japanese Government.
With regard to the questions of publicity, the consensus of publicity, the consensus of opinion among Japanese officers concerned [Page 169] is that no publicity need be given out in Japan. There would be no objection to some public statement being given out by the American Government, subject, however, to the condition that the statement be referred to the Japanese Government prior to publication. In any event it is assumed that the question of publicity will not be decided upon until some understanding is reached with regard to point (c) above.

4. Yoshizawa will discuss this matter with the appropriate officials and will shortly have another conference with Dooman.

5. We assume that phrase “latter’s memorandum” in paragraph 4 of Department’s telegram under reference should be “former’s aide-mémoire”.

  1. See telegram No. 669, December 22, 1937, 8 p.m., from the Ambassador in Japan, Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iv, p. 777.