711.008 North Pacific/420: Telegram

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

421. Your 727, November 15, 10 a.m., Alaska salmon fishery.

Your analysis of the fishery situation from the viewpoint of the Embassy and of the Japanese Government has been studied with the greatest interest and the frankness of your discussion of the various factors involved is appreciated. Although you conclude that there [Page 200] appears to be no prospect whatever of reaching, either at this time or in the near future, an agreement along the lines outlined by the Department, we must emphasize the importance of the considerations set forth in the Department’s instruction of October 17 and the importance from our point of view of placing these considerations before the Japanese in order that they may be made fully aware of the viewpoint which is developing in this country in regard to the salmon fishery and the ever present possibility of there being enacted in response thereto legislation prejudicial to the Japanese position and detrimental to the relations between our two countries.
With reference to the alternative procedure suggested in your paragraph 6, we feel that the minimum concessions by Japan which would satisfy opinion in this country are indicated in the proposals set forth in the enclosure to the Department’s instruction under reference and we believe that any approach which might be made to the Japanese Government, even for the purposes of record, should, even though no mention be made of the proposals, conform closely to the objectives which the proposals envisage.
With these considerations in mind the Department is still inclined to favor an approach to the Japanese Government in regard to this matter, which might consist in leaving at the Foreign Office an informal memorandum, for information only, containing the substance of the exposition set forth in the Department’s instruction of October 17 with regard to the present situation in the United States. When leaving the memorandum it might be suggested orally and informally that this Government believes it desirable and stands ready, at a time acceptable to the Japanese authorities, to enter into further discussions with regard to the salmon fishery situation with the object of replacing the understanding of March 25 with a more comprehensive and permanent arrangement. Should the Foreign Office on its own initiative take this occasion to refer to the Japanese assurances of March 25 and state that from the Japanese viewpoint these assurances continue in effect, this might be helpful. It should be made clear, however, that on our part we can give no assurance that such a reaffirmation of the Japanese position or the entering into of the suggested discussions would remove the possibility of legislative action in the next Congress. Before authorizing you to make such an approach, however, the Department would appreciate promptly having your opinion whether this modified procedure would seriously prejudice your relations with the Japanese authorities in matters not directly related to the fisheries question. (In this connection reference is made to paragraph 5 of your telegram under reference, last sentence, and to paragraph 7 of that telegram.) Should you be of the opinion that there are serious objections even to this approach, the Department would appreciate receiving an elaboration of the [Page 201] views expressed in your paragraph 7 as well as such concrete suggestions as you may be in position to offer as to the procedure which in your view this Government might best adopt for the time being at least.
The comments in this and the following paragraph are set forth with a view to placing on record the Department’s views in regard to certain phases of the Japanese attitude discussed in your telegram under reference. With regard to a “thesis of proprietary rights in salmon” mentioned in paragraph 4 of that telegram, the Department’s telegram No. 309, November 20, 1937, noon,32 and its mail instruction No. 1589 of October 17, 1938, indicate that the Department’s position in regard to the special American interest and claim in the salmon fishery is based upon broad principles of equity which are involved in the conditions of the perpetuation and development and the special economic and geographical situation of the salmon fishery in question. It is also pointed out in those communications that the acute friction generated in this situation entails a serious risk of the occurrence of incidents which might disturb the general relations of the United States and Japan. The problem is one, therefore, which also vitally affects those conditions which make for good relations between the two countries.
With regard to paragraph 5 of your telegram, the Department regards the Japanese view that the salmon fishery question is being agitated for political reasons by certain individuals and organizations as a confusing of issues and a virtual denial that there exists the problem with which we are dealing. While a special sectional interest in the salmon fishery is an important element of the situation in this country, we are certain that the apprehension of American nationals with regard to Japanese salmon fishing derives from fundamental considerations of economic welfare and that an affirmation that certain individuals may be influenced by political motives, even if true, would be only incidental to a problem of clear and definite character. The Department therefore feels that you should endeavor in such discussions as you may have with the Japanese to discourage any tendency on their part to overemphasize this and similar phases of the problem. With reference to the character and disposition of the evidence we possess of Japanese salmon fishing, the Department is of the opinion that the essential fact in this connection is that the evidence developed is sufficiently substantial to be convincing to affected fishing interests and to a large part of the American public, and that this circumstance constitutes a factor which cannot be disregarded in the situation with which we are confronted.