762.94/287: Telegram

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

101. 1. In a recent after dinner conversation between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and my British colleague, held on the initiative of the former and on the understanding that the views exchanged were to be entirely unofficial, Arita stated categorically that while a strengthening of the Anti-Comintern Pact was now being seriously studied by the Japanese Government, negotiations on the subject with other powers had not yet commenced. In any case there was no question whatever of Japan assuming any commitments in Europe and the purpose of any new pact (as of the present pact) would be protection against anti[sic]-Comintern activities.

2. To Craigie’s inquiry whether the proposed pact would be virtually an alliance against Soviet Russia, the Minister replied that there existed varying degrees of understanding with regard to mutual protection but it was not possible as yet to say whether the new agreement, if concluded, would assume the character of an alliance. In any case, however, the British Government could rest assured that it would not be aimed at any British interest. The present state of Soviet-Japanese relations was becoming a matter of great and increasing concern to the Japanese Government, particularly with regard to the question of the fisheries, and the communist danger in China also rendered some form of remedial action necessary.

3. The Minister drew a clear distinction between the Rome-Berlin Axis and the Anti-Comintern Pact. Whatever the press might say, the Japanese Government had no intention of joining the Axis and he believed that confusion of thought on this point was responsible for much of the misapprehension in regard to the Anti-Comintern Pact. Even in the ideological field Japan had not those affinities to totalitarian states which appeared to be assumed by the British press. The Japanese system of “kodo” stood halfway between democratic and totalitarian government systems and, although during the present emergency strengthening of state control became necessary, nevertheless in Japan individual liberty would always be preserved to the utmost compatible with national security.

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4. When the Minister pointed out that if Japan should abstain from strengthening the pact, Great Britain would hardly be in a position to protect her against Soviet Russia, Craigie replied that this might well be so but that for the reasons already given the remedy sought by Japan was in his opinion worse than the disease.

5. With regard to the question of peace in China, Arita seemed to take kindly to Craigie’s personal suggestion that some form of collaboration between say Great Britain, the United States and Germany might ultimately offer the best method but that the strengthening of the pact and the consequent accentuation of division between the two camps would unfortunately render such collaboration more difficult. The Minister, however, observed that as long as Great Britain continued to recognize Chiang Kai Shek as head of the Chinese National Government, it was not clear how Great Britain could at present assist in promoting peace, seeing that the state of Japanese public opinion rendered negotiations with Chiang impossible. Craigie replied that the real bar to peace seemed to him to lie in the character of the Japanese conditions of peace and the failure of the Japanese Government to reduce to more specific terms the vague and ominous statement of December 22.16 The Minister, however, said that on this point it was still impossible to be more definite.

6. Arita recently mentioned this conversation to me on his own initiative and said that he had authorized Craigie to inform me.

Code text to Chungking by mail.

  1. Statement by the Japanese Prime Minister, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 482.