740.00/642: Telegram

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

138. Reference European crisis.

We hear that one of the local American correspondents has cabled that the German Ambassador in Tokyo has asked the Japanese Government for assurances of support. We have no reason to believe that the story is true, and assume that its only basis is the call which the Ambassador made on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to communicate the German statement with regard to the seizure of Czechoslovakia.
Editorial comment on the situation now in process of developing in Europe is uninteresting, due presumably to absence of directive from official quarters, where there apparently still exist differences of opinion and confusion of thought with regard to the position which should be taken by Japan. Such comment is confined to such commonplaces as: (a) there exists no moral justification for action against Germany so long as no effort has been made to satisfy Germany’s needs for basic raw materials; (b) Mussolini holds the key to the situation and may be expected to clarify his position by the address which he is to make next Sunday; (c) the European crisis will operate to Japan’s benefit, as Great Britain and France will not continue to supply munitions and funds to China.
We hear from several reliable sources that until quite recently majority opinion in Japanese official circles ran substantially along item (c) above, but that what might be described as dominant official opinion today is that an indefinitely prolonged state of uneasiness and uncertainty in Europe would better serve Japan’s interests than a clearing of the atmosphere by war: for the reasons that (a) war in Europe would probably lead to the eventual involvement of the United States and Japan on opposite sides, and (b) the elimination of Germany and Italy as to [sic] which threaten the peace of Europe would leave the victors a free hand to deal in turn with Japan. For these reasons the hardening of British and French attitude toward Germany was noted here with concern, but paradoxically enough this concern has been somewhat allayed by the British invitation to Russia to join in concerted resistance against German aggression. There is a lively belief that the British Government has again made the blunder of giving Russia a voice in the settling of the affairs of Europe and has thus stultified the chances of effective concerted action being taken against [Page 19] Germany, It is thought that the eastern European nations which occupy an exposed position vis-à-vis Germany might possibly be induced to associate themselves with Great Britain and France in economic corrective measures, but that the opening up of possible Russian military action against Germany will make certain the neutrality of such nations, especially Poland.