762.941/321: Telegram

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

188. My 186, April 19, 4 p.m. As opportunity has offered I have been quietly emphasizing to certain trustworthy Japanese whom I could count on to pass my observations on to influential quarters the [Page 22] dangers to which American-Japanese relations would be exposed if Japan should associate itself with Germany and Italy in a general alliance (see Department’s 33, February 10, 6 p.m.). The position which I took was that, if a general war were to break out in Europe, the likelihood should be discounted of the United States not becoming involved—naturally on the side of Great Britain and France—and that it would be idle to expect that in those circumstances relations of peace could be maintained between the United States and Japan if Japan were aligned with Germany and Italy. The assurances mentioned in my telegram under reference were responsive to the several approaches which I had made along the lines above indicated.

I had a most significant conversation last night with the Minister of the Navy at the dinner which he gave in honor of the officers of the Astoria.23 Admiral Yonai, on his own initiative and to my surprise, opened the conversation by remarking that he understood that I was concerned over the possibility of Japan becoming involved in Europe. He said slowly and with emphasis that “Japanese policy has been decided” and that I had now no longer cause for concern. He admitted that there is an element which advocates Fascism for Japan and therefore the linking up of Japan with Germany and Italy but he said that this element has now been “suppressed”. He went on to say with some feeling that Japan can never be either a democracy or an authoritarian state but must stand apart from either group although cooperating with both groups toward the maintenance of friendly relations.
I later repeated to Yoshizawa,24 who also attended the dinner, the statement made to me by Admiral Yonai. Yoshizawa said that he had not known of the decision to which Yonai referred and he assumed that it must have just been taken. He added that he knew that the navy had “the balance of power” between the opposing sides on this important question, and that the frank statement of the Admiral might be regarded as a definite indication of the Japanese Government’s intention to refrain from becoming involved in European difficulties. He cautioned me, however, against entering into [apparent omission] would necessarily not be formulated some new arrangement for combating communism.
I add a brief outline of other points brought up in my conversation with the Admiral in order to indicate the favorable trend which I believe is about to set in.
Admiral Yonai said that there was being keenly felt the need for restoring good relations with the United States. I told the Admiral [Page 23] frankly that many of the causes for the present state of American feeling against Japan could readily have been avoided and where such causes still exist could readily be eliminated. I referred, for example, to the safeguarding of American properties. He was familiar with this subject and said that the cause for these attacks was being investigated and that effective steps would be taken to correct them. He then passed on to the subject of naval limitation. He said that large navies are “dangerous toys”. He regretted that an agreement to limit naval armament is not feasible at the present time but he thought it essential to keep in mind that an agreement must soon be reached, as progressive raising of naval requirements by each of the powers in turn could otherwise eventually result only in bankruptcy or a general explosion. He said repeatedly “there must be disarmament”.
I am strongly of the opinion that the visit of the Astoria has been an important factor in bringing about the trend which the Admiral’s statements reflect.
  1. See vol. iv, pp. 455 ff.
  2. Director of the American Affairs Bureau, Japanese Foreign Office.