893.811/1098: Telegram

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

97. Our 84, February 10, 7 p.m.

1. Mr. Katsuji Debuchi, former Ambassador to the United States, continuing interpellations, which he began on Thursday, in an effort to convince the Government of the necessity of correcting the wrong conceptions held abroad concerning Japan’s internal political situation [Page 363] and Japan’s intentions with regard to China, urged that the Government adopt a diplomatic policy which would prevent this country’s isolation in the Far East, and that at the same time pending problems with other countries be solved, Mr. Arita replied that every effort was being, and would continue to be made in that direction.

Referring to the question of the opening of the Yangtze River to navigation, Mr. Debuchi is reported to have said, “the Yangtze River is the principal economic artery in China and its opening will, I believe, contribute to the construction of a new East Asia. I, therefore, hope that, in so far as it does not interfere with military actions, the river will be opened to as great an extent as possible. When will the river be opened?”

The vernacular press reports that in reply, Admiral Yonai95 after denying that the Yangtze, in principle, is “an international river” or “the common property of third powers”, admitted the value of its commercial use to the life of the Chinese people and said “while I cannot, at the present time, make a definite statement because of the existence of strategic necessities, I hope that the opening will materialize as quickly as possible.”

[2.?] The Kokumin Shimbun in commenting upon Mr. Debuchi’s request for the reopening of the Yangtze River made an indirect reference to the recently reported support by vessels of third powers of arms, et cetera, to Chinese irregulars in Shantung Province and intimated that similar activity unfriendly to Japan might be expected if freedom of navigation on Yangtze were allowed. In view of such circumstances, the article continued, it was only natural that the opening of the river could not be expected. All circles, it was stated, were shocked by Mr. Debuchi’s request since the established policy of the Japanese Government is to open the Yangtze River as soon as strategic circumstances permit; since it appears that this request refutes the opinion of some of those who favor a “weak kneed” diplomatic policy, it was said, considerable importance is attached to Mr. Debuchi’s statement by the various circles concerned.

  1. Japanese Minister of Navy.