Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)8

The British Chargé d’Affaires called to see me this afternoon with a strictly secret message from his Government. The British Government referred first of all to an article which had appeared in the News Chronicle in London on January 17 and stated that information which it had now received showed that that article was true in part but only in small part.

The British Government had learned on authority it believed completely authentic that the Japanese Government was not prepared to accept the new form of alliance proposed by Germany and Italy; that it was formulating counter-proposals and that these counter-proposals would envisage an alliance directed against the Soviet. The British Government believed that Japan was greatly concerned at this moment by reason of the possibility that Great Britain and the United States would shut her off from raw materials and other supplies needed in her military campaign and that she was further of the opinion that if a general war broke out in Europe whether or not she was a partner in such an alliance as that proposed made no difference since in any event she could lay her hands upon such possessions of the other powers in the Far East as she desired.

The British Government went on to say that the German policy unquestionably was to persuade Japan to enter this alliance in the new form proposed since, if war broke out, Germany desired Great Britain’s attention to be focused in the North Sea, in the Mediterranean and in the Far East and desired for that purpose to utilize both Italy and Japan as “junior partners”. Italy, on the other hand, believed that the announcement of the alliance would cause Great Britain and the United States to bring pressure to bear upon France to grant the concessions sought by Italy in order to avert war and that the mere announcement of the alliance itself would have such an effect on public opinion in France as to break down any existing French determination to resist the Italian demands.

  1. Photostatic copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y.