Memorandum by Mr. Lawrence E. Salisbury of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs58

There is at present under consideration the question whether the United States ought to adopt an economic policy toward Japan and China intended to insure failure of Japan in its attempted conquest of China.

In this memorandum the writer has sought to reach an answer to that question only in its relation to the welfare of the United States of America; he has attempted to eliminate such influences as dislike of the Japanese military, dislike of authoritarianism, dislike of communism, [Page 497] sympathy for the suffering millions of Chinese, a desire “to do good”, a desire to chastise “the bad”, a desire to insure for the world some desirable but vague millenium in the not too distant future. The elimination of these influences has been attempted because such influences are emotional rather than reasoning and are apt to relegate the welfare of the United States to a secondary place.

The answer arrived at in this memorandum is: to attempt at the present time to effect the failure of Japan’s policy in China through economic measures will not serve the best interests of the United States.

[Here follows discussion of the subject in detail.]


The conclusion arrived at in this memorandum is that the application of economic measures directed against Japan before the certainty of Japan’s success in China is established would invite the risk of a war between the United States and Japan which would be contrary to the best interests of the United States when, by waiting, risk of war with Japan may be eliminated through factors not originating in the policy of the United States.

It is believed that we should use our influence against countries engaged in breaking down orderly processes in relations between nations. The preservation of orderly processes is important to the United States. In employing that influence, it is believed that this Government should continue the policy which it has heretofore pursued; namely, in regard to Japan, approaches through the machinery of diplomacy, the withholding of aid to Japan, the withholding of assent to Japan’s actions, and the taking of cautious measures of assistance to China which do not incur the risk of war.

  1. Nelson T. Johnson, Ambassador in China, temporarily in the United States, commented on this memorandum as follows: “Mr. Salisbury has marshaled all of the arguments against sanctions Japan by the United states very well. He does not oppose ultimate use of this weapon but questions whether this is the time for such measures.”