793.94/14683: Telegram

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

83. It is officially announced that at 3 o’clock this morning the Japanese Navy and Army landed troops and occupied the Island of Hainan. A statement issued later by the Foreign Office spokesman says that the action does not violate the Franco-Japanese Agreement of 19072 but beyond declaring that the operations are for the purpose of exterminating the Chinese military forces on the Island3 the statement contains no explanation relating to future policy in connection with the occupation.

Although the Japanese have for some time been in possession of the Island of Waichow from which base the routes leading into China from Indo-China can be reached by aircraft without difficulty while traffic can be controlled in the Gulf of Tongking, the occupation of Hainan is of greater tactical and strategic importance in connection with the present conflict and, if converted into a well equipped naval and air base, this Island will dominate the whole coast of the mainland between Hong Kong and the southern tip of the Indo-China peninsula. Its holders can check all traffic into and out of Hanoi if a blockade were desired and possession of it by the Japanese would have a great effect on the matter of control of the South China Sea between the mainland and the Island of Luzon as well as limiting the sphere dominated by Singapore.

A further possible consideration is the relation which the occupation of Hainan may have on the Japanese southward advance policy.

In examining the political aspects of the occupation of Hainan, this action while it may be an exaggeration to look upon it as a direct reply to the American, British and French notes of October and [Page 104] November last,4 can be considered as a perfectly sure indication of the indifference with which the Japanese regard the recent rumors of Anglo-American joint action against Japan.

My French colleague has merely informed his Government of the announcement and will take no action unless instructed.

  1. See Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, pp. 754 ff.
  2. For the undeclared war between Japan and China, see pp. 124 ff.
  3. For American representations on October 6, November 7 and 21, 1938, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, pp. 785, 794, and 808.