893.102 Tientsin/252: Telegram

The Chargé in Japan (Dooman) to the Secretary of State

274. Department’s 31, June 13, 6 p.m., to Tientsin.

I have just had a long and frank discussion with the British Ambassador. I have also had conversations during the last few days with members of his staff and with Japanese officials. I conclude that although there have been elements on both the Japanese and British sides who have tried to find a solution of the problems which eventually brought about the situation at Tientsin, there has been an unfortunate lack of goodwill on the part of those on both sides who had final authority. I conclude further that the present British desire to find a way out of the difficulty not only came too late but has actually made extremists among the Japanese military authorities, who have now taken over control of this matter, more uncompromising than ever.
The British Ambassador told me in confidence that he had all along felt that the British had selected poor ground for taking a stand against the Japanese, and that it had been a mistake to make in respect of the four alleged terrorists an exception to the practice of handing over to the Chinese court Chinese persons charged with having committed crimes. I am told by members of the British Embassy that the British Ambassador in China, however, had consistently emphasized to London that “turning these men over for execution would be repugnant to the British sense of justice” and had urged the importance of protecting “friends of Madam Chiang Kai Shek”. The suggestion that an advisory committee be set up to look into the evidence came originally from Clark Kerr but it was put forward at the last moment apparently in an effort to avert implementation of the Japanese threat to take action against the British Concession and it has, I fear, done more harm than good.
General Homma, the Japanese Commander at Tientsin who is being roundly censured and is now in bad odor here for being Anglophile, gave the British explicit assurances that possession of the four Chinese was desired primarily to ascertain the methods, operations and organization of the terrorists and that the question of their punishment would be decided in the light of the evidence brought out in their trial. Had it not been for Clark Kerr’s opposition the British here believe that the matter could have been settled without violence to British concepts of terminology. However that may be, the position today is that the Japanese extremists have seized—apparently with much satisfaction—the failure to close this issue as a pretext to pursue a far more important objective than that of suppressing terrorists’ activities, namely, destroying the importance of the British Concession as a commercial center and thus facilitating the carrying out of their fiscal and economic program in North China.
That the extremists have now been given a free hand to deal with the Tientsin situation admits of very little doubt. The Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday told Craigie definitely that the Japanese military authorities now had a free hand to impose restrictions against the British Concession which they considered necessary for the safety of Japanese lives and property in China. Craigie protested that this was a matter in which political considerations of great importance to the British and Japanese Governments were involved but the Foreign Minister merely replied that the Japanese Government could not interfere in a “defense question” beyond offering advice and counsel where necessary.
Craigie has now recommended to London that the four Chinese be handed over to the local court, and that the Japanese Government be informed that there can be no discussion of various other unrelated issues, which the Japanese military insist must also be settled, until all pressure against the Concession has been removed.
With regard to item (b) of paragraph 4 of the telegram under reference: as I am confident that the Japanese Government’s conception of our present attitude is precisely that set forth in the telegram under reference I believe that little would be gained by communicating at this time to the Foreign Office a statement of our Government’s position. On the other hand I feel that the situation might easily become more grave and that our Government might then wish to take a different position. Unless the Department instructs me to the contrary I propose to withhold that statement until such time as it may be calculated to have effects favorable to settlement of the situation by negotiation. However, I gave Craigie orally the substance of the Department’s telegram.