894.00/833: Telegram

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

14. Our No. 9, January 5, 10 p.m.

1. In addition to the three Ministers mentioned in our telegram under reference who remained in office and retained their respective portfolios, and to Araki who remained as Minister of Education, Hatta, Minister of Overseas Affairs, received the concurrent post of Commerce and Industry, and Shiono, Minister of Justice, received the concurrent post of Communications. Kido, Minister of Public Welfare in the preceding Cabinet, was installed as Minister of Home Affairs. Entirely new Cabinet officers are Sotaro Ishiwata, appointed Minister of Finance, Yonezo Mayeda, appointed Minister of Railways, Hisatada Hirose, appointed Minister of Public Welfare, and Yukio Sakurauchi, appointed Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Ishiwata and Hirose were previously Vice-Ministers in their respective departments and now represent the bureaucracy in the Cabinet, while Mayeda and Sakurauchi represent respectively the Seiyukai and Minseito parties.

2. Immediately after the installation ceremonies, the new Cabinet held its first meeting and approved a draft statement later released by the Prime Minister. The statement stresses the difficulties which must be surmounted by Japan, refers to the capacity of the Japanese people to unite in times of emergency, and emphasizes determination to carry out established China policy.

[Page 445]

3. There is nothing but the daily press sources to warrant the conclusion that the change of Government was brought about primarily by dissension over any specific issue. In fact, official Japanese circles emphasize that there has been no “crisis”, meaning that there has been no conflict of opinion on any major political problem. A number of foreign observers believe that, on the contrary, there has been dissention over the question whether military action should be taken against Russia and that the recent governmental change is an indication of the prevailing influence of the positive elements. Such observers admit that there is no definite evidence to support their opinion. There may be some grounds for this hypothesis but every appearance of this hardy perennial at obscure political junctures should be regarded with reserve. Although the occidental mind usually requires some specific cause satisfactorily to explain any such major event as a change of government at this time, to the Japanese public the generalities put forward by Konoye on the occasion of his resignation (the completion of the first stage of the China conflict; establishment of a new order; the framing of plans to deal with a new situation, et cetera,) afford a satisfactory explanation. The Hochi observes editorially:

“The Konoye Cabinet existed during the height of the China conflict and an accurate view to take of its retirement is that Premier Konoye, by voluntary and self-initiated resignation, has made possible that strengthening of the Government which it requires to deal with the problems arising out of the new stage of the China conflict.”

This and other similar observations suggest that the primary cause of the change of government was that since the conclusion of major hostilities there has been a definite let-down in the feeling and attitude of the public toward the conflict, and that a change in leadership was required to raise the pitch of popular enthusiasm: in short a “lift” was needed.

4. In our 6, January 4, 5 p.m., we suggested that the resignation of Konoye might have been caused by his inability to withstand the trend toward a totalitarian regime. In view of his acceptance of a place in the new Cabinet reluctantly given though it was and given only because of insistent pressure by the army, this suggestion must, we think, be ruled out as one of the determining causes for his abandonment of the Premiership. However, the papers, by stating that there are circumstances which should not be looked into too closely, definitely hint that there has been some trouble on the score of differences in political thought. A well-informed and reliable Japanese informed us today that Admiral Suyetsugu’s advocacy of the creation of a National Party and of drastic measures along totalitarian lines [Page 446] had made him absolutely unacceptable to the members of the Lower House of the Diet; and that it was not politically practicable simply to remove him from the Cabinet. As Suyetsugu was brought into the Cabinet by Konoye, largely because of their friendly personal relations, Konoye could not remain as Premier when circumstances made it impossible for his subordinate to remain in office. The totalitarian factor has, however, other ramifications which cannot be adequately dealt with in this telegram. The following statement made last night by the new Prime Minister shows all too clearly the direction of his thoughts:

“Each individual, whatever his occupation may be, will maintain the Imperial Dynasty and will work together with his fellows to maintain the traditional spirit of Japan. The political parties must also develop under the motto of mutual help and cooperation between each member of the national family. In so doing each one of us will lose his sense of individualism. It is only then that the political parties will truly develop and will be capable of dedicating themselves to promoting the interests of the Imperial Dynasty and the interests of the state.”

5. The press has recovered from its surprise over the resignation of Konoye, and today’s editorials generally follow the line of stressing that the retirement of Konoye from the Premiership was due to no impasse but rather to his desire to turn over the problems of reconstruction to his successor at the most favorable moment. The new Prime Minister’s intellectual honesty and high personal character are given favorable notice and expressions of confidence in his ability to bring the country through the crisis are general. The editorials generally ridicule the belief expressed abroad that the new Cabinet will proceed rapidly toward fascism. The comment on this point of the Asahi is quoted:

“We desire to comment on the completely incorrect appraisals chiefly heard and put forward in foreign countries of the new Cabinet. It is astonishing that rumors current years ago about Hiranuma should now be revived. The coordination in time of war of all our resources, both spiritual and physical, is a basic condition to the carrying out of national policy and meets with the unanimous approval of the nation. No appraisal can be made of this situation by foreign yard sticks.”

In the field of finance and economics, the belief is general that the trend toward integration and centralized control of finance and industrial resources had already set in and that the trend cannot be arrested or modified until the conflict with China is settled. On the other hand, the fact that the new Minister of Finance was nominated [Page 447] by Ikeda is considered by some [to mean?] that the tempo of the trend is not to be accelerated.

Cipher text by air mail to Shanghai for repetition to Chungking.

Grew