894.00/866: Telegram

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

446. Our 445, August 28, 10 p.m.

1. Change of Government now in progress is viewed by the press this morning with approval, the circumstances leading to the resignation of the Hiranuma Cabinet coming in for considerably more attention than the appointment of General Abe. The reasons given by Baron Hiranuma for the resignation of his Cabinet, namely, to emphasize their sense of responsibility for the situation created by the conclusion of the German-Soviet Treaty8a and to symbolize by a change of Government the adoption of a new foreign policy, are accepted with great satisfaction. The press points out that no blame attaches to the Prime Minister for failure to foresee Germany’s betrayal of Japan, and refers in this connection to the fact that the British Cabinet similarly betrayed by the Soviet Government seems to have a clear conscience in remaining in office and Baron Hiranuma’s determination scrupulously to fulfill his obligations to the Emperor is discussed in laudatory terms.

2. Interesting details are now appearing in the press concerning the developments of the last few days. It appears that upon receipt of news of the action of Germany the Minister of War offered to assume entire responsibility and sought to induce the Prime Minister to remain in office. The Prime Minister expressed his determination to resign whereupon the decision was taken by the Cabinet as a whole to assume collective responsibility.

With regard to the selection of the next Prime Minister, the question arose whether emphasis should be placed upon suitability from the point of view of external problem or from the point of view of internal problem. General Ugaki was first considered as being the most suitable from the first point of view, but owing to the resentment felt in army and other circles because of the circumstances of his resignation as Minister for Foreign Affairs (see 636, September 30, noon, 19389) he was passed up and the qualifications of Hirota and Abe were then considered. A consensus finally developed that the primary need at this moment was for a man who could count upon the support of all elements, including the army, and thus insure national unity. Abe is reputed to be well liked on all sides, whereas Hirota is not popular with the army. An interesting detail is that [Page 449] Abe’s son is married to the daughter of Marquis Kido who is Prince Konoe’s most intimate friend. I believe that there is little doubt that the selection of Abe was engineered by Konoe, Makino and Yuasa, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal.

3. General Abe received last night the command to constitute the new Cabinet and is expected to complete his negotiations tomorrow or the day after.

4. There is considerable speculation in the press with regard to the possibility of improvement in relations with the United States and Great Britain but these discussions also emphasize that Japan’s foreign relations will be subordinated to the paramount need of attaining Japan’s objectives in China. There is general agreement that under existing circumstances the conclusion of a nonaggression treaty with Russia is not a practical proposition.

Repeated to Peiping. Peiping please repeat to Chungking.

  1. Signed at Moscow, August 23, 1939; for text, see Department of State, Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939–1941 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1948), p. 76.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. iv, p. 602.