761.94/1187: Telegram

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

11. There is repeated below for your strictly confidential information that portion relating to the Far East of a telegram from London of January 4,9 in which there is reported a conversation between Lord Halifax10 and the American Chargé d’Affaires:11

“Referring briefly to the Far East he mentioned a report that had been sent by Lord Lothian12 of a talk with the Under Secretary13 (Department’s instruction 1854 of December 4, 193914) and said that this statement of the United States Government’s views was in fact a [Page 636] statement of his own views better than he could have made. He agreed entirely with what Mr. Welles had said in regard to the probabilities [possibility rather than probabilities]15 of formal agreement being reached between Japan and Soviet Russia. I gathered that he does not attach altogether the same importance to Wang Ching-wei16 as apparently the British Ambassador at Tokyo17 does (Tokyo’s despatch 4229, November 8, 193918). Lord Halifax said that Wang’s sole importance is his uncompromising anti-Soviet attitude and that if his utility from this point of view evaporated he would simply disappear. Lord Halifax also apparently attaches no permanent or great importance to the recent announced agreements between Japan and Russia in regard to the Sakhalin fisheries and delimitation of frontiers. These he feels are ad hoc arrangements which will not greatly affect the fundamental relations between the two countries. Great Britain who now has her hands full in the west desires only friendly relations with Japan. If the Tientsin incident19 can be liquidated satisfactorily Great Britain is prepared to do everything reasonable to further these good relations. There are, however, certain limits which cannot be passed. Great Britain cannot let Chiang Kai-shek down and she must keep in step with the Far Eastern policy of the United States; from the purely British viewpoint Lord Halifax hopes that American-Japanese relations can progress favorably. He said that he thought the recent strong stand taken by the United States vis-à-vis Japan had been helpful and he welcomed it referring particularly to the speech made by Mr. Grew shortly after his return from America.20 I had the impression from Lord Halifax that the Far Eastern situation is not causing him any acute anxiety in the sense that he fears it is likely to become any worse than it already is. It seems that he has had information from trusted sources that the Japanese Government is frankly favorable to the Allied cause in the present European war and that the Japanese military had never had a more profound shock than when they received word of Hitler’s agreement with Soviet Russia.21 They detest the Russians anyhow and now they have no longer any trust in Germany.”

Naturally, it is gratifying to the Department to know that Lord Halifax’s estimate of the situation as thus reported coincides so substantially with ours.

  1. Telegram No. 26; for another portion of telegram, see p. 269.
  2. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Herschel V. Johnson, Counselor of Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  4. British Ambassador in the United States.
  5. Sumner Welles.
  6. Not printed; it transmitted memorandum of November 21, 1939, printed in Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. iii, p. 321.
  7. Brackets appear in the original.
  8. Formerly deputy leader of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) at Chungking, who departed for Occupied China in December 1938.
  9. Sir Robert L. Craigie.
  10. Not printed.
  11. See vol. iv, pp. 840 ff.; see also Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. iv, pp. 163 ff.
  12. The Ambassador in Japan spoke October 19, 1939, before the America-Japan Society at Tokyo. For text of his address, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 19.
  13. Treaty of nonaggression between Germany and the Soviet Union signed at Moscow, August 23, 1939; for text, with secret additional protocol, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, series D, vol. vii, pp. 245–247. See also telegram No. 464, August 24, 1939, 9 a.m., from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 342.