762.9411/9: Telegram

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

864. The following is from a reliable official source: Stahmer, whose present visit to Japan is connected with the strengthening of the Berlin–Tokyo Axis, is a Foreign Office official in the confidence of Ribbentrop.43 He acted as intermediary in the negotiations in Berlin leading to the Anti-Comintern Pact44 and was also here and in the United States with the Duke of Saxe-Coburg’s mission earlier this year.

Although it appears that the Japanese are not now considering the formation of a definite alliance with Germany, they feel that closer contact would be useful in general in frightening Great Britain into a policy of appeasement toward Japan and particularly in providing for the supply of machinery and aircraft via Siberia.

Informant states that the Stahmer visit is not directly connected with Japan’s policy in Indochina or the Netherlands East Indies. There is current in Japanese press circles a conflicting report that the German mission has made proposals regarding the East Indies which Japan finds not altogether satisfactory. The Polish Ambassador also reports having heard reliably that the German Ambassador has refused to give Japan a free hand either in the Indies or Indochina and has adopted an attitude of reserve.

The mission is also stated to have no connection with possible mediation in China by Germany. Informant considers such mediation unlikely, feeling that it is definitely in the German interest that China should be under Chiang Kai Shek rather than under Wang Ching Wei, and that the Germans must realize that mediation based on Chiang’s survival is not possible at present.

Various forces in Japan, notably General Oshima45 and the Shiratori46 group in the Foreign Office, are working toward strengthening of the Axis with Berlin. It is reported that the Berlin Embassy has been offered to Oshima, but that his acceptance is conditioned upon a guarantee that this time his policy will be allowed to materialize, this policy being the strengthening of the Axis. Informant believes that Japan will not enter the war on the side of Germany.

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For geographical reasons, help from Germany and Italy is impossible and if Japan decided to act against Britain she would do it alone. The general public would, however, realize before long the extent of Germany’s failure in Europe, and at that time, probably early next year, pressure in favor of a rapprochement with the democracies would be brought to bear on the Government.

Italy is not participating in the negotiations of the present German mission. Japan is, however, maintaining close contact independently with Italy, in the event of an overwhelmingly German victory as a threat to both their interests. (End of official informant’s remarks.)

From other sources I am informed that Germany is steadily pressing Japan to conclude an alliance, the primary consideration of which is such as to commit Japan to follow a course which would ensure the continued holding of the main part of the American fleet in the Pacific area and thereby to reduce the possibility of the United States entering the war against Germany. Germany, for her part, would inter alia influence Soviet Russia to conciliate Japan and to furnish Japan with needed war materials. The Japanese Government is said to be reluctant to commit itself to an alliance with Germany but as settlement of the China campaign is now the paramount consideration in Japanese policy it is not impossible that some deal along the foregoing lines may eventuate.

In the meantime, there is evidence that the building of the “new structure” in Japan is proceeding far from smoothly. Discordant elements render unanimity impossible and dissatisfaction with Prince Konoye is gaining ground. In some circles the feeling is expressed that he should retire. As one prominent Japanese described the situation to me: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

  1. Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Signed November 25, 1936; for text, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 153.
  3. Gen. Hiroshi Oshima, formerly Japanese Military Attaché in Germany; later Ambassador in Germany (1938–39); reappointed Ambassador to Germany, December 1940.
  4. Toshio Shiratori, former Japanese Ambassador to Italy.