Memorandum by the Consul General at Geneva (Tittmann)48

Statements Made by M. Kikuo Kobayashi, Director ad Interim of the Japanese Bureau for International Conferences in Geneva and Japanese Consul General

Last year’s negotiations looking to a rapprochement between Japan and Germany which had been sponsored but not conducted by the germanophile military in Japan were broken off at the time of the announcement of the German-Soviet Pact in August 1939.

This event caused the military to lose caste and for a time the Emperor, with Admiral Yonai as Prime Minister,49 was able to keep the influence of the military in the background.

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The German victories in Europe in the spring of 1940, however, were the occasion for the reemergence of the influence of the military and were the chief cause of the fall of the Yonai Cabinet and the composition of the new one on July 20, 1940, which is dominated by the military under Prince Konoye.

On August 1st, Herr Otto,50 the German Ambassador in Tokyo, had a preliminary conversation with M. Matsuoka, the Foreign Minister, regarding the resumption of negotiations looking to a German-Japanese rapprochement. Ambassador Kurusu51 in Berlin was then authorized to begin conversations with the Germans there, and on August 26th the first step was taken when he conferred with Ribbentrop at Salzburg. The Japanese military, however, were not in favor of M. Kurusu’s conducting negotiations as he was not considered by them sufficiently germanophile and, besides, he speaks English very well and has an American wife. Furthermore, in view of the failure of negotiations last year, the military were determined this time not to let matters get out of their hands and into those of civilians whom they could not control. The Germans, on their part, were satisfied not to continue with M. Kurusu for the same reasons and also because they considered that he might be too clever a diplomat for them.

Consequently, negotiations in Berlin were suspended with the consent of both sides, and one of Herr von Ribbentrop’s entourage was sent to Tokyo expressly for the purpose of conferring with M. Shiratori and General Oshima, who were designated to carry on negotiations from the Japanese side. M. Shiratori was formerly Ambassador in Rome, is an admirer of the Fascist Regime, and is now one of the councillors of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, while General Oshima, ex-Ambassador in Berlin, is leader of the Japanese germanophiles.

The Japanese Government in power is now strongly pro-German. The Japanese press at the present time prints a preponderance of official news despatches from Germany and Italy, giving little or no space to the anti-Axis point of view. Five Ambassadors, nineteen Ministers, and sixteen Councillors and Consul Generals who are considered to be lukewarm toward the Axis powers have been recalled to Tokyo for dismissal. The stage is set, therefore, for an intensification of the rapprochement between Germany and Japan which is not unlikely to end within a comparatively short time in the conclusion of a “consultative pact” between the two countries together with all the implications of such an agreement. The most effective check to these designs, at least from the point of view of Japan, would be the announcement of the conclusion of an arrangement between the United [Page 651] States and Soviet Russia. Japan still has a healthy respect for Russian prowess in the Far East.

With regard to French Indo-China, Japan has no territorial designs on that country, but seeks to obtain military facilities there for the prosecution of the war against China. Concerning the Netherlands East Indies, Japan has no territorial designs in that quarter either, nor is she contemplating military operations, there, such as are being carried on in Indo-China. Her interest lies solely in ensuring that access to the raw materials of the Netherlands East Indies remains free to her.

Harold H. Tittmann
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Consul General in his letter dated September 30; received October 21.
  2. Adm. Mitsumasa Yonai was Japanese Prime Minister from January 16 to July 16, 1940.
  3. Maj. Gen. Eugen Ott, formerly German Military Attaché in Japan.
  4. Saburo Kurusu.