856B.01/22: Telegram

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

157. On May 16 the Japanese Ambassador called at his request and questioned me in detail in regard to developments in the Netherlands West Indies.15 I said that as soon as this Government learned that the British and French vessels patrolling the waters near Curaçao and Aruba were offering potential aid to the Netherlands Government in preventing possible sabotage and possible armed expeditions from the mainland intended to seize the governments of one or both of these possessions, this Government proceeded forthwith to assemble the facts in regard to the ability of the Netherlands forces in those islands to afford protection from such dangers. I said also that it was my understanding that the British and French patrols were not interfering with the Netherlands Governments in those islands but were recognizing the authority of those governments during the brief, temporary time deemed necessary to aid in safeguarding against the dangers mentioned, that the Netherlands Government would be expected to send from abroad additional guards that might later be found to be needed and that therefore there cannot arise in connection with these developments any question of conflict with the traditional American policy relating to our own protection. When the Ambassador proceeded to cross-question me further I inquired whether his inquiries were at the instance of his government, and if so, what the purpose of his government was. I called his attention to press reports of discussions in Japanese Government circles of one aspect or another of the Netherlands East Indies situation and Japan’s supposed special rights therein. I pointed out that the tenor of these reports from Tokyo was as though no commitment to respect and preserve the status quo had been made and I said that although I was slow to give credit to the contents of news reports, the reports were of a tenor which interfered with efforts of the Ambassador and myself and others to maintain understanding between our two countries.

The Ambassador disclaimed any purpose on the part of his government to cross-question me on the Netherlands West Indies. He stated that his government was entirely satisfied with the situation following the reiteration of the status quo in respect to the Netherlands East Indies by each of the four governments interested and that it had no purpose to raise any further question in that connection unless the British or French should land troops to protect the islands. I observed that since my Government was interested I had inquired of the British and French and had obtained the unequivocal understanding [Page 743] that they had no idea of intervening in the Netherlands East Indies. The Ambassador then made some reference to the Monroe Doctrine in connection with the West Indies situation, whereupon I offered comments of the same general nature as in a previous interview, an account of which was contained in the Department’s telegram No. 123 of April 22, 6 p.m.16 I said it was surprising to observe that after the Japanese Government had undertaken to spread itself out in China there was an intimation in the news reports that Japan, because of supposed special interest, would not be content unless it extended itself 3,000 miles further to take in the Netherlands East Indies. In conclusion I emphasized that the real question presented actually related to the entire Pacific area and that there would appear to be no need of further elaboration beyond my recent statement on this subject.17

  1. For memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 285.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See statements of April 17 and May 11, Department of State Bulletin, April 20, 1940, p. 411, and ibid., May 11, 1940, p. 493.