Memorandum by Mr. Joseph W. Ballantine54

The New York Times and other newspapers this morning published an account of an interview said to have been given by the Prime Minister of Japan to an American press correspondent.55

The Prime Minister said, “Let me emphasize again that we are very anxious to maintain friendship for the United States. We consider that the German-Japanese alliance is designed to keep the United States from involvement in the European war. The Tripartite Pact has one chief purpose—of a defensive nature …”56

The statements of the Prime Minister in regard to a desire for friendly relations with the United States cannot be considered as expressing views different from those which have been repeatedly announced by spokesmen of the Japanese Government for the last several years. The statement that the Tripartite Alliance is designed to keep the United States from involvement in the European war has been widely interpreted in this country not as a manifestation of peaceful intent but as a threat to discourage the United States from entering the European war. The implication of a threat in this statement should not, of course, rule out the possibility of efforts toward more friendly relations between Japan and the United States; but it is felt this point should be considered in conjunction with other factors having a bearing upon the relations between the two countries.

[Page 286]

The Prime Minister was reported to have said also, although he was not directly quoted on this point, that Japan was not a partner to any German plan for world conquest. This statement does not go very far by way of disassociating Japan from Germany but might be read as implying a denial that Germany is planning world conquest.

The press report states that the Prime Minister went into a discussion in the Japanese language of the “purely defensive” background of the Three Power treaty. What the Prime Minister said on this point is not reported.

There is no indication as to whether the Prime Minister’s interview has been made public in Japan. If the interview were intended only for American consumption, it would be less significant than if it were made public in Japan.57

In the joint statement issued by Prince Konoe and Wang Ching-wei on June 23 on the occasion of Wang’s recent visit to Tokyo there was reaffirmed as a basis for future relations between Japan and China the declarations made “sometime ago concerning the establishment of a new order in east Asia consisting of good neighborly and amicable relations, common defense against communism and economic cooperation.” Thus it would appear that there has been no substantial change during the last four years in the Japanese Government’s position in regard to China. Indeed, the issuance of this statement would seem to make it even more difficult for the Japanese Government to modify its Chinese policy in accordance with liberal principles. Furthermore, Japan’s announced decision to extend the “Chinese National Government”* a loan to a maximum of yen 300,000,000, is regarded in Japan as a first concrete step in strengthening the Wang Ching-wei government.

  1. Initialed by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton).
  2. See telegram No. 904, June 30, 8 p.m., from the Ambassador in Japan, p. 989.
  3. Omission indicated in the original.
  4. See telegram No. 362, June 30, 6 p.m., to the Ambassador in Japan, p. 900.
  5. The Wang Ching-wei regime. [Footnote added by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton).]