Memorandum by Mr. Joseph W. Ballantine

With reference to the despatch from the New York Times Tokyo correspondent published in the New York Times of July 8 in regard to the formation of the “Great Japan–East Asia Construction League” (clipping attached),75 it is premature to form an estimate of the significance of this development. Organizations formed under apparently similar circumstances in the past have generally been of an ephemeral character and have failed to achieve substantial results.

It may be noted that according to the press despatch all present at the inaugural meeting of the new league took an oath to “eliminate the root of evil in Greater East Asia, namely, white and in particular Anglo-American ‘encroachments on the lands and livelihood of the East Asiatic countries’ and to ‘reconstruct an East Asia co-prosperity sphere’”. It would be difficult to eradicate the deep-seated feeling among Japanese that white nations, especially the Anglo-Saxon powers, are exploiting Asiatic peoples to their own advantage. Japanese grievances on this score might be substantially reduced if Japanese were permitted to share in greater degree economic and commercial opportunities in the Asiatic dependencies of white powers. The Japanese concept of a co-prosperity sphere has been associated with an autocratic economic bloc, but it is believed that the business group in Japan is already convinced in the main of the fallacies underlying such ideas.

On the other hand, in Prince Konoe’s inaugural address as President of the League there was a conspicuous absence of bellicose and threatening utterances such as have characterized past statements on similar occasions and emphasis was placed upon a purpose to promote the welfare of mankind and harmonious cooperation among all nations. So far as Prince Konoe and his group are concerned the intention may be to make a sincere effort to guide public opinion along sounder and more constructive lines. At the same time it should be mentioned that Japan’s ideas of harmonious cooperation so far as relations with weaker powers in Asia are concerned have so far in practice been one-sided.

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Whether the League will actually be able to contribute toward diverting Japan from its present courses will depend upon future developments; that is to say, upon what the United States does or fails to do; upon what Germany does or fails to do; and upon the general turn of events.

  1. Not reprinted.