Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton) to the Secretary of State 95

Mr. Secretary: There is attached a copy of a set of documents forwarded on July 11 to the Department by the Assistant to the Postmaster General. This set consists of a covering letter addressed to Mr. Walker, a complete new draft of the proposed understanding with annexes and supplements, an “oral memo”, and a suggested exchange of letters.96

There is also attached a memorandum97 showing differences in substance between the draft now received and our re-draft of June 21.98

The covering letter which is addressed to Mr. Walker is unsigned but appears to have been prepared by Father Drought. It contains among other statements the assertion that, providing the present document is acceptable to the Secretary of State, Mr. Walker “could manage then to get the consent of the Japanese Ambassador (and the war in China would stop!)”.

[Page 315]

Without going into detailed comment on this new draft, it is felt, in view of the general situation in the Far East and of certain broad considerations, that these new documents together with their mode of presentation do not afford a sound basis for carrying us forward in our discussions. Among those considerations there is to be noted, first, that our re-draft and the Secretary’s oral statement of June 2199 were given directly to the Japanese Ambassador whereas in this instance these documents have come to us through an indirect channel and without definite indication of sponsorship on the part of the Japanese Ambassador.

In the second place, notwithstanding the intimation in the last paragraph of the “oral memo” (mentioned in the first paragraph above) that Prime Minister Konoe’s statement of June 29 to an American correspondent,1 as well as his reply of July 82 to President Roosevelt’s personal message,3 and the letter of July 4 which Ambassador Nomura addressed to the Secretary,4 might satisfactorily meet the considerations raised in our oral statement of June 21, we feel that there has not yet been made manifest a sufficiently clear indication that the Japanese Government as a whole desires to pursue courses of peace in the entire Pacific area. The manifestations of the Japanese Government’s attitude referred to above fall short in our opinion of overcoming the presumptions created by evidences which continue to reach this Government of an intention on the part of the Japanese Government to pursue a course inconsistent with the spirit of the proposed understanding.

In the third place, although the Japanese draft contains an undertaking to withdraw Japanese troops in China within a period of two years after the restoration of peace, it is open to question whether, in view of all the discussions we have had upon this subject in which the Japanese Ambassador and his associates have emphasized that the retention of Japanese troops for cooperative defense against communism for an indefinite period was a sine qua non, we can feel assured, in the absence of more explicit assurances, that the Japanese have renounced the purpose of stationing forces in China beyond the two year period for the purpose indicated.

In the fourth place, although the Japanese have attempted to set aside and to evade detailed questions with regard to their intentions under the program of “economic cooperation” with China, by asserting that those questions will be placed entirely under the jurisdiction [Page 316] of the Chinese Government, it is difficult to follow their logic for the reason that our questions and our desire for clarification of Japanese understanding of the principle of non-discrimination in international relations have only to do with what Japan intends to ask of China and what Japan intends to do on her own initiative. The new Japanese draft therefore does not dispose of the question of the application to Japan’s future economic relations with China of the principle of nondiscrimination.

The Japanese in this draft have suggested an exchange of letters providing for a mutual recognition of the right of self-defense. The right of self-defense is inherent, is exercised unilaterally, and does not require recognition by any other country. It is only because of the provisions of the Tripartite Pact and the implied threats in repeated statements by Japanese official and unofficial spokesmen that the Tripartite Pact was designed to prevent the entry of the United States into the European War, that it seems important and necessary for the Japanese Government to give unilaterally some clear indication of its intention.

It is to be noted that the Japanese Ambassador has not yet made any reply to our approach to him on July 5,5 when we referred to a press despatch from Shanghai published in the New York Times of July 5, which reported plans by Japan for the acquisition of naval and air bases in French Indochina and Thailand to threaten the Burma Road, Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. Nor can it be said that the reply of Prince Konoe of July 8 to the President’s message in regard to the Japanese Government’s intention with regard to the question of a Japanese attack on the Soviet Union is clear-cut, as it leaves the matter of Japan’s intentions in obscurity. Mention might be made also of reports that the Japanese are constructing an expensive naval base in southern Hainan.

It is suggested that for the present we take no initiative in reference to the new documents received on July 11. It is suggested further that if Mr. Walker should raise with you, or if Father Drought should raise with us, the subject of these documents, reply be made to the general effect that while we appreciate Father Drought’s desire to be of help, the general situation has now progressed to such a point that we feel that in the best interests of all concerned our conversations and any presentation of documents should be directly between the Japanese Ambassador or his associates and the Secretary of State or his associates; that this procedure makes it entirely feasible for the associates of the Japanese Ambassador to present informally for tentative, informal consideration, any suggestions which they may [Page 317] have; that, however, any indications which the Japanese Government may have given calculated to meet the broad points raised in the Secretary’s oral statement of June 21 have not in our judgment met the broad points raised in a sufficiently clear-cut way; that the Japanese Government has not as yet made any reply to the questions raised with the Japanese Ambassador on July 5 in reference to a Shanghai press report that the Japanese Government had plans for the forceful acquisition of naval and air bases in French Indochina and in Thailand; and that discussion of detailed aspects of the proposed understanding could naturally be carried on to better advantage if the Japanese Government should first manifest in its own way definitive indications that it intends to follow peaceful courses. Mention might be made also that on July 10 we telephoned to the associates of the Japanese Ambassador indicating our readiness at any time to arrange a meeting with them for further discussions, that we have so far received no suggestion that such a meeting be arranged, and that we continue ready to arrange such a meeting.

It is further suggested that if we do not hear from Mr. Walker, Father Drought, or the associates of the Japanese Ambassador before Tuesday6 or Wednesday, we might telephone the associates of the Japanese Ambassador, refer to our telephone message of July 10 and state that in order to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding we wished to indicate again our readiness at any time, should they so desire, to arrange a meeting with them for further discussions.

  1. Drafted by Messrs. Ballantine and Schmidt; copy forwarded to the Under Secretary of State on July 12 with a covering note that “Mr. Hackworth and Mr. Hornbeck concur in the comments made.”
  2. See letter to Postmaster General Walker, p. 303; other documents not printed.
  3. Supra.
  4. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, Vol. ii, p. 486.
  5. For latter, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, Vol. ii, p. 485.
  6. See telegram No. 904, June 30, 8 p.m. from the Ambassador in Japan, p. 989; also memorandum by Mr. Joseph W. Ballantine, June 30, p. 285.
  7. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, Vol. ii, p. 503.
  8. Ibid., p. 502.
  9. Ibid., p. 499.
  10. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, Vol. ii, pp. 499, 501.
  11. July 15.