711.94/1958: Telegram

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

230. 1. This afternoon Dooman paid a courtesy call on the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs85 which developed into a conversation of more than one hour.86 Mr. Ohashi’s request for an account of trends in American opinion during Dooman’s recent stay in the United States afforded an opportunity to get home to Ohashi certain views which I have been emphasizing to and spreading among my Japanese contacts in recent weeks as suitable occasion offered.

2. Among the points emphasized by Dooman was the determination of the American people, having in view the ultimate safety of the [Page 38] United States, to supply England with all that was necessary for England to withstand the offensive which Germany was expected to put on shortly. Although the overwhelming majority of the American people abhorred the thought of war, not even the possibility of their involvement in the European war would deter them from carrying out their determination to help England. The thought of involvement in a war in the Far East was equally abhorrent to the American people, and in line with the policy which has been faithfully pursued during the recent years of disturbances in the Far East the American Government and the American people consciously avoiding the taking of initiative which would lead to war with Japan. Nevertheless so long as helping England in her war with Germany and Italy remains the dominant objective of the United States it would be idle to assume that the United States would remain indifferent to any threat, actual or potential, by Japan or any other power, to the lines of communication between units of the British Empire, which, by depriving England of foodstuffs and raw materials, would imperil her continued existence. It must be obvious that American supply of munitions to England would be of no avail if essential commodities necessary for the continued existence of the British population and the continued maintenance of British industries were withheld, and that the success of the policy of American help to England is bound up with the keeping open of Britain’s commerce with her dominions and colonies.

3. Mr. Ohashi launched into an impassioned account of the origins of the Sino-Japanese conflict. He expressed himself as satisfied that the present conflict would never have occurred if the United States and Britain had recognized Manchukuo. He stated that it was the isolation into which Japan had been pushed by those two countries which led to the conclusion by Japan of the alliance with Germany and Italy. He remarked, “We have no especially friendly feelings toward Germany and Italy and we certainly have no ideological association with them”. Dooman quoted Mr. Churchill’s87 observation, “If we allow the past to quarrel with the present we shall lose the future”. So long as Japan was allied with Germany and could find no mutually satisfactory settlement of her conflict with China, it would be idle and extravagant to encourage hopes of stabilizing on a satisfactory and friendly basis relations between Japan and the United States. We now, however, are facing a crisis of the first magnitude and any attempt on the part of Japan substantially to alter the status quo might well lead to the most serious consequences.

4. Mr. Ohashi asked whether we had been sending to Washington such “extravagant and sensational telegrams” as the British Ambassador88 [Page 39] had been sending to London.89 He said that the Japanese Ambassador at London90 had been summoned by Mr. Eden91 and had been given a thorough hauling over the coals on the basis of messages from Sir Robert Craigie predicting that Japan would in the very near future move against Singapore. Mr. Ohashi said that he had repeatedly told Sir Robert that Japan would not move in Singapore or the Dutch East Indies “unless we (the Japanese) are pressed” (by the imposition of American embargoes). He said repeatedly that there was no truth whatever in Sir Robert’s prediction. Dooman asked Mr. Ohashi what Japan would do if disorders beyond the power of the French to control were to arise in Indochina as a result of possible award by Japan of the provinces of Laos and Cambodia to Thailand. Ohashi replied, “we would be obliged to step in to suppress the disorders”. Dooman observed that it might then be well for him to consider, in the light of the certain repercussions to any such contingency, whether grave concern over Japanese intervention in Southeast Asia and probable developments therefrom was not justified.

5. In concluding the conversation Mr. Ohashi said that he was looking forward with keen interest to receiving from Admiral Nomura reports of the results of the conversations which he would presumably have with the President and the Secretary of State.

  1. Chuichi Ohashi.
  2. For memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 138.
  3. Winston Spencer Churchill, British Prime Minister.
  4. Sir Robert L. Craigie.
  5. See British aide-mémoire of February 7, vol. v, p. 61.
  6. Mamoru Shigemitsu.
  7. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.