793.94119/734: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Leahy) to the Secretary of State

208. Chauvel5 with some agitation showed us a telegram just received from Tokyo. Ambassador Henry reported that he had learned from a reliable source which he did not specify that Matsuoka was on the point of departing secretly for Nanking with every hope of reaching an agreement with Chiang Kai-shek for the settlement of the Sino-Japanese undeclared war. Chauvel said that it was of the utmost importance for the French to know whether such a settlement is really on the point of being concluded. The French Ambassador6 is absent from Chungking at this time and there is only a junior secretary there without means of acquiring authoritative information. Chauvel would therefore very much like to know whether our Government on the basis of information available to it from various sources shares Henry’s views that a Sino-Japanese peace is imminent.

Any information which the Department feels can properly send me in this connection will be appreciated; anything which we can pass on to Chauvel will probably encourage the frank and communicative attitude which he has adopted toward the Embassy in the past few months as our various telegrams will show.

Almost simultaneously an earlier telegram was received here from Tokyo reporting Japanese insistence that the French accept without delay the Japanese terms of settlement in the Indochinese-Thailand dispute. Henry reported that this proposal came directly from the military; that the Japanese Foreign Office had apparently no knowledge of it “until the last moment” when a formal meeting of the mediation delegates was called. It was intimated thereat that the Japanese military are anxious for an immediate acceptance by both Thailand and France.

[Page 46]

The map of the proposed boundary settlement which Chauvel had hastily drawn showed that it involved the cession by Indochina to Thailand of all territory up to the Mekong, both in the kingdom of Luang-Prabang in the north and in the south not only in Laos but also that section of Cambodia from the eastern frontier to the Mekong river which lies north of a straight line running east to west through the parallel on which Sisophon is located. Henry reported that the Thai delegates were obviously disappointed at the way the Japanese had scaled down their “excessive territorial claims”.

Chauvel went on to say that he has been at a loss for the past several days clearly to see the trend in the Far East. For some time, he said, Ambassador Henry had been reporting the possibility that the Japanese would make peace with Chiang Kai-shek. It may be, said Chauvel, that German pressure plus Russian pressure on Chiang Kai-shek in addition to a “favorable” Japanese offer of settlement may convince Chiang Kai-shek of the necessity of reversing his declared policy of continuing the fight until the European war is settled. The Russians, Chauvel went on, if they could get Japan embroiled in the south with us or the British would probably be willing to sign an agreement with the Japanese (whether they would keep it was in his opinion another question) and might even be willing to see Chiang Kai-shek make peace. Germany, he said, obviously is anxious that Japan be given a free hand for some aggression in the south.

A Sino-Japanese peace at this time in Chauvel’s opinion would mean that “the game is up” as far as all European interests as well as American interests in the Far East are concerned. If such a peace is likely to be signed France will have to adjust her policy accordingly and save what little she can in Indochina. It would probably mean prompt acceptance of the Japanese mediation award (which we gather may be accepted anyway especially if Thailand accepts). Such a peace would likewise mean the possibility of the Japanese and Thailand dividing up the north of Indochina without fear of Chinese interference in that area. He lamented the existing situation which makes it impossible for the French to know what the British policies are in the Far East and whether there is any threat of a British invasion of Thailand through Burma to act as a deterrent on the pro-Japanese policies of Thailand.

The French have informed the Japanese that no reply may be expected until after Admiral Darlan’s7 return from Paris Thursday night.

[Page 47]

Ambassador likewise reported that Matsumiya [Matsuoka?] had given confidential assurances to Ambassador Grew that Japan had no thought of any aggressive move in the direction of Singapore and that similar confidential assurances had been given the British Ambassador at Tokyo. Ambassador appeared to accept these confidential assurances with considerable reservation.

  1. Jean Chauvel, head of the Far East section, French Foreign Office.
  2. Henri Cosme.
  3. Adm. Francois Darlan, French Minister for Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the Council of Ministers (Vice Premier).