711.94/2348: Telegram

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

1579. For the Secretary and the Under Secretary only. A Japanese official who is an intimate friend of the Prime Minister and who closely reflects his views informed the Counselor this morning as follows:95

The memorandum handed to the Japanese Ambassador by the Secretary of State on October 2,96 far from accepting the Japanese proposal for a meeting of the heads of government, contains no helpful suggestion and has made the position of the Prime Minister one of extreme difficulty. The Army had been anxious for sometime to bring about a conclusion by negotiation of the China conflict but it would not assume responsibility for initiating any such settlement. Prince Konoye had, however, assumed that responsibility with the approval and support of the Emperor. If his approach to the United States should end in failure he would have “to admit responsibility” and then there would be no other person with sufficient courage to assume the risks which Prince Konoye had taken or with personal prestige and political influence sufficient to receive the support of the Army in any undertakings vital to the nation as the terminating of the China conflict. Further, Prince Konoye’s failure to make any progress in the conversations has furnished his opponents with substantial ammunition.
Although many months have elapsed since the beginning of the conversations, the United States which has admittedly given Japan full presentation of its views with regard to the principles which should regulate relations between nations has as yet given Japan no specifications with regard to the exact character of the undertakings which it expects from Japan. An increasing number of persons in [Page 501] Japanese Government circles are coming around to the view that Japan has fallen into a trap. Their line of reasoning is as follows—The United States never had any intention of reaching an agreement with Japan; it has now elicited from the Japanese Government an exposition of Japanese policies and objectives; such policies and objectives are not in line with those of the United States: there is therefore justification for refusal by the United States to adjust relations with Japan and for continuing to maintain against Japan a position of quasi hostility.
Even the final memorandum of October 2, which is understood to be a carefully considered statement of American views on the basis of all the information which the Japanese Government is prepared to give with regard to its policies and objectives prior to the opening of formal negotiations, contains no suggestions or indications which would be helpful to the Japanese Government toward meeting the desires of the American Government. It is argumentative and preceptive in tone and uncompromising in substance. It reflected again the apparently great care that has been taken by the American Government not to give the Japanese any specifications or to lay any of its cards on the table (end substance of statement).97

  1. See memorandum by the Counselor of Embassy in Japan, October 7, 1941, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 662.
  2. Ibid., p. 656.
  3. Ambassador Grew in telegram No. 1584, October 8, 1 p.m. (711.94/2349), reported that, after studying the Department’s statement of October 2, “we see no justification whatever for the adverse comment made by the informant with regard to the tone and substance of the memorandum. The tone is excellent and the substance helpful.”