Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Ballantine)13

Participants: Mr. T. Hashimoto, Editor of the Shiunso.
Mr. T. Toda, associate and interpreter of Mr. Hashimoto.
Mr. Hornbeck.
Mr. Hamilton.
Mr. Ballantine.

Mr. Hashimoto stated that he had felt for a long time that Japan had been pursuing a wrong course; that his purpose in visiting this country was to gain an insight into the attitude of the American Government and people and to arm himself with knowledge which might be useful to his country in shaping a better course of policy.

In reply to a question as to how far he had already gone in his study of American attitude, Mr. Hashimoto said that he had studied various clippings which Ambassador Grew had given him and had had the clippings translated and published for distribution in Japan; he felt that the American attitude was reasonable and proper. He added that he had had no opportunity as yet to meet Americans in private life, as owing to the sensational articles which had appeared in the American press in connection with his visit he had felt diffident about seeing people.

In reply to a further question Mr. Hashimoto said he realized that in bringing about any change in Japanese policies it was incumbent upon Japan to take the initiative; he felt, however, that it would be very helpful if the Japanese could be given some assurance that in the event that Japan changed its course it could count upon the United States extending cooperation to Japan.

It was pointed out to Mr. Hashimoto by way of reply that the United States had traditionally pursued a policy of cooperation with other nations which practiced peaceful and constructive policies and that the United States had at one time or another made loans to a [Page 5] great many countries; and that prior to 1931 the United States had adopted such a policy toward Japan.

Mr. Hashimoto said he realized that this was true, but that in the present situation it was desirable to have some concrete assurance as a means of combating the pro-German group in Japan, which was strongly entrenched. He stated that Japan had been intimidated into the Axis alliance by the threat that if Japan did not go in Germany would, after disposing of England, supply munitions to China and Russia, an argument which had a strong effect upon the Japanese army; he said also that there was a secret clause in the alliance treaty providing for Germany’s recognition of Japan’s pretensions in regard to a so-called co-prosperity sphere in southwest Asia, a point which had a wide appeal among the Japanese people, although they had little idea what all this implied.

When asked whether, in reference to a statement by him that he thought it would be possible to bring about a change in Japanese policy, he had any evidence to indicate that sufficient support could be found in Japan for such a change in policy, Mr. Hashimoto asserted that he did in fact have various such evidences: one evidence was the fact that he had been allowed to come at all on his mission to the United States; another was an indication of a change in the attitude of General Tojo, the Minister of War, who had previously been definitely of the pro-German group but who now appeared to be receptive to an idea such as that entertained by Mr. Hashimoto; a third indication was that General Yanagawa was now in the Cabinet, which would not have been possible a while ago, despite the general’s recognized ability, because he had been known to be opposed to the Axis alignment; a fourth indication was the more active part the navy was now taking in political policies and the navy, because of its being more closely concerned than the army with American and British relations, had been from the first cool toward the German alignment. There was also the fact of a loss of confidence in Matsuoka, Minister for Foreign Affairs, by the Imperial court as a result of advice tendered which had not turned out well. Mr. Hashimoto then went on to say that, of course, the Japanese public had been sold on such slogans as the “New Order in Greater East Asia” and the “co-prosperity sphere in Greater East Asia” and on the ideology of the Axis alliance, and he did not believe it would be possible for Japan to go back on the language of those slogans without impairing the nation’s political stability. What he had in mind was not to attack those slogans but to render them a dead letter through failure to carry out their purpose in practice. Mr. Hashimoto also indicated that an essential requisite to a change in Japanese policy was the getting rid of Mr. Matsuoka as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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Mr. Hornbeck then referred briefly to Japan’s conclusion in 1936 of the anti-Comintern Pact14 and the Axis alliance in 1940 and said that on account of contradictory statements of Japanese spokesmen there was confusion in our minds as to whether Japan was so tied up with Germany that Japan’s policies had become fused with those of the Axis Powers or whether Japan still retained freedom of action, and therefore we could only judge from Japan’s acts what the real situation is. If it appears that Japan no longer retains freedom of action we would be obliged to oppose Japan in view of our opposition to Germany. On the other hand, if it appeared that Japan still retained freedom of action and was acting entirely on her own initiative, we could determine our policy in the light of Japan’s actions. Mr. Hornbeck also made the point that the United States had been standing consistently in its original position; that it was Japan which had moved from its position of support to the principles on which we stood; and that it therefore seemed that any move to rectify the situation must now come from Japan.

Mr. Hashimoto said that he understood what Mr. Hornbeck meant and that he would like to continue this conversation at an early date (to be arranged at our convenience) at which time he would bring up various suggestions that had occurred to him and would be glad to learn of any suggestions that we might have. The interview there terminated.

  1. Initialed by the Chief of the Division (Hamilton); noted by the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State.
  2. Signed at Berlin, November 25, 1936, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 153.