Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador, the Chinese Ambassador, the Australian Minister and the Netherlands Minister called at my request. I handed each of them a copy of the proposed modus vivendi prepared by us for submission to the Japanese Ambassador.76 They spent an hour reading it and taking notes to send back to their Governments.

The Chinese Ambassador objected to more than a maximum of 5,000 Japanese troops being left in Indochina. I again stated that General Marshall had a few minutes before expressed to me his opinion that 25,000 troops would be no menace and that, while this [Page 647] Government did not recognize the right of Japan to keep a single soldier in Indochina, we were striving to reach this proposed temporary agreement primarily because the heads of our Army and Navy often emphasize to me that time is the all-important question for them, and that it is necessary to be more fully prepared to deal effectively with the situation in the Pacific area in case of an outbreak by Japan. I also emphasized the point that, even if we agree that the chances of such an outbreak are not great, it must be admitted that there are real possibilities that such an outbreak may soon occur—any day after this week—unless a temporary arrangement is effected that will cause the agitated state of public opinion to become more quiet and thereby make it much more practicable to continue the conversations relative to the general agreement.

The Chinese Ambassador dwelt on the matter of reducing the proposed figure of 25,000 soldiers to remain in Indochina to 5,000. I pointed out and each of the representatives understood the great advantage it would be to our five countries to have Japan committed to a peaceful course for three months and set forth the advantages to each of having additional time in which to make further preparations, et cetera, et cetera. They seemed to be very much gratified. They seemed to be thinking of the advantages to be derived without any particular thought of what we should pay for them, if anything. Finally, when I discovered that none of their Governments had given them instructions relative to this phase of the matter, except in the case of the Netherlands Minister, I remarked that each of their Governments was more interested in the defense of that area of the world than this country, and at the same time they expected this country, in case of a Japanese outbreak, to be ready to move in a military way and take the lead in defending the entire area. And yet I said their Governments, through some sort of preoccupation in other directions, do not seem to know anything about these phases of the questions under discussion. I made it clear that I was definitely disappointed at these unexpected developments, at the lack of interest and lack of a disposition to cooperate. They said nothing except the Netherlands Minister who then replied that he had heard from his Government and that it would support the modus vivendi proposal. I then indicated that I was not sure that I would present it to the Japanese Ambassador without knowing anything about the views and attitude of their Governments. The meeting broke up in this fashion.

There were other details discussed but they were not of major consequence nor did they constitute anything new in the record.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. Supra.