Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)

In 1894, the Japanese Navy, having aboard its ships some twenty Japanese officers who had been trained at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, sank the Chinese Fleet, which was lacking in ammunition, in the battle of the Yalu.

In 1905, Japanese diplomats, with the aid of President Theodore Roosevelt, won the Russo-Japanese war at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.A.

Since that time Japan has been rated as a great power, which, comparatively speaking, she was not and is not; and Japan has achieved one diplomatic victory after another by processes of diplomacy backed by threats, implied threats, or inferred threats of force.

In 1917, 1918 and 1919, Japan, assisted by British and American diplomacy, gained possession of the former German-owned islands in the central Pacific.

In 1931, 1932 and 1933, in default of the only form of opposition which might effectively have been presented by Great Britain and/or the United States, Japan gained possession of Manchuria.

At that time Great Britain’s diplomacy was equivocal and the diplomacy of the United States made it clear to the Japanese that they would not be opposed by force.

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From 1934 to 1939, action taken by the Government of the United States in the fields of legislation and of diplomacy led the would-be aggressor powers, foremost among which are Germany and Japan, to the definite conclusion that the United States would, in the event of a war in which the United States was not directly attacked, [take no?] more than a position of neutrality; and there was no act or utterance by any responsible American political leader until after the election of November 1940 in affirmation of, in implication of, or warranting an inference by anyone of a possibility that the United States might use armed force unless, until and before some part of the Western Hemisphere was directly attacked.

It is believed that, at any time throughout this period of more than forty years, a conviction on the part of Japan’s leaders that the United States was ready to fight and would fight in defense of the principles for which the United States [stands?] and of which it makes constant affirmation would have prevented or resolved any serious tension between Japan and the United States arising out of issues over violation of those principles.

The question which Japan is weighing today in connection with her desire to move southward is this: How much of armed opposition would Japan’s armed forces encounter, at the hands of the British, the Dutch—and the United States?

If there ever was a time when American diplomacy should refrain from saying, indicating, implying or giving a basis for an inference, to the Japanese, that a move southward by Japan would not be met by armed opposition on the part of the United States, that time is now.

It is reasonable and advisable that we should do all that we can in our diplomacy to cause the Japanese to believe that they can have a fair deal so far as we are concerned without their having to make conquests in order to get it, and especially if they will refrain from conquests; but, toward dissuading them from further adventurings southward, it is most desirable that we should cultivate rather than destroy an impression on their part that adventure southward by them would meet with armed resistance on our part.