740.0011 Pacific War/548: Telegram

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

1255. Embassy’s telegram 1238, September 29, 6 p.m. Lacoste asked us to call this afternoon and stated that the Foreign Office source of information in Indochina, the nature of which he would not divulge but which he stated should be “in an excellent position to know the facts”, still insists that a large scale increase in Japanese military occupation of Indochina is going to take place in the very near future. He is still not convinced of the “certainty” of this move but the Foreign Office is obviously very much worried. Its source of information indicates that the operation will involve “several tens of thousands” of additional Japanese troops and that they will probably come by sea, landing at Haiphong. The move appears, he said, to be confined for the moment entirely to the north (Tonkin). Meanwhile local Japanese officials in Indochina are continuing their “truculent” attitude. Lacoste stated that no one other than this Embassy has been informed of the foregoing French fears and reiterated that in view of our “common interest” in avoiding any further deterioration of the situation in Indochina the Foreign Office is asking that we let the Japanese Government know as firmly as possible that we [Page 303] would view with considerable displeasure any increase in Japanese forces in that colony.

In reply to our inquiry he specifically stated that the Germans have not been informed of the foregoing and that there is no indication of any German hand in the situation. He has the impression, he added, incidentally, that the Japanese attitude toward their talks with the United States blows hot and cold, depending on German progress in the Ukraine.

A second point which Lacoste wished to raise was increasing Japanese economic pressure in Indochina, pressure which he said was not necessarily tied with the foregoing Japanese politico-economic ambitions but which might foreshadow an effort to obtain complete control of the colony. The Japanese, he said, have demanded complete detailed information concerning all exports from and imports into Indochina. The information demanded includes names of importers and exporters, purposes for which the product is required, prices, addresses and a mass of additional information. The Japanese have likewise demanded that no export be made from Indochina without Japanese authorization. This complete “domination of the economic life” of the colony, Lacoste stated, the French Government has declined resolutely to accept. The French authorities in Indochina have the most categorical instructions not to go beyond the strict letter of both the politico-military and the economic agreements and at the present time he insisted the French are putting up some real resistance. (He himself was not in accord at all with the recent agreement which permitted Japanese occupation of the Saigon and Camranh Bay areas. [)] In view, he said, of our steadfast insistence upon the open door policy in the Far East, he hopes that we will urgently and emphatically let the Japanese know our opposition to this attempted economic enslavement of Indochina.

A third point he broached, though with considerably less emphasis, was the recently reported action by our authorities in blocking at Manila certain exports, which he admitted included gasoline, for Indochina. They had been purchased and fully paid for he said by the colony and forwarded by through bill of lading. He hoped the release of the items in question would somewhat relieve the extremely difficult task of the local Indochinese authorities and strengthen the French position with the natives in the face of the Japanese attitude.

In conclusion Lacoste again reiterated the importance from the French point of view of secrecy and the hope that in any such démarche as we should feel able to make we would keep from the Japanese the fact that the French Government has approached us in the premises.