740.0011 P.W./568: Telegram

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

1317. Embassy’s telegram 1295, October 11, 2 [7] p.m. Ostrorog told us this morning that the Japanese “in the face of the firm position taken by the French” are showing a willingness to limit their military operations into Tonkin to the stipulations of the military accord of September 1940; that is to say, that the total number of Japanese effectives in that area shall not exceed some 25,000. (Embassy’s telegram 610, September 23, 8 p.m., 1940.9) They have however expressed [Page 320] their intention of bringing their forces in that area up to this maximum allowed at an early date. He feels that this is probably a measure to get more and more control in the colony and to set up “a sort of administration parallel to that of the French as well as a means of bringing greater influence on the native population.” It may also be, in his opinion, designed to strengthen the Japanese position with a view to some future operation against the Burma Road.

Reports from the French Ambassador at Tokyo indicate, he said, a steadily deteriorating internal situation in Japan both politically and economically. Ambassador Henry reports, he said, that neither Prince Konoye nor the Gaimushu any longer has much influence over important questions of Government policy and that it is really the military clique that is in increasing control. While he admitted that there may be some differences of view between the army and navy elements in this clique, he feels it would be a mistake to count on any greater depreciation by the Japanese Navy of the difficulties of Japan’s situation in the face of a firm American attitude to exercise a restraining influence on Japanese policy. He added that all of Ambassador Henry’s reports emphasize the outstanding position of Ambassador Grew in the situation and the importance of his great personal prestige.

Ostrorog attaches considerable significance to a statement attributed in the press here to the Japanese official spokesman, Ishii, yesterday that the Japanese Government would make every effort up to the last moment to reach a solution of its problems in a peaceful manner. To him this can only mean that the Japanese, “who are by far the best informed as to the real situation in Russia, do not expect any early collapse of Russian resistance. You can consider Japan as a reliable barometer in this respect,” he said. (He understands that while the Russians have withdrawn some of their forces from the Far East they still have some 30 divisions in that area—”fully enough for defense against Japan, but not sufficient for any offensive operation against the Japanese.”)

  1. Not printed, but see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iv, p. 142, footnote 92.