711.94/1924: Telegram

The First Secretary of Embassy in China ( Smyth ) to the Secretary of State

33. Peiping’s 513, December 11, noon.20 The following notes on American-Japanese relations given the Embassy by the American informant,21 mentioned in the telegram under reference, are reported [Page 467] as of possible interest because they are largely based on the comments of Chinese in close touch with Japanese:

The Chinese in question are generally of the opinion that Japan will avoid any action that might provoke war with the United States at least until after: (1) peace can be concluded with China; (2) a successful German invasion of England in the early spring; (3) a nonaggression understanding can be reached with Russia; the Japanese will also observe the results of Admiral Nomura’s22 efforts to alter American policy. As against this more rational course of events there are the possibilities of: (1) any reckless Japanese military leader or group forcing the issue; (2) an undue intended incident causing an outbreak; or (3) irresistible German pressure to commence contemplated Japanese southward drive and thus come into conflict with the United States.

The informant states that General Itagaki23 is still trying desperately to find an approach to General Chiang Kai Shek and has indicated his readiness to meet General Chiang Kai Shek or his representative in person at any designated place, even in free China. He is also at least ready to consider seriously the abandonment of the “new order”. This is all because he persuaded the Tokyo Government to start the war with China in the summer of 1937 and feels responsible for effecting its conclusion. Failing in all such efforts, he may advocate withdrawal from South and Central China and maintaining control of the north.

The informant adds that a few days ago two Chinese who are working with General Itagaki came to Peiping bearing an invitation to him from the general for a discussion at Nanking in regard to the possibility [of] peace with General Chiang Kai Shek. The informant told the emissaries that he would not go to Nanking but might be going to Shanghai in the near future where General Itagaki could see him if he desired. The emissaries requested him to do so but he has not yet decided whether or not to go. He expressed the opinion that nothing would come of such a discussion in any case in view of General Chiang Kai Shek’s views which were reported in the telegram under reference.

Sent to Department. Repeated to Chungking, Tokyo, Shanghai.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iv, p. 466.
  2. Dr. J. Leighton Stuart, President of Yenching University, Peiping.
  3. Adm. Kichisaburo Nomura, appointed Japanese Ambassador to the United States.
  4. Gen. Seishiro Itagaki, Chief of Staff of Japanese Army in China.