761.94/7–2145: Telegram

No. 588
The Japanese Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Sato) to the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs (Sato)
very secret

1392. Re my telegram No. 1386.1

Stalin and Molotov departed from here on the night of the 14th, apparently heading for Berlin. In my opinion this left at least more than half a day to spare before departure, but despite this the Soviets answered that there would be a delay in their reply to my request concerning the dispatch of the special envoy. In view of the fact that a definite answer was not given, it may be assumed that in a matter such as this, which can bring about grave results, the Soviets are avoiding a hasty reply and giving the matter full deliberation. Or it may be that they feel that we are not expecting an urgent reply, which I doubt.

Some reasons which may be thought of for the Soviets’ hesitation:

Although they understand the Imperial wish concerning the termination of the war, they lack clarification with regard to the actual mission of the special envoy or with regard to whether or not concrete proposals for the termination of the war are to be presented.
That Japan is proposing unconditional surrender or a peace approximating unconditional surrender would be surprising. But if Japan is thinking of a so-called negotiated peace, there would be apprehension that she is hoping for the good offices of the Soviets for mediation. In that case, it would be difficult for the Soviet Union to accept.
To avoid disturbing the relations between the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union for the sake of Japan at a delicate time when harmony between the three countries is so strongly required.
The need to ascertain the attitudes of England and America before giving Japan a definite reply concerning the matter of the special envoy, as Far Eastern problems are inevitably going to come up in the talks either inside or outside the meetings at the coming Big Three Conference. Or Stalin is ascertaining the intentions of the American and British leaders first, by informing them of Japan’s recent request, before replying. If this is so, the attitude of the Soviets will be difficult to determine.

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The foregoing are some possible conjectures. Of these, No. 2, with regard to negotiated peace—to conclude a treaty terminating the war by peace negotiations, including the Greater East Asia War—is something which has been strongly rejected from the very beginning by America and Britain and particularly by the former. The Soviet Union was also hesitant regarding such a peace earlier in connection with the unconditional surrender of Germany and even urged Britain and the United States to open a second front, and with this cooperation knocked out Germany. Judging from these circumstances, a peace treaty by negotiation is something which cannot win the support of the Soviet Union. In the final analysis, if our country truly desires to terminate the war, we have no alternative but to accept unconditional surrender or something very close to it.

On the other hand, concerning the developments up to the time I read the Imperial wish, your successive telegrams had not clarified the situation. The intentions of the government and the military were not clear either regarding the termination of the war. Furthermore, in a situation where it is finally decided to settle the matter, it should be considered proper at an Imperial conference to pass a new resolution adequate to reverse the decision of the previous conference of June 8th.2 However, this has not been done, and in connection with notification of the Imperial wish to dispatch the special envoy immediately I feel that the scheduled special mission does not yet have the concrete conditions mentioned in point (1) above.

Even if the approval of the Soviet Union is obtained and the special envoy’s visit takes place, I cannot bear to think of the very grave results to which it may lead.

In this regard, after very carefully examining this telegram, my telegrams No. 13823 and No. 1386, should you finally decide to dispatch the special envoy, I earnestly request that the Cabinet Council resolve to have the envoy bring along a concrete proposal for the termination of the war.

  1. Document No. 587.
  2. See Butow, Japan’s Decision To Surrender, pp. 99–101. Sato seems to have been unaware of the imperial conference of June 22 (see ibid., pp. 118–120).
  3. Document No. 584.