Memorandum by the Ambassador in Japan (Grew) [69], 6 September 1941

[TOKYO,] September 6, 1941.

This evening the Prime Minister invited me to dine at a private house of a friend. Only Mr. Dooman and Mr. Ushiba, the Prime Minister's private secretary, were also present. The conversation lasted for three hours and we presented with entire frankness the fundamental views of our two countries. The Prime Minister requested that his statements be transmitted personally to the President in the belief that they might amplify and clarify the approach through diplomatic channels which he had made in Washington through Admiral Nomura. The following is a brief summary of the salient points as they emerged in the course of our discussion.

1. Prince Konoye, and consequently the Government of Japan, conclusively and wholeheartedly agree with the four principles enunciated by the Secretary of State as a basis for the rehabilitation of relations between the United States and Japan.

2. Prince Konoye recognizes that the responsibility is his for the present regrettable state of relations between our two countries but, with appropriate modesty as to his personal capabilities, he likewise recognizes that only he can cause the desired rehabilitation to come about. In the event of failure on his part no succeeding Prime Minister, at least during his own lifetime, could achieve the results desired. Prince Konoye is therefore determined to spare no effort, despite all elements and factors opposing him, to crown his present endeavors with success.

3. The Prime Minister hopes that as a result of the commitments which the Japanese Government is prepared to assume as communicated to me by Admiral Toyoda, a rational basis has been established for a meeting between the President and himself. The Prime Minister, however, is cognizant of the fact that certain points may need clarification and more precise formulation, and he is confident that the divergencies in view can be reconciled to our mutual satisfaction, particularly by reason of the favorable disposition on the part of Japanese naval and military leaders who have not only subscribed to his proposals but who will also be represented at the suggested meeting. The Prime Minister stated that both the Ministers of War and of the Navy have given their full agreement to his proposals to the United States.

4. The reports which the Prime Minister has received from the Japanese Ambassador concerning the latter's conversations with the President and the Secretary have led the Prime Minister to think that the Administration in Washington entertains serious doubts as to the strength of the present Cabinet and that the Administration is not certain that in the event that the Cabinet should adopt a peaceful program it could successfully resist the attacks of opposing elements. Prince Konoye told me that from the inception of the informal talks in Washington he had received the strongest concurrence from the responsible chiefs of both the Army and the Navy. Only today he had conferred with the Minister of War who had promised to send a full General to accompany the Prime Minister to the meeting with the President; the Minister of the Navy had agreed that a full Admiral should accompany the Prime Minister. Prince Konoye added in confidence that he expected that the representative of the Navy would probably be Admiral Yoshida, a former Minister of the Navy. In addition the Premier would be accompanied by the Vice Chiefs of staff of the Army and the Navy and other high ranking officers of the armed services who are in entire accord with his aims. He admitted that there are certain elements within the armed forces who do not approve his policies, but he voiced the conviction that since he had the full support of the responsible chiefs of the Army and Navy it would be possible for him to put down and control any opposition which might develop among those elements.

5. Prince Konoye repeatedly stressed the view that time is of the essence. It might take half a year to a year to work out all the details of the complete settlement and since resentment is daily mounting in Japan over the economic pressure being exerted by other countries, he could not guarantee to put into effect any such program of settlement six months or a year from now. He does, however, guarantee that at the present time he can carry with him the Japanese people to the goal which he has selected and that should difficulties be encountered in working out the details of the commitments which he may assume, these difficulties can be overcome satisfactorily because of the determined intention of his Government to see to it that its present efforts are fully successful.

6. In the course of our discussion I outlined in general terms the bitter lessons of the past to our Government as the result of the failure of the Japanese Government to honor the promises given to no by former Japanese Ministers for Foreign Affairs apparently in all sincerity, as a result of which the Government of the United States had at long last concluded that it must place its reliance on actions and facts and not on Japanese promises or assurances. The Prime Minister did not attempt to refute this statement but stressed the fact that his Government now wished to bring about a thoroughgoing reconstruction of American?Japanese relations and ?he assured me that any commitments which he would undertake would bear no resemblance to the "irresponsible" assurances which we had received in the past and that such commitments if given would be observed. The Prime Minister concluded his presentation of this point by giving me to understand that given the will the way can be found.

7. Prince Konoye stated that should the President desire to communicate any kind of suggestion to him personally and confidentially he would be glad to arrange subsequent secret meetings with me, but he expressed the earnest hope that in view of the present internal situation in Japan the projected meeting with the President could be arranged with the least possible delay. Prince Konoye feels confident that all problems and questions at issue can be disposed of to our mutual satisfaction during the meeting with the President, and he ended our conversation with the statement that he is determined to bring to a successful conclusion the proposed reconstruction of relations with the United States regardless of cost or personal risk.


[69] Reported by Ambassador Grew in a telegram of September 6.

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp. 731-734

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