Memorandum by the Secretary of State on Discussions with the Japanese, 27 November 1941

[WASHINGTON,] November 27, 1941.

The two Japanese Ambassadors called at their request. The President opened the conversation with some reference to German international psychology. Ambassador Nomura then said that they were disappointed about the failure of any agreement regarding a modus vivendi. The President proceeded to express the grateful appreciation of himself and of this Government to the peace element in Japan which has worked hard in support of the movement to establish a peaceful settlement in the Pacific area. He made it clear that we were not overlooking for a moment what that element has done and is ready still to do. The President added that in the United States most people want a peaceful solution of all matters in the Pacific area. He said that he does not give up yet although the situation is serious and that fact should be recognized. He then referred to the conversations since April which have been carried on here with the Japanese Ambassador in an attempt to deal with the difficulties. The President added that some of these difficulties at times have the effect of a cold bath on the United States Government and people, such as the recent occupation of Indochina by the Japanese and recent movements and utterances of the Japanese slanting wholly in the direction of conquest by force and ignoring the whole question of a peaceful settlement and the principles underlying it. The President then made the following points:

(1) We have been very much disappointed that during the course of these very important conversations Japanese leaders have continued to express opposition to the fundamental principles of peace and order which constitute the central spirit of the conversations which we have been carrying on. This attitude on the part of Japanese leaders has naturally created an atmosphere both in this country and abroad which has added greatly to the difficulty of making mutually satisfactory progress in the conversations.

(2) We have been very patient in our dealing with the whole Far Eastern situation. We are prepared to continue to be patient if Japan's courses of action permit continuance of such an attitude on our part. We still have hope that there may be worked out a peaceful settlement in the entire Pacific area of the character we have been discussing. The temper of public opinion in this country has become of such a character and the big issues at stake in the world today have become so sharply outlined that this country cannot bring about any substantial relaxation in its economic restrictions unless Japan gives this country some clear manifestation of peaceful intent. If that occurs, we can also take some steps of a concrete character designed to improve the general situation.

(3) We remain convinced that Japan's own best interests will not be served by following Hitlerism and courses of aggression, and that Japan's own best interests lie along the courses which we have outlined in the current conversations. If, however, Japan should unfortunately decide to follow Hitlerism and courses of aggression, we are convinced beyond any shadow, of doubt that Japan will be the ultimate loser.

The President emphasized that the leaders in Japan had obstructed this whole movement involved in the conversations here. He said that having been in war for four years the Japanese people need to have a peace tempo; that war does not help us nor would it help Japan.

Ambassador Kurusu proceeded to say that he had been here for ten days in an endeavor to discuss and develop a peaceful arrangement; that the trouble was not with the fundamentals so much as with their application. Referring to a recent remark of the President about introducing Japan and China, Kurusu asked to know who would request the President to introduce these two governments. The President promptly replied "both sides". He then gave an illustration of his dealing with some strike conditions when neither side desired to request the Mediation Board to bring up the matter but were anxious, without saying so, for the President to do so. I referred to the 250,000 carpetbaggers that had gone into north China following the army and said that they had seized other peoples' rights and properties and located there as the carpetbaggers had done in the south after the Civil War and added that they had no rights over there and ought to give up the property they took from other people and get out.

The President, referring to the efforts of Japan to colonize countries that they conquer, said that Germany would completely fail because she did not have enough top people to govern the fifteen or more conquered countries in Europe and that this would cause Germany to fail in her present movements; that second class people cannot run fifteen captured countries.

The President further referred to the matter of encirclement that Japan has been alleging. He pointed out that the Philippines were being encircled by Japan so far as that is concerned.

I made it clear that unless the opposition to the peace element in control of the Government should make up its mind definitely to act and talk and move in a peaceful direction, no conversations could or would get anywhere as has been so clearly demonstrated; that everyone knows that the Japanese slogans of co-prosperity, new order in East Asia and a controlling influence in certain areas, are all terms to express in a camouflaged manner the policy of force and conquest by Japan and the domination by military agencies of the political, economic, social and moral affairs of each of the populations conquered; and that so long as they move in that direction and continue to increase their cultural relations, military and otherwise with Hitler through such instruments as the Anti-Comintern Pact and the Tripartite Pact, et cetera, et cetera, there could not be any real progress made on a peaceful course.


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. 813-15

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