Memorandum [66] Regarding a Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Japanese Ambassador (Nomura), 8 August 1941

[WASHINGTON,] August 8, 1941.

The Japanese Ambassador called at the Secretary's request.

The Secretary handed the Japanese Ambassador a document marked strictly confidential and dated August 8, 1941 in reply to the proposal of the Japanese Government contained in the document handed by the Japanese Ambassador to the Secretary on August 6. The Secretary suggested that the Ambassador might care to glance over the document.

The Japanese Ambassador read the document and stated that he understood its import. He said that the Japanese Government was very desirous of adjusting relations with the United States and was anxious to find means of doing so. He asked whether it might not be possible for the responsible heads of the two Governments to meet, say in Honolulu, as was suggested in the original Japanese proposal presented to us, with a view to discussing means whereby an adjustment could be brought about.

The Secretary said that if an understanding of the nature which the Secretary and the Ambassador had been discussing for these last several months had been reached the two countries by now would have been able to go forward along a course of peace and of mutual benefit. The Secretary went on to say that this Government had been prepared to be patient and to move gradually and to be of all possible help it could to the Japanese Government in order to enable the Japanese Government to assert control over all groups in Japan so that the Japanese Government as a whole and public opinion could be brought into line to support policies such as those which the Ambassador and the Secretary had in mind. The Secretary pointed out that while this Government was proceeding along this patient course the Secretary had, at a time when he was recuperating from illness in the country, received word of measures taken by the Japanese Government which made it clear that those elements in the Japanese Government which favored peaceful courses had lost control and that accordingly he had directed officers of the Department to inform the Japanese Ambassador that, in the opinion of this Government, the measures now taken by the Japanese Government had served to remove the basis for an understanding such as the Ambassador and he had had in mind. Thus, the Secretary said, the understanding which the Secretary and the Ambassador had hoped to reach and which he felt that they had nearly reached failed of realization.
The Secretary went on to say that the Japanese press was being constantly stimulated to speak of encirclement of Japan by the United States. He said that today he had told press correspondents that there is no occasion for any nation in the world that is law-abiding and peaceful to become encircled by anybody except itself. The Secretary said that while in Japan the press was being officially inspired in ways calculated to inflame public opinion this Government was not treating Japan; in any such way but was doing all that it could to deprecate agitation.

The Ambassador replied that he thought that the efforts being made to inspire the press in Japan were motivated purely by a desire to invigorate the Japanese people and were not inconsistent with a sincere desire on the part of the Japanese Government to improve relations with the United States.

He asked whether what the Secretary had said could be taken as the Secretary's reply to the suggestion he had made for a meeting of the responsible heads of the two Governments.

The Secretary went over once more the points which he had previously brought out and suggested that, in the light of what he had said and of the reply which he had handed the Ambassador, it remained with the Japanese Government to decide whether it could find means of shaping its policies accordingly and then endeavor to evolve some satisfactory plan.

[66] Prepared by Joseph W. Ballantine, Division of Far Eastern Affairs.

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. 706-708

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