Memorandum Regarding a Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Japanese Ambassador (Nomura), 23 September 1941

[WASHINGTON] September 23, 1941.

The Japanese Ambassador called at his request at the Secretary's apartment. The Ambassador read from notes an oral statement substantially the same as that contained in Tokyo's 1497, September 22, 8 p.m. He then handed to the Secretary two papers, copies of which are attached hereto. One of these papers was headed "Basic Terms of Peace between Japan and China" and the other marked "Strictly Confidential" was captioned "Reply to the American Communication of September 10, 1941. Delivered to the American Ambassador by the Japanese Foreign Minister in Tokyo September 13".

The Ambassador said that what he had now placed before us was a full expression of what the Japanese Government desired to say to us and that the question of anything further by way of clarification in regard to Japan's relations to the Tripartite Pact might best be left to the proposed meeting between the heads of our two Governments. He hoped that this Government would be able as soon as possible to give a reply to the Japanese Government's proposals.

The Secretary replied that we would, of course, study the papers which the Japanese Ambassador had given us as expeditiously as possible with a view to making a reply. He asked the Ambassador what the Ambassador's impressions were in regard to the situation.

The Ambassador replied that of course he understood very well the position of the American Government and he also appreciated the difficulties in the domestic situation in Japan. He said his hope was, however, that if we should proceed to have a meeting it would have a psychological effect in Japan in setting Japan on a new course. The Secretary referred to suggestions he had previously made of the desirability of the Japanese Government's being allowed time to assert control of public opinion and thus attain support for a liberal program such as we had discussed in our conversations. He asked the Ambassador whether the Ambassador thought that a meeting between the heads of states would contribute more to setting Japan upon a new course than the taking of the steps which the Secretary had suggested. The Ambassador said that he had not failed to communicate to his Government the Secretary's suggestion and he thought that the Japanese Government had already taken steps in that direction and that these steps had produced good results. He said that, as he had noted on previous occasions, perhaps not more than one?tenth of one percent of the Japanese people desired war with the United States, although of course if ordered to go to war the Japanese people would be ready. He felt that the holding of a meeting such as suggested would be of great value in counteracting the influence of the pro?Axis elements in the Japanese Government and in providing support for those elements desiring peaceful relations with the United States.

The Secretary brought up again the great opportunity that was now presented for Japan and the United States to work together along peaceful and progressive lines and he said he could not emphasize too much his view that by following such a course both countries would stand to gain more than through any other course. He referred to the fact that for the last ten years the youth in Germany had received no other training than for war and that no country could benefit from the staggering burden of armaments that warlike policies were imposing upon the world. The Ambassador said that he fully shared the Secretary's views on these points.

The Secretary went on to say that as this country had been following courses of peace and was committed to these courses there was very little that we could offer Japan in the way of bargaining. He then repeated that he would give careful and expeditious study to the papers which the Japanese Ambassador had presented and would communicate with the Ambassador as soon as possible.

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. 745

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