Secretary Hull's Statement on Japanese Aggression, January 15
SECRETARY HULL discussed Japan's actions in the Far East, on January 15, 1941, at a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on the Lend-Lease bill. The Secretary recounted the various steps in Japan's program of expansion, including the conquest of Manchuria, the denunciation of the naval treaty of 1922, the intensified construction of military and naval armaments, and the large-scale military operations against China which had begun in July 1937. He said it was clear that "Japan has been actuated from the start by broad and ambitious plans for establishing herself in a dominant position in the entire region of the Western Pacific"; that Japan's leaders had openly declared their intention to achieve and maintain that position by force of arms and thus to make themselves masters of an area containing almost one half of the entire population of the world.
The Secretary said that notwithstanding the course which Japan had followed
during recent years, the United States Government had made repeated efforts
to persuade Japan that its best interests lay in the development of friendly
relations with the United States and with other countries which believed in
orderly and peaceful international processes.
Report That Japan Might Attack Pearl Harbor
Ambassador Grew reported to the Department of State on January 27, 1941 that one of his diplomatic colleagues had told a member of the Embassy staff that there were reports from many sources, including a Japanese source, that Japanese military forces planned a surprise mass attack at Pearl Harbor in case of "trouble" with the United States.
Arrival of Ambassador Nomura
Shortly thereafter the new Japanese Ambassador, Admiral Nomura, presented his credentials to President Roosevelt, and on March 8, 1941 Secretary Hull had his first extended conversation with the Ambassador. The Secretary pointed out that the efforts of the United States to bring about organization of the world along liberal commercial lines had been impeded by movements of military conquest in various parts of the world. He inquired of the Ambassador whether the military groups in control of the Japanese Government could possibly expect the United States "to sit absolutely quiet while two or three nations before our very eyes organized naval and military forces and went out and conquered the balance of the earth, including the seven seas and all trade routes and the other four continents". The Secretary inquired further what would countries like the United States gain by remaining complacent in the face of a movement to substitute force and conquest for law and justice. The Ambassador sought to minimize the view that such military conquest was in the mind of his Government, and he said that embargoes by the United States were of increasing concern to Japan and that he did not believe there would be any further military movements by the Japanese Government unless compelled by the policy of increasing embargoes on the part of the United States. Secretary Hull replied that this was a matter entirely in the hands of the Japanese Government because Japan had taken the initiative in military expansion and seizure of territory, thereby creating an increasing concern on the part of the United States and other countries as to the full extent of Japan's contemplated conquests by force. He referred to the terms of the Tripartite Pact and to public declarations of Hitler and of Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka that their countries were out to establish by military force a new world order under their control. The Secretary said that, whatever interpretation the Ambassador might give these statements and military activities in harmony with them, the people of the United States had become thoroughly aroused and viewed with most serious concern the German and Japanese movements to take charge of the seas and the other continents for their own arbitrary control and pecuniary profit at the expense of the welfare of all of the victims of such a course. He said that these apprehensions would remain so long as Hitler continued his "avowed course of unlimited conquest and tyrannical rule and so long as the Japanese Army and Navy increase their occupation by force of other and distant areas".
Meanwhile, reports had been received in the United States that elements in the Japanese Government and certain private groups in Japan would welcome negotiations between the two Governments looking toward a settlement of the issues between the United States and Japan.
President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull well realized the probability that Japan had already gone so far in a policy of conquest that it would be impossible to persuade her to stop. Nevertheless, entertainment of even a faint hope that there might be worked out a fair and peaceful settlement in the Far Eastern area impelled this Government to agree to participate in exploratory conversations in order to ascertain whether there was sufficient agreement on basic issues to warrant entry upon more formal negotiations. Furthermore, there was the desirability of guarding against Japanese advances upon the relatively weak defenses of United States territory in the western Pacific and of territory of friendly nations in that area.
Accordingly, in the spring of 1941 the Secretary of State and the Japanese
Ambassador began a series of conversations in which they discussed the issues
between the two countries. In a conversation on May 11 Secretary Hull told Ambassador
Nomura that if Japan really desired a settlement of the Pacific situation on
a basis of peace and friendliness, there should be no serious difficulty. The
Secretary inquired why it was that Japan persisted in using the slogan "New
Order in Greater East Asia" unless Japan was using it as a cloak to continue
her policy of conquest by force. He repeated that we were profoundly convinced
that Hitlerism would prove not only a "scourge" to other parts of the world,
as it had in Europe, but that it would be applied to Japan herself just as quickly
as it had been applied to countries in Europe which had trusted Hitler. The
Ambassador said that it would be "an incalculable loss to both Japan and the
United States, as well as to civilization, if our two countries should become
engaged in war". The Secretary rejoined that unless the civilization of the
world was to run the great risk of being destroyed by Hitler, the united efforts
of nations like Japan, the United States, and Great Britain would be required
to shape the course of the world in a different direction. He said that steps
looking toward the gradual development of basic programs for both the transition
and the post-war periods could not be taken too soon. He re-emphasized that
the United States was determined that Hitler should not get control of the seas,
and that we should feel obliged to resist indefinitely such effort on Hitler's
part. Since Hitler had avowed his movement to be one for world control, the
United States did not, he said, propose to commit suicide as so many countries
in continental Europe had done, by trusting Hitler and waiting until it was
too late to resist; we proposed to resist when and where such resistance would
be most effective, whether within our own boundaries, on the high seas, or in
aid of such countries as Great Britain.
Japanese Proposal of May 12
On the following day, May 12, 1941, the Japanese Ambassador handed to the Secretary of State, as under instruction from his Government, a proposal for a general settlement between the United States and Japan. This proposal served to reveal authoritatively for the first time what the Japanese Government had in mind as a basis for agreement.
The proposal contained in the beginning a statement expressing the hope that
"our nations may establish a just peace in the Pacific". It stated that the
Tripartite Pact was "defensive and designed to prevent the nations which are
not at present directly affected by the European war from engaging in it". It
included an undertaking by the United States forthwith to "request the Chiang
Kai-shek regime to negotiate peace with Japan". The Japanese stated that the
United States would be expected also to "discontinue her assistance to the Chiang
Kai-shek regime" in case the latter should decline to enter into such negotiations.
They explained also that Japan's attitude toward China would include the principles
of neighborly friendship; no annexations and no indemnities; independence of
"Manchukuo"; mutual respect of sovereignty and territories; "withdrawal of Japanese
troops from Chinese territory in accordance with an agreement to be concluded
between Japan and China"; and joint defense against communism, which would involve
the right of Japan to station troops in Chinese territory. The Japanese proposal
contained also a mutual undertaking by the United States and Japan that each
would supply the commodities which the other required; a mutual undertaking
that steps would be taken to bring about resumption of normal trade relations
between the two countries; and an undertaking by the United States that as "Japanese
expansion in the direction of the southwestern Pacific area is declared to be
of peaceful nature, American cooperation shall be given in the production and
procurement of natural resources (such as oil, rubber, tin, nickel) which Japan
needs". The proposal also contained an undertaking that the United States and
Japan should "jointly guarantee the independence of the Philippine Islands on
the condition that the Philippine Islands shall maintain a status of permanent
United States Proposal of June 21
Although the Japanese Ambassador constantly professed his Government's desire to adopt peaceful courses and although the general provisions of the Japanese proposal of May 12 contained affirmations of Japan's peaceful intent, the Japanese Government insisted upon maintaining its alignment with the Axis, insisted upon the stationing of an unspecified number of Japanese troops in large areas of China for an indefinite period, refused to commit itself to a policy precluding the retention by Japan of a preferential economic position in China and in the western Pacific, and refused to commit itself unreservedly to a general policy of peace. It was felt by the United States Government that an explicit understanding on these points was necessary in view of Japan's current course and in view of repeated affirmations by many responsible Japanese officials, including Foreign Minister Matsuoka, of Japan's determination to pursue a policy of cooperation with its Axis partners.
The Secretary of State, on June 21, 1941, handed to the Japanese Ambassador
a document containing a comprehensive statement of the attitude of the United
States. This included a proposal of the following points: 1. Affirmation by
both Governments that their national policies were directed toward the foundation
of a lasting peace and the inauguration of a new era of reciprocal confidence
and cooperation between the two peoples. 2. A suggested formula that the "Government
of Japan maintains that the purpose of the Tripartite Pact was, and is, defensive
and is designed to contribute to the prevention of an unprovoked extension of
the European war" and that the "Government of the United States maintains that
its attitude toward the European hostilities is and will continue to be determined
solely and exclusively by considerations of protection and self-defense". (For
an explanation of the United States concept of self-defense, the Japanese, in
a separate statement, were referred to Secretary Hull's address of April 24,
1941) 3. A suggestion by the United States to China that China and Japan enter
into negotiations, provided that Japan first communicate to and discuss with
the United States the general terms which Japan contemplated proposing to China.
4. Mutual assurances by the United States and Japan that each would supply the
other with such commodities as were required and were available and that steps
would be taken to resume normal trade relations between the two countries. 5.
Provision for cooperation between the two countries toward obtaining non-discriminatory
access by peaceful means to supplies of natural resources which each needed.
6. A mutual affirmation that the basic policy of each country was one of peace
throughout the Pacific area and a mutual disclaimer of territorial designs there.
7. A provision that Japan declare its willingness to negotiate with the United
States, at such time as the latter might desire, with a view to concluding a
treaty for the neutralization of the Philippine Islands, when Philippine independence
should have been achieved.
Report of Japanese Plan To Attack Russia
On June 22, 1941 Hitler launched his invasion of Russia. Several days later, on July 4, a message was sent by this Government to the Japanese Prime Minister referring to reports which were being received from varied sources that Japan had decided to attack Russia. The message stated that such military conquest and aggression would destroy our hope that peace in the Pacific might not be disturbed anew but rather might be reinforced; that it was our sincere hope that such reports were incorrect; and that assurances to this effect by the Japanese Government would be appreciated.
The Japanese reply of July 8, 1941 was to the effect that prevention of the
European war from spreading to the regions of Greater East Asia and preservation
of peace in the Pacific area had always been the sincere and genuine desire
of the Japanese Government; that the Japanese Government had not so far considered
the possibility of joining the hostilities against the Soviet Union.
Japanese Occupation of Southern Indochina
Even before this time the United States Government had received reports that a Japanese military movement into southern Indochina was imminent. This Government brought these reports to the attention of the Japanese Ambassador at Washington, pointing out the inconsistency between such a military movement and the discussions which were then proceeding looking toward the conclusion of an agreement for peace in the Pacific. About July 22, as a result of pressure exerted by Axis authorities upon the Vichy Government, Japan was granted by the French the right to maintain troops and establish air and naval bases in southern Indochina. In explanation of this action the Japanese Ambassador informed Acting Secretary of State Welles on July 23 that Japan must be assured of an uninterrupted source of supply of rice and raw materials and other foodstuffs, whose flow to Japan might be obstructed by Chinese and DeGaullist activities in southern Indochina; and that the step taken was a safeguard against a policy of encircling Japan on which the latter believed certain powers were intent. The Acting Secretary replied that any agreement which might have been concluded between the French Government at Vichy and Japan could only have resulted from pressure exerted on Vichy by Germany; therefore, it was our judgment that this agreement could only be looked upon as offering assistance to Germany's policy of world domination and conquest. He pointed out that the conclusion of the agreement which had been under discussion by the Secretary of State and the Ambassador would bring about a far greater measure of economic security to Japan than she could gain by occupation of Indochina. He said further that the policy of the United States was the opposite of an encirclement policy or of any policy which would be a threat to Japan; that Japan was not menaced by the policy of Great Britain and if an agreement had been concluded, Great Britain, the British Dominions, China, and the Netherlands would have joined the United States and Japan in support of the underlying principles stood for by the United States; that the United States could only regard the action of Japan as constituting notice that Japan intended to pursue a policy of force and conquest, and must assume that Japan was taking the last step before proceeding on a policy of expansion and conquest in the region of the South Seas. Finally, the Acting Secretary said that in these circumstances the Secretary of State-with whom he had talked a few minutes before-could not see any basis for pursuing further the conversations in which the Secretary and the Ambassador had been engaged.
On the following day, July 24, 1941, the Acting Secretary, Mr. Welles, stated to the press that the Japanese Government was giving clear indication that it was determined to pursue an objective of expansion by force or threat of force; that there was no apparent valid ground upon which the Japanese Government would be warranted in occupying Indochina or establishing bases in that area as measures of self-defense; that there was not the slightest ground for belief that the United States, Great Britain, or the Netherlands had any territorial ambitions in Indochina or had been planning any moves which could be regarded as threats to Japan; that this Government could only conclude that the action of Japan was undertaken because of the estimated value to Japan of bases in that region primarily for purposes of further movements of conquest in adjacent areas. The Acting Secretary went on to say that these Japanese actions endangered the use of the Pacific by peaceful nations; that these actions tended to jeopardize the procurement by the United States of essential materials such as tin and rubber, which were necessary in our defense program; and that the steps which Japan was taking endangered the safety of other areas of the Pacific, including the Philippine Islands.
On the afternoon of that same day, July 24, 1941, President Roosevelt received the Japanese Ambassador. The President told the Ambassador that the new move by Japan in Indochina created an exceedingly serious problem for the United States. The President said that the Japanese Government surely could not have the slightest belief that China, Great Britain, the Netherlands, or the United States had any territorial designs on Indochina or were in the slightest degree providing any real threats of aggression against Japan. This Government consequently could only assume that the occupation of Indochina "was being undertaken by Japan for the purpose of further offense".
The President then made a proposal that if the Japanese Government would refrain from occupying Indochina with its military and naval forces, or, had these steps actually been commenced, if the Japanese Government would withdraw such forces, the President would do everything within his power to obtain from the Governments of China, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and of course the United States, a binding declaration, provided Japan would make a similar commitment, to regard Indochina as a neutralized area. This would imply that the powers concerned would not undertake any military act of aggression against Indochina and would not exercise any military control within or over Indochina. The President would further endeavor to procure from the other interested powers a guaranty that so long as the existing emergency continued, the local French authorities in Indochina would remain in control of the territory. If these steps were taken, the President said, Japan would be given binding proof that no other power had any hostile designs on Indochina and that Japan would be afforded the fullest and freest opportunity of assuring for itself a source of food supplies and other raw materials which-according to Japan's accounts-Japan was seeking to secure.
The President then said that it was believed in the United States that such policies as Japan was pursuing were due to German pressure upon Japan; that the Japanese Government did not understand as clearly as we that Hitler was bent upon world domination; that if Germany succeeded in defeating Russia and dominating Europe and Africa, Germany thereafter would turn her attention to the Far East and to the Western Hemisphere; and that it was entirely possible that after some years the Navies of Japan and of the United States would be cooperating against Hitler as a common enemy.
In the course of this conversation the President reminded the Japanese Ambassador that the United States had been permitting oil to be exported from the United States to Japan; that this had been done because we realized that if these oil supplies had been shut off or restricted the Japanese Government and people would have used this as an incentive or pretext for moving down upon the Netherlands Indies in order to assure themselves of a greater oil supply; that the United States had been pursuing this policy primarily for the purpose of doing its utmost to preserve peace in the Pacific region; that our citizens were unable to understand why, at a time when they were asked to curtail their use of gasoline, the United States should be permitting oil supplies to go to Japan when Japan had given every indication of pursuing a policy of force and conquest in conjunction with the policy of world conquest and domination being carried on by Hitler. The President said that if Japan attempted to seize oil supplies by force in the Netherlands Indies, the latter would undoubtedly resist, the British would immediately come to their assistance, and war would then result. In view of our own policy of assisting Great Britain, "an exceedingly serious situation would immediately result". The President stated that with these facts in mind oil had up to this time been permitted to be shipped from the United States to Japan, notwithstanding the bitter criticism leveled against the administration.
President Roosevelt discussed this question in an informal talk at the White House on July 24. He explained the essential necessity, from the standpoint of our own defense and of that of Great Britain, of preventing war from breaking out in the South Pacific. He said that if oil supplies from the United States had been cut off, Japan probably would have attacked the Netherlands Indies to obtain oil and war would have resulted; that the policy of the United States in allowing oil to go to Japan had succeeded in keeping war out of the South Pacific, "for our own good, for the good of the defense of Great Britain, and the freedom of the seas".
Freezing of Japanese Assets in the United States
The Japanese move into southern Indochina, in disregard of the entire spirit underlying the exploratory conversations, was unmistakably an overt and flagrant act of aggression. Japan's constant expansion of its military position in the southwest Pacific had already substantially imperiled the security of the United States along with that of other powers. By this further expansion of its field of aggression Japan virtually completed the encirclement of the Philippine Islands and placed its armed forces within striking distance of vital trade routes. This created a situation in which the risk of war became so great that the United States and other countries concerned were confronted no longer with the question of avoiding such risk but from then on with the problem of preventing a complete undermining of their security. In these circumstances the Government of the United States decided at that point, as did certain other governments especially concerned, that discontinuance of trade with Japan had become an appropriate, warranted, and necessary step-as a warning to Japan and as a measure of self-defense.
On July 26, 1941 President Roosevelt issued an Executive order freezing Japanese
assets in the United States. This order brought under control of the Government
all financial and import and export trade transactions in which Japanese interests
were involved, and the effect of this was to bring about very soon the virtual
cessation of trade between the United States and Japan.
Japanese Proposal of August 6
Notwithstanding the President's proposal of July 24 for the neutralization of Indochina, Japanese forces continued to move into southern Indochina. Not until August 6 was a reply received to the President's proposal. On that day the Japanese Ambassador presented a counter-proposal, according to which his Government would undertake not further to station its troops in the southwestern Pacific areas, except French Indochina; would withdraw the troops then stationed in French Indochina after settlement of the "China incident"; would guarantee the neutrality of the Philippine Islands "at an opportune time"; and would cooperate with the United States in the production and procurement of such natural resources as were required by the United States. According to this counter-proposal, the United States on its part would suspend its "military measures" in the southwestern Pacific areas and, upon the successful conclusion of the conversations, would advise the Governments of Great Britain and of the Netherlands to take similar steps; would cooperate with the Japanese Government in the production and procurement of natural resources required by Japan in the southwestern Pacific areas; would take steps necessary for restoring normal trade relations between the United States and Japan; would use its good offices for the initiation of direct negotiations between the Japanese Government and "the Chiang Kai-shek regime" for the purpose of a speedy settlement of the China incident; and would recognize a special status for Japan in French Indochina, even after the withdrawal of Japanese troops from that area. On presenting this proposal the Japanese Ambassador explained that the Japanese measures taken in Indochina were absolutely necessary "to prevent from getting beyond control the Japanese public opinion which had been dangerously aroused because of the successive measures taken by the United States, Great Britain and Netherlands East Indies against Japan".
The Japanese counter-proposal disregarded the President's suggestion for the
neutralization of Indochina and attempted to take full advantage-military, political,
and economic-of the Japanese fait accompli in occupying southern Indochina.
On August 8, 1941 the Secretary of State informed the Japanese Ambassador that
Japan's counter-proposal could not be considered as responsive to the President's
proposal. The Ambassador then inquired whether it might be possible to arrange
for a meeting of the responsible heads of the two Governments to discuss means
of adjusting relations between the two countries.
United States - British Collaboration
During a conversation between Secretary Hull and the British Ambassador on August 9, 1941 the Secretary referred to the Japanese plan "to invade by force the whole of the Indian Ocean and the islands and continents adjacent thereto, isolating China, sailing across probably to the mouth of the Suez Canal, to the Persian Gulf oil area, to the Cape of Good Hope area, thereby blocking by a military despotism the trade routes and the supply sources to the British". The Secretary said that this broad military occupation would perhaps be even more damaging to British defense in Europe than any other step short of a German crossing of the Channel; that this Government visualized these broad conditions and the problems of resistance which they presented; that the activities of the United States in the way of discouraging this Japanese movement and of resistance would be more or less affected by the British defensive situation in Europe and hence by the number of United States naval vessels and other United States aid that might be needed by Great Britain at the same time. The Secretary said that in the event of further Japanese movements south this Government and the British Government should naturally have a conference at once; this Government would then be able to determine more definitely and in detail its position as to resistance.
During the August 1941 conference between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister
Churchill of Great Britain the situation in the Far East was discussed, and
it was agreed that the United States and Great Britain should take parallel
action in warning Japan against new moves of aggression. It was agreed also
that the United States should continue its conversations with the Japanese Government
and by such means offer Japan a reasonable and just alternative to the course
upon which that country was embarked.
Warning to Japan
President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull conferred with the Japanese Ambassador on August 17. The President handed the Ambassador a document stating that notwithstanding the efforts of the United States to reach a sound basis for negotiations between the two countries for the maintenance of peace with order and justice in the Pacific, the Government of Japan had continued its military activities and its disposals of armed forces at various points in the Far East and had occupied Indochina with its military, air, and naval forces. Therefore, the statement continued, the Government of the United States "finds it necessary to say to the Government of Japan that if the Japanese Government takes any further steps in pursuance of a policy or program of military domination by forge or threat of force of neighboring countries, the Government of the United States will be compelled to take immediately any and all steps which it may deem necessary toward safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the United States and American nationals and toward insuring the safety and security of the United States".
The President also handed Ambassador Nomura a document in reply to a request
which the Ambassador had made of the Secretary of State for a resumption of
conversations and to the Ambassador's suggestion, advanced on August 8, that
President Roosevelt and the Japanese Prime Minister meet with a view to discussing
means for an adjustment in relations between the United States and Japan. In
this document it was stated that in case Japan desired and was in a position
to suspend its expansionist activities, to readjust its position, and to embark
upon a peaceful program for the Pacific along the lines of the program and principles
to which the United States was committed, the Government of the United States
would be prepared to consider resumption of the informal exploratory discussions.
It was also stated that before renewal of the conversations or proceeding with
plans for a meeting of the heads of the two Governments, it would be helpful
if the Japanese Government would furnish a clearer statement of its present
attitude and plans. The President said to the Ambassador that "we could not
think of reopening the conversations" if the Japanese Government continued its
movement of force and conquest.
Proposed Meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Konoye
Ten days later Prime Minister Konoye of Japan sent to President Roosevelt a message which was delivered by the Japanese Ambassador on August 28, 1941, urging that a meeting between President Roosevelt and himself be arranged as soon as possible for a frank exchange of views. The Prime Minister said in this message that the idea of continuing preliminary informal conversations and of having their conclusion confirmed by the responsible heads of the two Governments did not meet the need of the existing situation, which was developing swiftly and which might produce unforeseen contingencies; that he considered it, therefore, of urgent necessity that the heads of the two Governments meet first to discuss from a broad standpoint all important problems between Japan and the United States covering the entire Pacific area.
Accompanying the Prime Minister's message was a statement by the Japanese Government giving assurances that Japan was seeking a program for the Pacific area consistent with the principles to which the United States Government had long been committed. However, the statement contained qualifications to the following effect: The Japanese Government was prepared to withdraw its troops from Indochina "as soon as the China incident is settled or a just peace is established in East Asia"; Japan would take no military action against the Soviet Union so long as the Soviet Union remained faithful to the Soviet-Japanese neutrality treaty and did "not menace Japan or Manchukuo or take any action contrary to the spirit of the said treaty"; the Japanese Government had no intention of using, "without provocation", military force against any neighboring nation.
In a conversation with Secretary Hull on the same day, Ambassador Nomura said that the Prime Minister would probably proceed to the proposed meeting in a Japanese warship and would probably be assisted by a staff of officials from the Foreign Office, the Army, the Navy, and the Japanese Embassy at Washington. The Ambassador thought that the inclusion of Japanese Army and Navy representatives would be "especially beneficial in view of the responsibility which they would share for the settlement reached". He said his Government was very anxious that the meeting be held at the earliest possible moment in view of the efforts of a "third country" and "fifth-columnists in Japan" to disturb Japanese-American relations.
In the same conversation Secretary Hull pointed out to the Ambassador the desirability of reaching an agreement in principle on the main issues prior to a meeting of President Roosevelt and the Japanese Prime Minister. He said that should such a meeting be a failure the consequences would be serious and that, therefore, its purpose should be the ratification of essential points agreed upon in advance.
In a reply of September 3 to the Prime Minister's message President Roosevelt stated that he was very desirous of collaborating with the Prime Minister; that he could not avoid taking cognizance of indications in some quarters of Japan of concepts which seemed capable of raising obstacles to successful collaboration between the President and the Prime Minister; that in these circumstances precaution should be taken toward insuring that the proposed meeting prove a success, by endeavoring to enter immediately upon preliminary discussions of the fundamental and essential questions on which agreement was sought; that these questions involved practical application of the principles fundamental to the achievement and maintenance of peace. The President repeated the four principles regarded by this Government as the foundation upon which relations between nations should properly rest: respect for the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of each and all nations; support of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries; support of the principle of equality, including equality of commercial opportunity; non-disturbance of the status quo in the Pacific except as the status quo might be altered by peaceful means.
On September 6 Ambassador Grew reported by telegram that Prime Minister Konoye
had said that from the beginning of the informal conversations in Washington
he had had the warmest support of the responsible Japanese Army and Navy leaders.
The Prime Minister also said that the Minister of War had agreed to have a full
general accompany the Prime Minister to the conference; that the Navy had agreed
to send a full admiral; and that the Army and Navy vice Chiefs of Staff and
other high officers who were in full sympathy with the Prime Minister's aims
would also go.
In considering the Japanese proposal for a meeting between President Roosevelt and the Japanese Prime Minister this Government took into consideration that during the exploratory conversations up to this time Japan had evidenced an intention to continue its program of aggression and domination in the Far East. This Government had in mind that the Prime Minister, Prince Konoye, who would attend the meeting, had headed the Japanese Government in 1937 when Japan attacked China; that he had proclaimed and given publicity to the basic principles which the Japanese Government presumably would insist upon in any peace agreement with China; that the Japanese Government had shown in the "treaty" which Japan had concluded in November 1940 with the Japanese puppet regime at Nanking how it proposed to apply these principles. This "treaty" contained provisions that Japan should, "in order to carry out the defence against communistic activities through collaboration of the two countries, station required forces in specified areas of Mengchiang and of North China for the necessary duration"; that China should "recognize that Japan may, in accordance with previous practices or in order to preserve the common interests of the two countries, station for a required duration its naval units and vessels in specified areas within the territory of the Republic of China"; that "while considering the requirements of China, the Government of the Republic of China shall afford positive and full facilities to Japan and Japanese subjects" with respect to the utilization of resources.
This Government also had in mind that the military element in Japan, which would be heavily represented at the proposed conference, had been responsible for carrying on Japan's program of aggression since 1931 and that the Japanese military leaders had caused the Japanese Government to maintain in the conversations a rigid attitude and position.
Furthermore, if the proposed meeting accomplished no more than the endorsement of general principles, the Japanese Government would be free to make its own interpretation of those principles in their actual application. If the meeting ended without agreement the Japanese military leaders would be in a position to represent to their country that the United States was responsible for the failure of the meeting.
In view of all these factors, this Government could not but feel that there
was scant hope that the Japanese Government could be persuaded to undergo a
change of attitude and that in any case it was essential to determine in advance
of a meeting between the responsible heads of the two Governments whether there
was in fact any basis for agreement.
Japanese Proposal of September 6
On September 6, 1941 the Japanese Ambassador handed to the Secretary of State a revised proposal. In that proposal it was stated that: 1. Japan would not make any military advance from French Indochina against any adjoining areas, and likewise would not, "without any justifiable reason", resort to military action against any regions lying south of Japan. 2. The attitudes of Japan and the United States toward the European war would be "decided by the concepts of protection and self-defense, and, in case the United States should participate in the European war, the interpretation and execution of the Tripartite Pact by Japan shall be independently decided". (The Japanese Ambassador said that the formulae contained in points 1 and 2 represented the maximum that Japan could offer at that time.) 3. Japan would "endeavor to bring about the rehabilitation of general and normal relationship between Japan and China, upon the realization of which Japan is ready to withdraw its armed forces from China as soon as possible in accordance with the agreements between Japan and China". 4. The economic activities of the United States in China would "not be restricted so long as pursued on an equitable basis". 5. Japanese activities in the southwestern Pacific area would be carried on by peaceful means and in accordance with the principle of non-discrimination in international commerce, and Japan would cooperate in the production and procurement by the United States of needed natural resources in the said area. 6. Japan would take measures necessary for the resumption of normal trade relations between Japan and the United States. On its part the United States would undertake: to "abstain from any measures and actions which will be prejudicial to the endeavour by Japan concerning the settlement of the China Affair" (Ambassador Grew was informed by the Japanese Foreign Minister that this point referred to United States aid to Chiang Kai-shek); to reciprocate Japan's commitment expressed in point 5 referred to above; to "suspend any military measures" in the Far East and in the southwestern Pacific area; and to reciprocate immediately Japan's commitment expressed in point 6 above.
Some of the Japanese provisions were equivocal and ambiguous and some indicated a disposition by the Japanese Government to narrow down and limit the application of the fundamental principles with which the Japanese professed in the abstract to agree. The revised proposals were much narrower than would have been expected from the assurances given in the statement communicated to President Roosevelt on August 28.
On September 6 Ambassador Grew reported that it had been revealed in his talk with Prince Konoye on that day that the Prime Minister and therefore the Japanese Government wholeheartedly subscribed to the four points considered by the United States Government essential as a basis for satisfactory reconstruction of United States-Japanese relations. These had been set out in President Roosevelt's reply of September 3 to the Prime Minister's message. However, the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs informed Ambassador Grew some time later that although Prince Konoye had "in principle" accepted the four points, the Prime Minister had indicated that some adjustment would be required in applying them to actual conditions.
Throughout September 1941 the Japanese Government continued to urge upon the United States an early meeting between the President and the Japanese Prime Minister. On September 23 the Japanese Ambassador told Secretary Hull that such a meeting would have a psychological effect in Japan by setting Japan on a new course; that it would counteract the influence of pro-Axis elements in Japan and provide support for the elements desiring peaceful relations with the United States. During a conversation with Secretary Hull on September 29 the Ambassador said that if the proposed meeting should not take place it might be difficult for the Konoye regime to stay in office and that if it fell it was likely to be followed by a less moderate government. The Ambassador handed to Secretary Hull a paper expressing the views of the Japanese Government on the proposed meeting. In this it was stated that the meeting would "mark an epochal turn for good in Japanese-American relations"; that should the meeting not take place there might never be another opportunity and the repercussions might be "most unfortunate". It stated that the ship to carry the Prime Minister was ready; that his suite, including a full general and a full admiral, had been privately appointed; that the party was prepared to depart at any moment. Finally, it stated that any further delay in arranging for the meeting would put the Japanese Government in a "very delicate position" and again emphasized that there was urgent necessity for holding the meeting at the earliest possible date.
The reply of the United States to the Japanese proposal of September 6, 1941 was contained in a statement made by Secretary Hull to the Japanese Ambassador on October 2. After reviewing the progress of the course of the conversations thus far, the Secretary stated that a clear-cut manifestation of Japan's intention in regard to the withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and French Indochina would be most helpful in making known Japan's peaceful intentions and Japan's desire to follow courses calculated to establish a sound basis for future stability and progress in the Pacific area. The Secretary said that the United States Government had welcomed the suggestion for a meeting of the heads of the two Governments, but while desiring to proceed with arrangements as soon as possible, felt that clarification of certain principles was necessary to insure the success of the meeting. He remarked that from what the Japanese Government had indicated, it contemplated a program in which the basic principles put forward by the United States would in their application be circumscribed by qualifications and exceptions. Secretary Hull asked whether, in view of these circumstances, the Japanese Government felt that the proposed meeting would be likely to contribute to the advancement of the high purposes which the two Governments mutually had in mind. He repeated the view of the United States that renewed consideration of the fundamental principles would be helpful in seeking a meeting of minds on the essential questions and laying a firm foundation for the meeting.
The Japanese Ambassador, after reading this statement, expressed the fear that his Government would be disappointed, because of its earnest desire to hold the meeting. Secretary Hull replied that we had no desire to cause any delay but felt there should be a meeting of minds on the essential points before the meeting between the President and the Prime Minister was held.
The conversations between the Secretary of State and the Japanese Ambassador
at Washington continued, but the issues between the Governments appeared no
nearer settlement. The chief questions on which agreement seemed impossible
were Japanese obligations to Germany and Italy under the Tripartite Pact; the
question of adherence by Japan to a basic course of peace; and the terms of
settlement of the conflict between Japan and China, particularly the matter
of the evacuation of Japanese troops from China. In regard to the last point
this Government throughout the negotiations maintained that any settlement involving
China must provide fully for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that
country; otherwise there would be no prospect of stable peace in the Pacific
area. With reference to the Tripartite Pact, there was implicit throughout the
discussions a Japanese threat that if the United States should become involved
in war with Germany the Japanese Government, in accordance with the terms of
the pact, would make war on the United States.
Ambassador Grew's Report That War Might Be "Inevitable"
In a telegram of November 3, 1941 Ambassador Grew reported to the Department of State on the current situation in Japan. He warned against acceptance of any theory that the weakening and final exhaustion of Japanese financial and economic resources would result shortly in Japan's collapse as a militarist nation. He pointed out that despite severe cuts in industrial output, the loss of most of Japan's commerce, and the depletion of national resources, such a collapse had not occurred; but instead there was being drastically prosecuted the integration of Japanese national economy. Events so far, he said, had given no support for the view that war in the Far East could best be averted by imposition of commercial embargoes. He said that considering the temper of the people of Japan it was dangerously uncertain to base United States policy on a view that the imposition of progressive and rigorous economic measures would probably avert war; that it was the view of the Embassy that war would not be averted by such a course.
The Ambassador said it was his purpose to insure against the United States becoming involved in war with Japan through any misconception of Japanese capacity to plunge into a "suicidal struggle" with us. Although reason, he said, would dictate against such a happening, our own standards of logic could not be used to measure Japanese rationality. While we need not be overly concerned by the "bellicose" utterances of the Japanese press, it would be short-sighted to underestimate the obvious preparations of Japan; it would be short-sighted also if our policy were based on a belief that these preparations amounted merely to saber rattling. Finally, he warned of the possibility of Japan's adopting measures with dramatic and dangerous suddenness which might make inevitable a war with the United States.
Four days later, on November 7, Secretary Hull stated at a Cabinet meeting that relations between Japan and the United States were extremely critical and that there was "imminent possibility" that Japan might at any time start a new military movement of conquest by force. It thereupon became the consensus of the Cabinet that the critical situation might well be emphasized in speeches in order that the country would, if possible, be better prepared for such a development. Accordingly, Secretary of the Navy Knox delivered an address on November 11, 1941 in which he stated that we were not only confronted with the necessity of extreme measures of self-defense in the Atlantic, but we were "likewise faced with grim possibilities on the other side of the world-on the far side of the Pacific", that the Pacific no less than the Atlantic called for instant readiness for defense. On the same day Under Secretary of State Welles, carrying out the Cabinet suggestion in an address, stated that beyond the Atlantic a sinister and pitiless conqueror had reduced more than half of Europe to abject serfdom and that in the Far East the same forces of conquest were menacing the safety of all nations bordering on the Pacific. The waves of world conquest were "breaking high both in the East and in the West", he said, and were threatening, more and more with each passing day, "to engulf our own shores". He warned that the United States was in far greater peril than in 1917; that "at any moment war may be forced upon us".
On November 17 Ambassador Grew cabled from Tokyo that in calling attention
to the necessity for vigilance against sudden Japanese naval or military attack
in regions not then involved in the Chinese-Japanese conflict, he considered
it probable that the Japanese would make use of every possible tactical advantage,
including surprise and initiative. The Ambassador said that in Japan there was
an extremely effective control over military information and that as a consequence
it was unlikely that the Embassy would be able to give substantial warning.
Kurusu Sent to Washington
Early in November the Japanese Government informed this Government that it desired to send Mr. Saburo Kurusu to Washington to assist Ambassador Nomura in the conversations. This Government at once responded favorably and, upon request by the Japanese Government, facilitated Mr. Kurusu's journey by arranging that priority passage be given him and his secretary on a United States trans-Pacific plane and that the scheduled departure of the plane from Hong Kong be delayed until Mr. Kurusu could reach Hong Kong from Tokyo.
President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull conferred with Ambassador Nomura and Mr. Kurusu on November 17. It soon became clear in the course of this and subsequent conversations that Mr. Kurusu had brought no new material or plans or proposals.
During this conversation of November 17 the President expressed the desire of the United States to avoid war between the two countries and to bring about a fair and peaceful settlement in the Pacific area; he accepted a statement of the Japanese Ambassador that this was also the desire of Japan. The President stated that, from the long-range point of view, there was no occasion for serious differences between the United States and Japan.
Secretary Hull said that any settlement for the Pacific area would not be taken seriously while Japan was still "clinging" to the Tripartite Pact; that since Hitler had announced that he was out for unlimited-invasion objectives and had started on a march across the earth, the United States had been in danger and this danger had grown with each passing week; that the United States recognized the danger and was proceeding with self-defense before it was too late; that the United States felt the danger so profoundly that it had committed itself to the expenditure of many billions of dollars in self-defense.
The Secretary said the belief in this country was that the Japanese formula for a new order in greater East Asia was but another name for a program to dominate all of the Pacific area politically, economically, socially, and otherwise, by military force; that this would include the high seas, the islands, and the continents, and would place every other country at the mercy of arbitrary military rule just as the Hitler program did in Europe and the Japanese program did in China.
Mr. Kurusu reiterated that ways must be found to work out an agreement to avoid trouble between the two countries and said that all the way across the Pacific "it was like a powder keg". Referring to the relations of Japan and Germany, he said that Germany had not up to then called upon Japan to fight.
Secretary Hull conferred again with the Japanese Ambassador and Mr. Kurusu on November 18. The Secretary said that we were trying to make a contribution to the establishment of a peaceful world, based on law and order; that this was what we wanted to work out with Japan; that we had nothing to offer in the way of bargaining except our friendship. He said that the present situation was exceptionally advantageous for Japan to put her factories to work in producing goods needed by peaceful countries, if only the Japanese people could get war and invasion out of mind; that it would be difficult for him to cause this Government to go far in removing the embargo unless it were given reason to believe that Japan was definitely started on a peaceful course and had renounced purposes of conquest.
Mr. Kurusu expressed the belief that the two Governments should now make efforts to achieve something to tide over the present abnormal situation. He suggested that perhaps after the termination of the Sino-Japanese conflict it might be possible to adopt a more liberal policy but said that he was unable to promise anything on the part of his Government.
Ambassador Nomura emphasized that the situation in Japan was very pressing and that it was important to arrest further deterioration of the relations between the two countries. He suggested that if this situation could now be checked an atmosphere would develop when it would be possible to move in the direction of the courses which this Government advocated.
Our people did not trust Hitler, the Secretary said, and we felt that it was inevitable that Hitler would eventually, if successful, get around to the Far East and "double-cross" Japan. He cited the instance when Germany, after concluding an anti-Comintern pact with Japan, had surprised Japan later by entering into a non-aggression pact with Russia, and finally had violated the non-aggression pact by attacking Russia. The Secretary expressed great doubt that any agreement between the United States and Japan, while Japan at the same time had an alliance with Hitler, would carry the confidence of our people. He considered the Tripartite Pact inconsistent with the establishment of an understanding. He said that frankly he did not know whether anything could be done in the matter of reaching a satisfactory agreement with Japan; that we could go so far but rather than go beyond a certain point it would be better for us "to stand and take the consequences".
Mr. Kurusu replied that he could not say that Japan would abrogate the Tripartite
Pact but intimated that Japan might do something to "outshine" it. He said that
Japan would not be a "cat's-paw" for Germany; that Japan had entered into the
Tripartite Pact in order to use the pact for its own purposes and because it
felt isolated; that the situation in Japan was very pressing and that it was
important to arrest a further deterioration of relations between the two countries;
that our freezing regulations had caused impatience in Japan and a feeling that
Japan had to fight while still in a position to fight.
Japanese Proposal of November 20
On November 20 Ambassador Nomura and Mr. Kurusu presented to the Secretary of State a proposal comprising mutual commitments: to make no armed advance into regions of southeastern Asia and the southern Pacific area excepting French Indochina (where Japanese troops were then stationed), to cooperate with a view to "securing the acquisition of those . . . commodities which the two governments need in Netherlands East Indies", and to undertake "to restore their commercial relations to those prevailing prior to the freezing of the assets"; commitments by the United States to undertake to supply Japan "a required quantity of oil" and "to refrain from such measures and actions as will be prejudicial to the endeavors for the restoration of general peace between Japan and China" (which, the Japanese orally explained, meant that the Government of the United States was to discontinue its aid to the Chinese Government); and a commitment by Japan to undertake to withdraw its troops then in Indochina either upon restoration of peace between Japan and China or upon "the establishment of an equitable peace in the Pacific area" and "upon the conclusion of the present arrangement" to remove to northern Indochina the troops that it then had in southern Indochina (which would have left Japan free to increase its armed forces in Indochina to whatever extent it might desire).
During a conversation on that same day with the Japanese Ambassador and Mr. Kurusu, Secretary Hull said that Japan could at any moment put an end to the existing situation by deciding upon an "all-out" peaceful course; that at any moment Japan could bring to an end what Japan chose to call "encirclement".
The Secretary said the people of the United States believed that the purposes
underlying our aid to China were the same as those underlying our aid to Great
Britain and that there was a partnership between Hitler and Japan aimed at enabling
Hitler to take charge of one half of the world and Japan the other half. The
existence of the Tripartite Pact and the continual harping of Japan's leaders
upon slogans of the Nazi type, the Secretary said, served to strengthen this
belief; what was needed was the manifestation by Japan of a clear purpose to
pursue peaceful courses. He said that our people desired to avoid a repetition
in East Asia of what Hitler was doing in Europe; that our people opposed the
idea of a "new order" under military control.
In this conversation the Japanese representatives reiterated that their Government was really desirous of peace and that Japan had "never pledged itself to a policy of expansion". Secretary Hull remarked that the Chinese "might have an answer to that point". When Mr. Kurusu declared that Japan could not abrogate the Tripartite Pact, the Secretary observed that Japan did not take a similar view of the Nine-Power Treaty. Mr. Kurusu replied to the effect that the latter treaty was twenty years old and "outmoded".
During a conversation on November 22 the Secretary of State informed the Japanese
Ambassador and Mr. Kurusu that he had called in representatives of certain other
governments concerned in the Far East and that there had been a discussion of
the question whether there could be some relaxation of freezing; that there
was a general feeling that the matter could be settled if the Japanese could
give some evidence of peaceful intentions. The Secretary said that if the United
States and other countries should see Japan pursuing a peaceful course there
would be no question about Japan's obtaining all the materials she desired.
United States Memorandum of November 26
In all of the various formulae which the Japanese Government offered in succession during the course of the conversations statements of pacific intent were qualified and restricted. As each proposal was explored it became clear that Japan did not intend to budge from the fundamental objectives of its military leaders. Japan manifested no disposition to renounce its association with Hitlerism. It insisted that its obligations under the Tripartite Pact-a direct threat to this country-would be fulfilled by Japan. Japan was willing to affirm its adherence to the principle of non-discrimination in international commercial relations, but refused to relinquish in practice the preferential position which it had arrogated to itself in all areas under Japanese occupation. Japan insisted on obtaining in its hostilities with China a victor's peace and on having our assent thereto. Japan refused to make practical application of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. It was steadily adding to its armed establishment in Indochina; and it insisted upon continuing to maintain its armed forces in large areas of China for an indefinite period-clearly indicating an intention to achieve a permanent control there.
It was thus evident that it was illusory any longer to expect that a general
agreement would be possible. It was also clearly apparent that the Japanese
were attempting to maneuver the United States into either accepting the limited
Japanese proposals or making some sort of an agreement which would serve only
the ends of Japan, and that without trying to solve basic questions they were
seeking to evade serious consideration of an equitable broad-gauge settlement
such as had been under discussion in the earlier stages of the conversations.
A clear manifestation was given by the Japanese Government that it would not
desist from the menace which it was creating to the United States, to the British
Empire, to the Netherlands Indies, to Thailand, and to China by the presence
of large and increasing bodies of Japanese armed forces in Indochina.
The Government of the United States still felt obliged, however, to leave no avenue unexplored which might conceivably cause Japan to choose a better course. Moreover, if the Japanese proposal of November 20 was indeed Japan's "last word", it was obviously desirable that record of the United States Government's position before, at the beginning of, throughout, and at the end of the conversations be made crystal clear. Therefore, toward possibly keeping alive conversations looking toward inducing Japan to choose the pathway of restraint, and toward making its position utterly clear, this Government formulated a new statement.
On November 26, 1941 the Secretary of State handed to the Japanese Ambassador and Mr. Kurusu a proposed basis for agreement between the United States and Japan. In a statement accompanying the proposal it was said that the United States earnestly desired to afford every opportunity for the continuation of discussions with the Japanese Government; that the Japanese proposals of November 20 conflicted in some respects with the fundamental principles to which each Government had declared it was committed; that the United States believed that these proposals were not likely to contribute to insuring peace in the Pacific area; and that further effort be made to resolve the divergent views. With this object in mind, the United States was offering for the consideration of Japan a plan of a broad but simple settlement covering the entire Pacific area as one practical exemplification of a program which this Government envisaged as something to be worked out during future conversations.
The proposal contained mutual affirmations that the national policies of the two countries were directed toward peace throughout the Pacific area, that they had no territorial designs or aggressive intentions in that area, and that they would give active support to the following fundamental principles: inviolability of territorial integrity and sovereignty of each and all nations; non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries; equality, including equality of commercial opportunity and treatment; and reliance upon international cooperation and conciliation for the prevention and pacific settlement of controversies. There was also provision for mutual pledges to support and apply in their economic relations with each other and with other nations and peoples certain enumerated liberal principles.
The proposal contemplated the following mutual commitments: to endeavor to conclude a multilateral non-aggression pact among the governments principally concerned in the Pacific area; to endeavor to conclude among the principally interested governments an agreement to respect the territorial integrity of Indochina and not to seek or accept preferential economic treatment therein; not to support any government in China other than the National Government of the Republic of China with its capital temporarily at Chungking; to relinquish extraterritorial and related rights in China and to obtain the agreement of other governments now enjoying such rights to give up those rights; to negotiate a trade agreement based upon reciprocal most-favored-nation treatment; to remove freezing restrictions imposed by each country on the funds of the other; to agree upon a plan for the stabilization of the dollar-yen rate; to agree that no agreement which either had concluded with any third power or powers should be interpreted by it in a way to conflict with the fundamental purpose of this proposed agreement; and to use their influence to cause other governments to adhere to the basic political and economic principles provided for in this proposed agreement.
The proposal envisaged a situation in which there would be no foreign armed forces in French Indochina or in China. Withdrawal of the last armed forces of the United States from China was then in progress and had almost been completed and withdrawal of British armed forces from China had already been completed. Accordingly there was suggested one unilateral commitment, an undertaking by Japan that she would "withdraw all military, naval, air and police forces from China and from Indochina".
After the Japanese representatives had read the document, Mr. Kurusu said that when this proposal of the United States was reported to the Japanese Government, that Government would be likely to "throw up its hands"; that this response to the Japanese proposal could be interpreted as tantamount to the end of the negotiations. The Japanese representatives then asked whether they could see the President.
President Roosevelt, with Secretary Hull present, received Ambassador Nomura and Mr. Kurusu on November 27. The President stated that people in the United States wanted a peaceful solution of all matters in the Pacific area; that he had not given up yet, although the situation was serious. He said that this Government had been very much disappointed by the continued expressions of opposition by Japanese leaders to the fundamental principles of peace and order. This attitude on the part of the Japanese leaders had created an atmosphere, both in the United States and abroad, which had added greatly to the difficulty of making mutually satisfactory progress in the conversations.
The President called attention to the fact that this Government had been very
patient in dealing with the whole Far Eastern situation; that we were prepared
to continue to be patient if Japan's course of action permitted continuance
of such an attitude on our part. He said that this country could not bring about
any substantial relaxation in its economic restrictions unless Japan gave some
clear manifestation of peaceful intent. If that occurred we could take some
steps of a concrete character designed to improve the general situation. The
Secretary said everyone knew that the Japanese slogans of "co-prosperity", "new
order in East Asia", and the "controlling influence" in certain areas were 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. As long as the Japanese
moved in that direction and continued to increase their military and other relations
with Hitler through such instruments as the Anti-Comintern Pact and the Tripartite
Pact, no real progress could be made toward a peaceful solution. During this
conference the Japanese representatives had little to say except to express
their disappointment at the small progress made thus far.
"Japan May Move Suddenly"
On November 25 and on November 28, at meetings of high officials of this Government, Secretary Hull emphasized the critical nature of the relations of this country with Japan. He stated that there was practically no possibility of an agreement being achieved with Japan; that in his opinion the Japanese were likely to break out at any time with new acts of conquest by force; and that the matter of safeguarding our national security was in the hands of the Army and the Navy. The Secretary expressed his judgment that any plans for our military defense should include an assumption that the Japanese might make the element of surprise a central point in their strategy and also might attack at various points simultaneously with a view to demoralizing efforts of defense and of coordination for purposes thereof.
On November 29, 1941, Secretary Hull conferred with the British Ambassador.
The Secretary said that "the diplomatic part of our relations with Japan was
virtually over and that the matter will now go to the officials of the Army
and Navy". He said further that it would be "a serious mistake for our country
and other countries interested in the Pacific situation to make plans of resistance
without including the possibility that Japan may move suddenly and with every
possible element of surprise and spread out over considerable areas and capture
certain positions and posts before the peaceful countries interested in the
Pacific would have time to confer and formulate plans to meet these new conditions;
that this would be on the theory that the Japanese recognize that their course
of unlimited conquest now renewed all along the line probably is a desperate
gamble and requires the utmost boldness and risk".
Reported Japanese Troop Movements
Secretary Hull conferred with the Japanese Ambassador and Mr. Kurusu on December 1. The Secretary said that in the current discussions we had to take into account the bellicose utterances emanating from Tokyo. He emphasized that we did not propose to go into partnership with Japan's military leaders; that he had not heard one whisper of peace from them, "only bluster and bloodcurdling threats". The Japanese representatives said that statements of Japanese officials were taken more seriously in the United States than was warranted; that these statements were misquoted in the press.
The Secretary said that this Government had no idea of trying to bluff Japan and that he saw no occasion for Japan's trying to bluff us; he emphasized that "there is a limit beyond which we cannot go".
He made clear that this Government was anxious to help settle the China affair if a settlement could be reached in accordance with the basic principles discussed in the conversations, and that under such circumstances we would be glad to offer our good offices. He said that under existing circumstances, while Japan was bound in the Tripartite Pact, Japan might just as well ask us to cease aiding Britain as to cease aiding China. The United States would give Japan all the materials it wanted, he said, if Japan's military leaders would only show that Japan intended to pursue a peaceful course.
The Secretary observed that Japanese troops in Indochina constituted a menace to the South Seas area; that the stationing of these troops in Indochina was making it necessary for the United States land its friends to keep large numbers of armed forces immobilized in East Asia; that in this way Japan's acts were having the effect of aiding Hitler. He called attention to reports of heavy Japanese troop movements in Indochina, stating that we could not be sure what the Japanese military leaders were likely to do. The Secretary said that we could not "sit still" while these developments were taking place; that we would not allow ourselves to be driven out of the Pacific. He said that there was no reason for conflict between the United States land Japan; that Japan did not have to use a sword to gain "a seat at the head of the table".
The Ambassador said the Japanese people believed that the United States wanted to keep Japan fighting with China and to keep Japan strangled; that the Japanese people were faced with the alternatives of surrendering to the United States or of fighting. Mr. Kurusu said that the Japanese Government had directed him to inquire what was the ultimate aim of the United States in the conversations and to request that the United States Government make "deep reflection of this matter".
Meanwhile, this Government received reports of continued Japanese troop movements to Indochina. In a communication of December 2, handed to the Japanese Ambassador by Under Secretary Welles, President Roosevelt inquired regarding these reports and asked to be informed of the actual reasons for these steps. The President stated that the stationing of increased Japanese forces in Indochina seemed to imply the intention to utilize these forces for further aggression; that such aggression might be against the Philippine Islands, the Netherlands Indies, Burma, Malaya, or Thailand.
On December 5 the Japanese Ambassador handed to Secretary Hull a reply which stated that as Chinese troops had recently shown frequent signs of movements along the northern frontier of French Indochina bordering on China, Japanese troops, with the object mainly of taking precautionary measures, had been reinforced to a certain extent in the northern part of French Indochina; that as a natural sequence of this step, certain movements had been made among the troops stationed in the southern part of the said territory; and that an exaggerated report had been made of these movements.
In a conversation which followed with the Japanese Ambassador and Mr. Kurusu, the Secretary said that he had been under the impression that Japan had been moving forces into northern Indochina for the purpose of attacking China from there; that he had never heard before that these troop movements were for the purpose of defense against Chinese attack.
Ambassador Nomura said that the Japanese were alarmed over the increasing naval and military preparations of the "ABCD powers"; that the United States blamed Japan for its move into Indochina but that if Indochina were controlled by other powers it would be a menace to Japan. Mr. Kurusu said that if an agreement could be reached on temporary measures, we could proceed with the exploration of fundamental solutions; that what was needed immediately was a temporary expedient.
The Secretary said that we could solve matters without delay if the Japanese
Government would renounce its policy of force and aggression. He added that
we were not looking for trouble but that at he same time "we were not running
away from menaces".
President Roosevelt's Message to the Emperor of Japan
Despite the completely unsatisfactory Japanese reply with respect to its operations in Indochina, the United States Government still felt that every possible effort for peace should be exhausted. President Roosevelt on December 6 telegraphed to Tokyo a personal message to the Emperor of Japan in which he stated that developments were occurring in the Pacific area which threatened to deprive the United States and Japan and all humanity of the beneficial influence of the long peace between the two countries, and that these developments contained "tragic possibilities". The President said that we had hoped that the peace of the Pacific could be consummated in such a way that many diverse peoples could exist side by side without fear of invasion, that unbearable burdens of armaments could be lifted, and that all peoples would resume commerce without discrimination against or in favor of any nation. In seeking these great objectives both Japan and the United States "should agree to eliminate any form of military threat". The President said further that during recent weeks it had become clear to the world that Japanese military, naval, and air forces had been sent to southern Indochina in such large numbers as to create a reasonable doubt that this continued concentration in Indochina was defensive in its character; that the people of the Philippines, of the Netherlands Indies, of Malaya, and of Thailand were asking themselves whether these Japanese forces were preparing or intending to make attack in one or more of these many directions; that none of these peoples could sit either indefinitely or permanently "on a keg of dynamite". Finally, the President said that he was addressing the Emperor in the fervent hope that the Emperor might give thought to ways of dispelling the darkening clouds; that both he and the Emperor had "a sacred duty to restore traditional amity and prevent further death and destruction in the world".
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, at 7:50 a.m. Honolulu time (1:20 p.m. Washington time) the Japanese Government brought discussions to an end with the surprise attack upon the United States at Pearl Harbor. One hour after that attack had begun, and while Japanese planes were sowing death and destruction in Hawaii, and simultaneously were attacking the United States and Great Britain in the Far East, Ambassador Nomura and Mr. Kurusu called on Secretary Hull at the Department of State and handed him a memorandum. In that memorandum the Japanese Government stated that the United States had "resorted to every possible measure to assist the Chungking regime so as to obstruct the establishment of a general peace between Japan and China" and had "attempted to frustrate Japan's aspiration to the ideal of common prosperity in cooperation with these regions"; that in the negotiations the United States had "failed to display in the slightest degree a spirit of conciliation"; that the United States had "made known its intention to continue its aid to Chiang Kai-shek"; that it "may be said to be scheming for the extension of the war"; that it was engaged "in aiding Great Britain and preparing to attack, in the name of self-defense, Germany and Italy, two powers that are striving to establish a new order in Europe"; that the demands of the United States for the "wholesale evacuation of troops" from China and for unconditional application of the principle of non-discrimination in international commerce "ignored the actual conditions of China, and are calculated to destroy Japan's position as the stabilizing factor of East Asia"; that the United States proposal of November 26 "ignore Japan's sacrifices in the four years of the China affair, menaces the Empire's existence itself and disparages its honour and prestige" that obviously it was the intention of the United States "to conspire with Great Britain and other countries to obstruct Japan's effort toward the establishment of peace through the creation of a new order in East Asia"; and finally, that "in view of the attitude of the American Government" the Japanese Government "cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations".
Upon reading this memorandum, Secretary Hull said to the Japanese representatives: "I have never seen a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions-infamous false hoods and distortions on a scale so huge that I never imagined until today that any Government on this planet was capable of uttering them."
Several hours after the beginning of the Japanese attack Ambassador Grew was informed by the Japanese Foreign Minister that the above-described memorandum, which had been delivered at Washington, was desired by the Emperor to be regarded as the Emperor's reply to the President's message. At the same time, however, the Japanese Foreign Minister made an oral statement to the Ambassador also "as a reply" from the Emperor to the President to the effect that the establishment of peace "in the Pacific, and consequently of the world, has been the cherished desire of His Majesty for the realization of which he has hitherto made the Government to continue its earnest endeavors".
At 11 a.m. December 8, Tokyo time (9 p.m. December 7, Washington time) the
United States Embassy at Tokyo received a communication from the Japanese Foreign
Minister, dated December 8, 1941, informing the Ambassador "that there has arisen
a state of war between Your Excellency's country and Japan beginning today".
War With Japan, Germany, and Italy
The Japanese attack of December 7 on territory of the United States aroused our entire nation. On the morning of December 8 President Roosevelt asked the Congress to declare the existence of a state of war between the United States and Japan. Both Houses of Congress acted immediately with but one dissenting vote. At 4:10 p.m. on the afternoon of December 8 the President approved a joint resolution providing that the state of war between the United States and the Government of Japan which had been "thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared"; and that the President was authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry ton war against Japan; and that, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, "all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States".
In a radio address of the following day, December 9, President Roosevelt stated that Germany and Japan were conducting their military and naval operations in accordance with a joint plan, which plan considered all peoples and nations not helping the Axis powers as common enemies of each and every one of the Axis powers. The President said that Germany and Italy, regardless of any formal declaration of war, "consider themselves at war with the United States at this moment just as much as they consider themselves at war with Britain and Russia"; that we expected to "eliminate" the danger from japan but it would "serve us ill" if we accomplished that and found the rest of the world dominated by Hitler and Mussolini.
The President said further that we were in the midst of war "not for conquest, not for vengeance, but for a world in which this nation and all that this nation represents, will be safe for our children"; we "are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace that follows".
On December 11, 1941 Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. On that day the Congress passed with no dissenting vote, and the President approved, resolutions formally declaring the existence of a state of war between the United States and Germany and between the United States and Italy.
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.118-149
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