251. Embassy's 238, November 23, 6 p.m. The adverse reaction both abroad and in Japan to the recent agreement with Germany seems to have surprised the Japanese Foreign Office, which is trying in every way to minimize the effect by denying categorically the existence of an understanding in regard to military matters or participation in a Fascist bloc. For the purpose of minimizing the effect of the agreement the Minister for Foreign Affairs held a general press conference on December 3. This is the second conference of this kind which he has called since he took office. Conversations with members of the Diet, Japanese business men and others, as well as views expressed in the press reflect much opposition to the agreement. It appears that there is a feeling that the agreement has engendered an unfortunate suspicion that relations with the United States and Great Britain have thereby been weakened and that Japan should strengthen rather than weaken her relations with those countries.
It is difficult to trace the Japanese leadership which resulted in the agreement. Apparently one of the few active backers of the agreement is the Chief of the Bureau of Military Affairs in the Ministry of War (Isogai). It appears that some of the early conversations took place between the German Ambassador and the Japanese Embassy in London.
According to the description given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Arita), the agreement is a kind of-police measure providing for a standing commission in Berlin in which an official from the Japanese Home Office will represent Japan. There will be an exchange of information and the Japanese Government will proceed only against Japanese abroad or at home who may engage in communistic propaganda or activities. Arita expressed the hope that other governments may conclude similar agreements and he said that the agreement is aimed against no country.
Foreign diplomatic representatives in Tokyo in general are of the opinion, nevertheless, that the Japanese and German General Staffs have concluded a secret military understanding. Apparently the negotiations were carried on in Berlin by the Japanese Military Attaché there (Major General Oshima) and it is entirely possible that neither the Japanese Ambassador in Berlin nor the Japanese Foreign Office participated directly in the negotiations. Last fall when the German Ambassador to Japan was in Berlin, the German Military Attaché in Tokyo (Colonel Ott) was summoned suddenly to Berlin and returned to Japan a short time before the agreement was signed. Colonel Ott is studiously avoiding conversations with other Military Attaches in Tokyo now.
The British Ambassador feels certain that a secret military agreement exists and he is of the opinion that, as one item of the alleged agreement, an arrangement for the shipment to Manchuria of German arms in payment for various commodities, including soya bean has been made as a result of the lack of success in carrying out the German Trade Agreement with "Manchukuo".
The Soviet Ambassador is convinced that while the agreement as published is merely a facade to hide a secret agreement for joint action in the event of war with the Soviet Union, this alleged secret agreement is nevertheless aimed also at Great Britain and he insists that an agreement or understanding exists for the division between Germany and Japan in case of war of certain British possessions overseas as well as the Dutch East Indies. The Soviet Ambassador considers the alleged secret pact as part and parcel of Germany's need for colonies and of Japan's southern expansion program. These ideas, although they may be far fetched, are in accord with the perhaps not unreasonable suspicion of Japanese intentions and activities usually held by the Soviet Ambassador, who has informed the American Ambassador that the Soviet Government has indisputable evidence that a military agreement exists. He has informed the British Ambassador that at an opportune moment this evidence might be published.
The Japanese Prime Minister (Hirota) made a significant remark to the American Ambassador to the effect that relations between Germany and Japan would become closer the more communist) activities and the influence of the Comintern spread abroad.
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. 340-42.
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