187. Reference is made to outline in your telegram No. 321 of August 27, 4 p. m., of the views and estimate of the American Embassy in Japan. I hope that it may be useful for you to have an outline of the general reaction at home to developments taking place and of the Department's present thoughts respecting methods and policy, as a means toward understanding and interpreting the American position.
The United States Government's course, as pursued during recent years in regard to the Far East, has been animated partly by the thought of the advantageousness of encouraging Japanese and Chinese effort at developing toward each other and toward the world attitudes of real cooperativeness. A situation has been produced by the hostilities that have been and are now going on between Japan and China which permits scant hope of any such attitude or practice being reciprocally developed by and between those two countries in the near future.
In view of the methods employed by the Japanese military forces, particularly
of their entire lack of responsiveness in their acts to suggestions quietly
and patiently made them by the United States and other Governments that reasonable
consideration be given by them to the safety, rights, interests, susceptibilities,
etc., of individuals and nations which are not parties to the Sino-Japanese
conflict, it may be doubted that the elements actually controlling Japan's policies
and action value appreciably the friendship of other nations or efforts made
by the United States and other Governments to cultivate good will, confidence,
and stability in general.
In the current crisis the United States Government has endeavored to follow an absolutely impartial course. It is realized in Washington that hostilities are not likely to be brought to an end by manifestations of disapprobation on moral or legal grounds. It is necessary, however, in shaping the American course, to keep in mind constantly not only the possible serving of that object, not only the possible effects upon Japan, or upon China, or upon both of them, of possible steps, but also the wishes and attitude of the American people, the principles in which the United States believes, the courses which other: countries pursue, and various objectives, general and ultimate as well as immediate and particular.
The principles guiding the United States Government were made clear in my statement of July 16, 50 states of the world having since affirmatively expressed themselves in general support thereof. In my subsequent statement of August 23, it is made clear that these principles are regarded as being applicable to the Pacific area. In a well-ordered existence in and of the society of nations, these principles are considered to be fundamental. In their present courses of action it is apparent that neither Japan nor China is acting in accord with these principles, and Japan's course is directly in conflict with many of them.
Of the Japanese feeling that the American course has indicated a desire for fairness and impartiality, I am glad to know. The first solicitude of the United States, however, will have to be, not for the maintenance of unqualified good will by either or both of the combatants toward the United States, but for the welfare of the American people and for the general policies and broad interests of the United States, guided by laws, treaties, public opinion, and other controlling considerations. Your view is shared by me that fundamental American objectives should include (1) the avoidance of involvement and (2) the protection of lives, property, and rights of American citizens. I am in doubt regarding your suggestion that these two objectives might be pursued simultaneously with the third objective, and consequently do not feel that solidifying relations with either combatant nation should be made a definite objective. The United States is opposed to the courses being pursued, particularly Japan's course. We do not desire to injure China or Japan and wish to be a good neighbor to both, but we do not intend to permit the United States to be hampered in making its decisions by especial solicitude lest its actions displease one or the other, or both, of the combatants.
We do not wish the Japanese to entertain any impression that we look upon the Japanese course with less apprehension or disapproval than does the British Government or of condoning in any sense whatever the course which Japan is pursuing.
American public opinion has been outraged by the methods and strategy employed by the combatants, particularly by the Japanese military, and has become gradually more critical of Japan. Last week's events, particularly the circumstances of the Japanese shooting of the British Ambassador in China and the Japanese Prime Minister's statement that the representations of the powers are of little or no importance, have intensified this divergence from the standard f impartiality in popular feeling and thought. Tending to offset this somewhat has been, of course, the Chinese bombing of the liner President Hoover.
In addressing the authorities of either side, I do not intend calling names or making threats. I heartily approve of your tactful and dignified manner of conducting approaches to the Japanese Government. However, I wish the Japanese to understand fully that the United States Government is looking with thorough disapproval upon the present manifestation of Japanese foreign policy and upon the methods employed by the Japanese military in pursuit of that policy. I consider it desirable for you not to overlook any opportunity of impressing upon Japanese officials the importance attached by the United States Government to the principles laid down in my statement of July 16 and to the significance of my statement of August 23, and for you to suggest to Japanese officials that Japan, by the course it is pursuing, is destroying the good will of the world and is laying up for itself among the peoples of the world a liability of distrust, suspicion, popular antipathy, and potential ostracism, the liquidation of which would take many, many years of benevolent endeavor by Japan.
The Roosevelt Administration has not repudiated anything in the record of
the efforts made on behalf of principles and of peace by the United States Government
at the time of the Manchuria affair. We have in the present crisis endeavored
to dissuade Japan and China from entering upon and from continuing hostilities;
but mediation has not been offered. I am by no means certain that we wish to
assume the responsibilities and role of a mediator. I would not desire, at least
for the present, to encourage either side to believe or to expect that, after
currently rejecting many American suggestions to exercise restraint, they may
rely upon the United States Government serving them as a friendly broker whenever
it suits their convenience. I would want both sides to feel that should they
desire good will and any form of impartial assistance from the United States,
now is the time for evidence by them of appreciation of American policies and
methods through being considerate of American legitimate interests and essential
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. 377-379.
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