27 November 1941
#1206 (In 4 parts, Part 4 not available)
On the 27th, I, together with Ambassador Kurusu, called on the President. (Secretary Hull was also present.) The resume of our talks follows:
President: "In the last Great War, Japan and the United States were together on the side of the Allies. At that time, both Japan and the United States were given ample proof that Germany failed to comprehend the way the people of other countries think.
"Since these conversations were begun, I am aware of the fact that much effort has been made by the Japanese side, too, by those who cherish peace. I am highly appreciative of this fact. It is clear that the majority of the American people are anxious to maintain peaceful relations with Japan. I am one of those who still harbors much hope that Japanese-U. S. relations will be settled peacefully."
I: "Your recent proposal will no doubt be the cause of painful disappointment to the Japanese Government."
The President: "To tell you the truth, I, too, am very disappointed that the situation has developed in the manner that it has. However, during the several months that these conversations were being conducted, cold water was poured on them when Japan occupied southern French Indo-China. According to recent intelligences, there are fears that a second cold water dousing may become an actuality." (He apparently meant the increase in our troops to French Indo-China and our occupation of Thai.) (See my message #1205*.) "I fully understand that the general public in Japan who has been living in war conditions for the past year, cannot see a parallel with conditions in the United States, which is living under peaceful conditions.
"During all of the time, however, that Your Excellency and Secretary Hull have been conversing, we have never heard of or seen concrete proof of any peaceful intention by the leading elements of Japan. This has made these talks an exceedingly difficult undertaking.
"Even the suggestion that the present situation be overcome by a 'modus vivendi' would be without any value if in the final analysis the basic principles of international relations of Japan and the United States do not agree. If there is a basic difference, no stop gap measure could carry any weight, it seems to me.
"In my conversations with Churchill on the high seas, for example, it was predetermined that our respective basic policies coincided. Moreover, even the subjects which were to be agreed upon had been clearly defined in advance."
Kurusu: "Judging from the records of the developments of our negotiations in the past, the differences of opinions between Japan and the United States were not differences in the basic principles of each. Rather, the differences arose in the practical applications thereof. For a very simple example Japan has no disagreements to the principle of non-discriminatory treatment of commerce, strongly advocated by the United States.
"However, it is when we consider the immediate application of this principle in China, bringing about a radical and sudden change in the economic situation there, it is only natural that Japan insists upon certain special conditions. I feel that this difference may have been the source of some misunderstanding."
Hull: "By your frequent explanations, we thoroughly understand point. According to advice I have received, however, there are approximately 250,000 Japanese merchants in China at present who followed or accompanied the military. These are engaging in various business enterprises. There have been indications that various incidents have arisen involving the relations between these merchants and nationals of a third country. If you are going to consider the profits of these people, the problem of course will become an exceedingly difficult one."
Kurusu: "Japan's claims are not based on such minor factors, but concern only the various major problems."
We then went on and brought up the subject which has reference to the President's "suggestions".
The President: "have not abandoned giving consideration to that matter. However, it is first essential that both Japan and China simultaneously desire that that be done."
We pointed out that from a practical standpoint that would be very difficult to accomplish. To this, the President said:
"In domestic issues, I have had several experiences along the same lines. No doubt, some method will be found in this case, too."
I. "We have, as yet, received no instructions from Tokyo regarding your proposal. I, for one, hope that you, Mr. President, whose statesmanship I respect highly after over thirty years of close acquaintance with it, will find some way that will lead to a settlement."
The President: "To tell you the truth, I have since the end of last week, twice postponed a trip which I was going to take for my health, because of a critical domestic issue, and because of the arrival of Ambassador Kurusu to the United States. I am leaving tomorrow afternoon, Friday, for the country for a rest." (He looked very tired). "I plan to return next Wednesday. I would like to talk with you again then. It would be very gratifying, however, if some means of a settlement could be discovered in the meantime.
(Part 4 not available.)
JD-1: 6915 (D) Navy Trans. 11-29-41 (X)
(EXHIBITS OF JOINT COMMITTEE , EXHIBIT NO. 1 INTERCEPTED DIPLOMATIC MESSAGES SENT BY THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT BETWEEN JULY l AND DECEMBER 8, 1941)