Memorandum by the Secretary of State Regarding a Conversation With the Japanese Ambassador (Saito)

[WASHINGTON,] July 12, 1937.

The Japanese Ambassador called by his own request. He said that he had two things to discuss or to report on--one was that Japan had two ships taking part in the search for Amelia Earhart31 and that their officials at Hawaii and other points had been instructed to keep closely posted on the search in the hope of being of some help. I thanked him very earnestly for this fine spirit of friendliness and cooperation on the part of his government.

The Ambassador then handed me a manuscript containing six paragraphs or points relative to the Japanese-Chinese military trouble which commenced on July 7th. A copy of the instrument of writing is attached hereto.31a The Ambassador read each numbered paragraph for the purpose of any comment I might wish to make. I inquired, when he read the first paragraph, how many troops there were in the Japanese detachment stationed at Fengtai on July 7th. He replied that he did not know but that he supposed it was a hundred or some such number. He said that he imagined this detachment, which was unexpectedly fired upon by Chinese troops, was on the other side of the river from the Chinese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge. When I suggested that Japanese troops had been understood to be camped at various points between the two


railroads leading into Peking, he said he was not a student of the geography of this locality. He said that these Japanese troops were located in this Chinese area under the same authority that United States guards and those of three or four other countries are at present stationed in Peking and other Chinese cities. I expressed deep regret at the incident during the reading of each paragraph. He said that Chiang Kai-shek is behind the entire movement; that the idea, in the Ambassador's opinion, is to strengthen his prestige in northern China and especially with certain elements of Chinese who have charged him with being too lax and non-aggressive in his treatment of the Japanese situation. The Ambassador remarked that he still had some hope the matter might be composed, and then added that the Chinese must know that the Japanese could bring their fleet around to the Chinese coast and take complete control of situation.

At the conclusion of the reading, I specially emphasized with approval the remarks of the Ambassador about the efforts of his government to work out a friendly settlement without war. I elaborated upon the futility of any other course and the awful consequences of war. I said that a great civilized first-class power like Japan not only could afford to exercise general self-restraint in such circumstances but that in the long run it was far better that this should characterize the attitude and policy of his government; that I have been looking forward with increasing encouragement to an early period when our two great nations in particular, while other important countries are hesitating to go forward and in fact are slipping backward fundamentally with respect to their economic and standard-of-living situations, would have the opportunity, as well as the great responsibility, for world leadership with a constructive program like the basic program proclaimed at Buenos Aires32 for the purpose of restoring and preserving stable conditions of business and of peace, which program I elaborated on; that no two great countries have rarely had such an opportunity in these respects as seems to be ahead for our two countries and that of course it means everything from this viewpoint, as well as others, that serious military operations should not be allowed to get under way; and again I expressed my strongest approval of the disposition and self-restraint which his government is manifesting, judging by the statements of


the Ambassador. He said that he would be glad to keep me advised as to any further developments of consequence. I replied that of course this country is greatly interested and greatly concerned in conditions of peace in every part of the world, and that I would welcome anything further in the way of information from time to time, and would be glad to treat in very strictest confidence any confidential information he might care to give me on the subject. I again emphasized the great injury to the victor as well as the vanquished in case of any important war in this day and time, of the great concern of this government for peace everywhere and of my earnest hope that our two countries would soon find themselves in a situation to accentuate a program such as we proclaimed in the main at Buenos Aires. The Ambassador indicated his interest and approval. I concluded by thanking him for his offer to furnish further information.



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31. American aviatrix lost in Pacific Ocean on a round-the-world flight.

31a. Not printed.

32. See Department of State Conference Series 33 (pub. 1088), Report of the Delegation of the United States of America to the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace, Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 1-23, 1936 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1937).

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation