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

[WASHINGTON,] July 21, 1937.33

The Ambassador of Japan called this morning at my request. After brief preliminaries, I very seriously addressed the Ambassador and said that, of course, he must be fully aware that when two nations comprising 500 million people are engaged in a controversy in which danger of general hostilities appear imminent, this country cannot help but be greatly interested and concerned; that it is in the light of this situation and of the intense desire of this country for peace everywhere that I have been undertaking to confer with the ambassadors from both Japan and China from time to time regarding developments, present and prospective, in the danger zone; that I have approached each government, in a spirit of genuine friendliness and impartiality in an earnest effort to contribute something to the


cause of peace and to the avoidance of hostilities in the Far East that, if the Ambassador did not mind, I would be glad to reemphasize the chief points I had referred to in our previous conversations on this general subject and situation; that these included a most earnest appeal to each government, from every possible standpoint, for peace, as well as an earnest expression of the opinion that a war would result in irreparable harm to all governments involved and would prove utterly disastrous, in the present chaotic state of world affairs, to all phases of human welfare and human progress. After elaborating the foregoing views as fully as possible, I then said that I had also brought to the Ambassador's attention the great objective and beneficent purposes of the program adopted at Buenos Aires, including the 8-point pillar of peace proposals in my address at Buenos Aires, and I emphasized the view that such general hostilities now would utterly shatter the future prospects of this broad basic program for improving international relationships and to restore international order and thereby avoiding the opposite trend at present towards international anarchy; that I have been seeking to emphasize to all governments and all nations alike the basic points of this broad Buenos Aires program, and to this end I gave out a statement on last Friday34 containing these various proposals based originally on the 8-point pillars of peace statement; that I am getting a few of these out each day to various governments for their comment and, I hope, their approval and active cooperation; that I was glad herewith to hand to the Ambassador for his government a copy of this statement of last Friday, in the hope that his government can see its way clear to join with us and other nations in proclaiming the soundness and need of this program, and I added that it would be most pleasing to us if the Government of Japan could and would step up by our side and join in carrying forward this great program, a revival of the principles of which is so much needed by the world today. From the outset of our conversation, the Ambassador from time to time in brief words indicated his approval of what I was saying.

I then said to the Ambassador that I might repeat what I had also said to him at the beginning--that this government is ready and will be most glad at any time to say or do anything, short of mediation which of course requires the agreement of both parties in advance, which might in any way whatever contribute towards composing the present matters of controversy between Japan and China; that this was, of course, said to the Ambassador for his Government;


and I added that I desired to repeat with emphasis the present, continued attitude of this government of thus being ready and desirous of saying or doing anything that the government or governments concerned might suggest which would be fair and impartial towards all concerned and at the same time calculated to be helpful in restoring thoroughly peaceful relations in the Far East.

I said to the Ambassador that there was another phase of the matter I would like to put before him. I explained that I was anxious that my point of view be completely understood and for this reason I would like to inform the American Ambassadors in Japan and in China of the conversations held here and would like to have those Ambassadors report what I said, just as the Ambassadors of those countries to whom I spoke here would report, to the Japanese and Chinese Governments.

At one stage I asked the Ambassador what the latest developments were. He replied that he knew very little in addition to what had been reported to me by the Japanese Counselor during the past three or four days, except a report about a clash near the Marco Polo Bridge in which the Japanese used artillery only and declined to use their infantry. He said their purpose was to localize the controversy and avoid general hostilities; that he still has hopes that this result may be accomplished; that they are not bringing down troops from Japan proper.

The Ambassador said little throughout the conversation, but sought to make himself agreeable. I emphasized to him that if we did not feel genuinely friendly and impartial towards his country and all concerned I would not be saying some of the things I was saying.

During the course of the conversation, I remarked that I desired to refer specially to an incident of the past two days in which two American women, near their embassy in Peking, were assaulted by Japanese guards. I said that I had remarked to the press, off the record, on yesterday that I had only received newspaper information about this attack upon the American women and I could not comment upon it with accuracy until official information came to me; that in the meantime I assumed and hoped that our Embassy in Peking would take the matter up with the Japanese Government and a settlement, or adjustment, or action satisfactory to all concerned would be brought about. The Ambassador expressed his favorable interest in such action and also his belief that such would be the case. Dr. Hornbeck, who was present, remarked to the Ambassador that similar incidents relating to our nationals or the nationals of other governments have occurred during the past five years and that it would be very helpful


to the reputation of the Japanese Government to see to it that their guards would deport and demean themselves in a way to avoid such occurrences. The Ambassador expressed his approval.



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33. On this day Secretary Hull asked the Chinese Ambassador to call and made to him a statement along the same lines as the one recorded in this memorandum.

34. Doc. 80.

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