From: Washington (Nomura)
November 17, 1941
#1118 (Part 1 of 5. [a]) (To be handled in government code)
On the morning of the 17th at half-past ten, I, accompanied by Ambassador KURUSU, called on Secretary HULL. First HULL said, "After the last war there were no able statesmen; therefore, a situation like the present one came about. What we have to think about now is saving the world from this sort of extremity." KURUSU replied, "I am in entire agreement with what you say. Fortunately, the United States and Japan, who have not yet participated in this war, have a grave responsibility on their shoulders for working in this direction. However, before we can talk about that, there are some things which have to be settled between Japan and the United States. Still, if we do not engage in concrete negotiations, we cannot get anywhere." (Then he went on briefly to tell how he had come to the United States at the behest of the Premier and Your Excellency.) Then he continued: "The Premier earnestly hopes for a settlement between Japan and the United States. As a matter of fact, he seems to be rather hopeful beyond expectation. There are at present three problems causing a deadlock between Japan and the United States: They are: Equality in commerce, the Tri-partite Agreement, and evacuation. The Premier seems to be very hopeful of a settlement concerning the first two. However, when it comes to the third question-that of evacuation-he seems to entertain great concern.
Army 25091 Trans. 11/21/41 (1)
[a] Part 2, S.I.S. #24940; Part 3 not available; Parts 4 and 5, S.I.S.
November 17, 1941
Purple (Extremely Urgent)
#1118 (Part 2 of 5) [a]
Since the time had come to meet the President and since HULL had expressed his wish to continue the conversation in the presence of the President, we all left our seats. Together with Secretary HULL, I went to see the President at 11:00 a. m.
KURUSU began his conversation by saying, "As I had already told Secretary HULL, the present Cabinet is very much interested in the Japanese-American negotiations. You, Mr. President, as a statesman, no doubt well understand in what frame of mind the Japanese people are after four years of experience in the China incident. While on my way to this country I noticed-though I am not by any means an expert in making such observations-that the situation is militarily strained in Hongkong, Manila and in other islands. The situation is so tense that we cannot tell when an explosion would occur and, even if it occurred, of what benefit would such a situation be to the United States and Japan? (The President showed that he felt the same way.) To be sure Japan wishes that the Japanese-American negotiations would prove to be a success. However, the time element must be taken into consideration. Delaying the solution avails Japan nothing since in the meantime conditions, both militarily and economically, would become less favorable to her if she is to defend herself. The Premier also seems to be quite hopeful that all of the three questions, namely, that of the Three Power Alliance and Pact and the question of withdrawing troops would be settled. [b] However, he is very much worried over the question of withdrawing troops."
Army 24940 Trans. 11/18/41 (M)
[a] Part 1 3, 4 and 6 not available.
[b] Translator's note: Apparently the writer neglected to include in the three questions that of nondiscrimination in trade.
17 November 1941
#1118 (Part 3 of 5)
The President: "A long time ago, Secretary of State Bryan once said, 'There is no last word between friends'.
"There have been many so-called 'non-aggression pacts' in the past, but all of them are now out of date. I believe, however, that by the establishing of some general understanding between the United States and Japan, the situation may be saved."
Kurusu: "That would seem to be very acceptable from my point of view From my way of looking at it, apparently the main difficulties in the U. S.-Japanese negotiations to date, have been over the problem of what to do about Japan's connections with the Tripartite Pact, and what to do about the various claims that the United States has made with regard to the method in which the China Incident should be settled. In the final analysis, it would seem as if adjusting these two points is the main problem at hand at the present time.
"With regard to the Tripartite problem, Japan is bound by certain duties under the terms of that instrument. Moreover, she must consider her dignity and honor as a great power. Because of these considerations, it is impossible for her to violate the terms of an alliance. Since the United States has been strongly insisting right along that international agreements must be adhered to, I cannot believe that the United States is urging us to do so now. I feel doubly sure of this where the Tripartite Pact is concerned since the basic objectives of that pact are the prevention of the war's spreading and the maintenance of peace.
"Under these circumstances, it seems as though it should be possible to coordinate and adjust the two problems so as to bring about a settlement. Please understand, however, that no proposal, regardless of how good it may sound, can be accepted by Japan if the terms contained therein cannot be put into effect."
The President: "With regard to the China problem, I have been advised that Japan finds the withdrawal of troops from China a very difficult undertaking. The United States is not trying to intervene or mediate in the problems of Japan and China. I don't know whether there is such a word in the parlance of diplomats or not, but the United States' only intention is to become an 'introducer'."
JD-1: 6643 (D) Navy Trans. 11-22-11 (2)
17 November 1941
#1118 (Parts 4 and 5 of 5) (Parts 1, and 3, not available).
(For Part 2 see JD-1: 6643) (S. I. S. 24940).
Kurusu: "Concerning Japan's duties to go to war under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, Japan has stated that Japan alone will determine this. The United States apparently interprets this to mean that Japan will wait until the United States is deeply involved in the battle on the Atlantic and then stab the United States in the back. This is not the case. There have been indications in the past that there are those in the United States who have been laboring under the erroneous belief that Japan would move at Germany's demands; that Japan was merely Germany's tool. Japan issued the statement that she would act in accordance with Japan's decisions alone, for the purpose of correcting this misapprehension.
"In any event, if at this time a great understanding between the United States and Japan with regard to the Pacific can be reached as described by the President, such an understanding would far outshine the Tripartite Pact. Under such circumstances, I feel confident that all doubts you may harbor regarding the application of the Tripartite Pact would automatically and completely melt away".
At this point, Hull broke in, and after describing Germany's policy of conquest, said: "Suppose that Germany succeeds in conquering England and then establishes various subservient governments in South America. Suppose after that that Germany attacks the United States with the British fleet. If the United States waits till then, it would be too late regardless of what she tries to do. That is why the United States must prepare her defenses now and this is what the United States calls her rights under defense. There is no reason why Japan cannot see this."
Thus did Hull go over his theory again.
The President: "The map I referred to in my speech the other day, which described German policy in Central and South America, was an authentic map. Its source was the German Government circles."
Kurusu: Mr. President, a while ago you made reference to the general relationship between Japan and the United States. As long as we are speaking of peace on the Pacific, and since at least one side of the western hemisphere is on the Pacific, the various countries in Central and South America must be covered when we speak of the Pacific area. It would be impossible for Japan to be a partner in any project aimed at disturbing the peace of the western hemisphere.
"You say that people would give voice to their disapproval should these negotiations lead to a successful settlement between us on the grounds that Japan would be promising the United States peace while on the other hand she would be carrying the spear for Germany. From the beginning, however, the Japanese Government has been saying that should a just peace be established on the Pacific, she would withdraw her troops from French Indo-China. If, therefore, matters progress to that point, this withdrawal should satisfy the general public of the United States as actual proof of Japan's peaceful intentions.
"In any event, I am convinced that the immediate objective is to successfully and speedily come to an agreement on the various problems now being discussed at present between Ambassador Nomura and Secretary Hull."
Hull: "I favor the continuation of these talks. Heretofore, I and Ambassador Nomura have met and talked on numerous occasions but we always seem to come to a certain point and then start going around and around the same circle. I would welcome your-Kurusu's-attacking this point from a different angle."
The President expressed his approval of this, and said: "I am planning to remain in Washington until this Saturday (the 24th). I shall be glad to discuss matters with you and Secretary Hull at any time before then.
JD-1: 6654 (D) Navy Trans. 11-21-41 (1)
(EXHIBITS OF JOINT COMMITTEE , EXHIBIT NO. 1 INTERCEPTED DIPLOMATIC MESSAGES SENT BY THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT BETWEEN JULY l AND DECEMBER 8, 1941)