"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Steinhardt)to the Secretary of State

[Place] MOSCOW
[Date] March 24, 1941
[Source] Nihon gaiko nenpyo Narabi Shuyou bunsyo Ge, Gaimusyo, pp. 487-488.
[Notes] 762. 94/484:Telegram
[Full text]


MOSCOW, March 24, 1941-3p.m.

(Received March 25-7:30 a.m.

581. This morning I was given the opportunity, by invitation of the Japanese Ambassador, to talk with Matsuoka for an hour.

Matsuoka was emphatic in stating that under no circumstances would Japan attack Singapore or any of the American, British, or Dutch possessions, and he was insistent that Japan has no territorial ambitions. Japan, he said, was ready at any moment to join the United States in a guarantee of the territorial integrity or independence of the Philippine Islands. As an evidence of Japan's lack of territorial ambitions, Matsuoka referred to the outcome of his mediation of the dispute between Thailand and French Indochina. He said that Japan would not go to war with the United States, and added that from his reading of American history it appeared that it was the United States which went to war with other countries; if a conflict should take place, it would come about only as the result of affirmative action by the United States.

Matsuoka said that he desired ardently to liquidate the war in China at the earliest possible date. Chiang Kaishek was relying upon American help, he said, and any time the President of the United States wanted to bring the Sino-Japanese conflict to an end on terms satisfactory to all concerned, he was in a position to do it by bringing his influence to bear in this direction upon Chiang Kai-shek.

I asked him whether he had in mind terms which he was sure Chiang Kai-shek would be entirely willing to accept and which would meet with the President's approval. He replied that instructions had recently been sent to Nomura to take the subject up with the President and to discuss with the latter the terms on which the Sino-Japanese war could be terminated. Matsuoka said that now was the time when statesmen should take decisive action and that it is the "big things, not the little things" that matter; in his opinion the President is afforded a splendid opportunity "to clear up the entire Far Eastern situation" by discussing with Nomura the terms on which the war in China could be brought to a close. He added that he wished the President and the Secretary of State would trust him; on his record over the past few years, he said, he did not blame them for not having confidence in him, but that if they would give him the opportunity he would prove to them that Japan had no territorial or economic ambition, and that if an understanding were reached regarded by us all as reasonable he would fight to put it through should any elements in Japan oppose it.

In reply to what he had first said, I merely suggested to Matsuoka that he instruct Nomura most explicitly as to exactly what was in his mind as a basis for ending the war with China, and that he leave nothing open either to chance or to misunderstanding. Again he was emphatic at this point in insisting on the acceptability of the terms which he had in mind.

Matsuoka characterized as "ridiculous" any fears which were expressed in the United States over interference with supplies of rubber and tin, as these commodities were obviously for consumption in the only market that was large enough to absorb them; namely, the United States. It would be folly, he said, to interfere with the export of these commodities to the United States.

He expressed the opinion that it was to the Soviet Union's interest to encourage war between Japan and the United States, and he said that he was well aware of the harm to Japan which would follow from any such conflict.

Foreign Relations of the United States. Japan Vol. II