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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

65 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

page 72

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

20 November 1941

Circular telegram. Japan.

Mr Hull sent for His Majesty's Minister on 18 November to inform him of the position of the conversations with the Japanese. The following is the text of a telegram from Sir R. Campbell reporting Mr Hull's remarks, which the latter asked should be treated with a special degree of secrecy and given the most limited circulation:

‘After recapitulating the history of these conversations, their interruption by Japanese action in Indo-China, their resumption with Konoye's message to the President, and re-emphasising their exploratory character and the United States Government's stand on basic principles, he said Mr Kurusu1 had expressed great anxiety to avert a clash of arms, but had said opinion in Japan was such that an explosion might occur if agreement between the two Governments could not be reached. Mr Hull had, in turn, stated the anxiety of the United States Government to avoid war, but had laid stress on principles which the United States Government could not abandon. In the first place, there could be no hitch-up between peaceful settlement between the United States and Japan and the Axis. If Japan had any different ideas on this point he could tell them that they would not get six inches in a thousand years with the United States Government, who would not have anything to do with the greatest butcher in history. In the second place, Japan must withdraw her troops from China. The United States could not find a basis for negotiation of a general settlement unless this was done. Kurusu said that Japanese opinion was such that the Government could not do this, at any rate at once, and Japan would have to have some troops in China. The Secretary of State said in that case no agreement could be reached on this point.

‘2. Mr Hull said Mr Kurusu had been “in a great state” over the breakdown on all these three points and had asked whether there was not some way round the difficulty. Could not some means be found of giving the Japanese Government time to educate public opinion away from its present state of mind towards one in which a basis of negotiation with the United States would be possible? For instance, if the Japanese were now to withdraw their troops from Indo-China, could the United States Government and other countries concerned ease their economic pressure to the point of sending small quantities of rice and oil, far below the full requirements of Japan,

1 Mr S. Kurusu, Japanese Minister in Washington, November-December 1941.

page 73 the Japanese guaranteeing that nothing would find its way to the Japanese forces? Mr Hull replied that he was ready to think whether this suggestion was attractive enough to warrant its being tried at least.

‘3. The Japanese were now communicating with their Government. In the meantime the Secretary of State wished His Majesty's Government to be informed of the position reached in case they desired to make any comments.

‘4. The Chinese Ambassador1 was received just after me. I saw His Excellency afterwards. He had received similar information and expressed satisfaction over the position taken by Mr Hull.’

We will telegraph further as soon as possible.

1 Dr Hu Shih, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, 1938–42.