U.S. Message to Japan on Pacific Relations

(October 2, 1941)


(Released to the press on December 15, 1941, as item 10 of the Annexes of the President's message to Congress on Pacific relations.)

"Reference is made to the proposals of the Japanese Government communicated on September 6, 1941, by the Japanese Ambassador to the Secretary of State, and to statements relating thereto subsequently communicated to this Government by the Japanese Government.

Thoughtful study has been given to the communications to which reference is made, and in connection with that study careful review has been made of other communications previously received from the Japanese Government on the same subject. On the basis of this study observations are offered as follows:

The Government of the United States welcomed, as affording a possible opportunity for furthering the broad-gauge objectives and principles of a program of peace, the Japanese Government's suggestions made through its Ambassador here in the early part of August that there be held a meeting of the responsible heads of the Japanese Government and of the Government of the United States to discuss means for bringing about an adjustment of relations between the United States and Japan and that there be resumed the informal conversations which had been in progress between the two countries to ascertain whether there existed a basis for negotiations relative to a peaceful settlement covering the entire Pacific situation.

Accordingly, in the reply made by the President on August 17, 1941, to the Japanese Ambassador the view was expressed that such informal conversations would naturally envisage the working out of a progressive program attainable by peaceful means; that such a program would involve the application in the entire Pacific area of the principle of equality of commercial opportunity and treatment, thus making possible access by all countries to raw materials and to all other essential commodities, and there were described the advantages which would flow to all countries, including Japan, from the adoption of such a program. In conclusion, it was stated that if the Japanese Government were in position to embark upon a peaceful program for the Pacific along the lines of the program and principles to which the United States is committed, this Government would be prepared to consider resumption of the informal exploratory discussions and would be glad to endeavor to arrange a suitable time and place to exchange views.

In the light of the broad purposes and fundamental principles which this Government holds, it was gratifying to the President and the Government of the United States to receive the message of the Prime Minister and the statement of the Government of Japan on August 28,1941, containing statements expressing Japan's desire and intent to pursue courses of peace in harmony with the fundamental principles to which the people and Government of the United States are committed. In its statement the Japanese Government gave, with some qualifications, broad assurances of its peaceful intent, including a comprehensive assurance that the Japanese Government has no intention of using without provocation military force against any neighboring nation. The Japanese Government declared that it supported the program and principles which had been briefly outlined by the President not only as applicable to the Pacific area but also as a program for the entire world.

The Government of the United States, while desiring to proceed as rapidly as possible with consideration of arrangements for a meeting between the heads of state, felt it desirable, in order to assure that that meeting would accomplish the objectives in view, to clarify the interpretation of certain principles and the practical application thereof to concrete problems in the Pacific area. It has not been the purpose of this Government to enter into a discussion of details; this Government has felt, however, that the clarification sought would afford a means of expediting our effort to arrive at a meeting of minds.

On September 3, 1941, the President in giving reply to the Japanese Ambassador expressed the earnest desire of the Government of the United States to collaborate in efforts to make effective in practice the principles to which the Japanese Government made reference. The President reiterated the four principles regarded by this Government as the foundation upon which relations between nations should properly rest. Those principles are:

1. Respect for the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of each and all nations.

2. Support of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

3. Support of the principle of equality, including equality of commercial opportunity.

4. Non-disturbance of the status quo in the Pacific except as the status quo may be altered by peaceful means.

The President pointed out that in order to bring about any satisfactory settlement of Pacific questions it was highly important to reach a community of view and a clear agreement upon certain points with respect to which fundamental differences of opinion between our two Governments had developed in the informal conversations; and the President requested an indication of the present attitude of the Japanese Government with regard to those fundamental questions.

On September 6, the Prime Minister of Japan in a conversation with the American Ambassador at Tokyo stated that he subscribed fully to the four principles above mentioned.

The foregoing developments and assurances, together with other statements made by the Japanese Government, seemed to justify this Government in concluding that the Japanese Government might be expected to adhere to and to give practical application to a broad progressive program covering the entire Pacific area. It was therefore a source of disappointment to the Government of the United States that the proposals of the Japanese Government presented by the Japanese Ambassador on September 6, 1941, which the Japanese Government apparently intended should constitute a concrete basis for discussions, appeared to disclose divergence in the concepts of the two Governments. That is to say, those proposals and the subsequent explanatory statements made in regard thereto serve, in the opinion of this Government, to narrow and restrict not only the application of the principles upon which our informal conversations already referred to had been based but also the various assurances given by the Japanese Government of its desire to move along with the United States in putting into operation a broad program looking to the establishment and maintenance of peace and stability in the entire Pacific area.

As has already been said, the various broad assurances given by the Japanese Premier and the Japanese Government are highly gratifying. In putting forward its attitude of peaceful intent toward other nations, the Japanese Government qualified its assurances with certain phrases the need for which is not easily understood. It is difficult to conceive of there developing under present circumstances in any of the territories neighboring French Indo-China, in Thailand or in the Soviet Union any aggressive threat or provocation to Japan. The inalienable right of self-defence is of course well recognized by all nations and there could arise in some minds a question as to just what the Japanese Government has in view in circumscribing its assurances of peaceful intent with what would seem to be unnecessary qualifying phrases.

In the informal conversations there was tentatively arrived at a formula in regard to economic policy (Section V of the draft understanding), which provided that Japanese activity and American activity in the Pacific area shall be carried on by peaceful means and in conformity with the principle of non-discrimination in international commercial relations. In the Japanese Government's proposals of September 6 and in subsequent communications from the Japanese Government the commitments contained in that formula were restricted to the countries of the Southwest Pacific area (not the Pacific area as a whole). In reference to China, the Japanese Government states that it will respect the principle of non-discrimination, but the explanation given in regard to this point would seem to be open to the implication that the Japanese Government has in mind some limitation upon the application of this principle occasioned by reasons of Japan's geographical propinquity to China.

Obviously, it would not be likely to serve the purposes affirmed by the Japanese Government or by this Government if either the United States or Japan were to pursue one course or policy in certain areas while at the same time pursuing an opposite course or policy in other areas.

This Government has noted the views of the Japanese Government in support of its desire to station troops for an indeterminate period in certain areas of China. Entirely apart from the question of the reasons for such a proposal, the inclusion of such a provision in the proposed terms of a peaceful settlement between Japan and China at a time when Japan is in military occupation of large areas in China is open to certain objections. For example, when a country in military occupation of territory of another country proposes to the second country the continued stationing of troops of the first country in certain areas as a condition for a peaceful settlement and thus for the withdrawal of the occupationary forces from other areas, such procedure would seem to be out of keeping with the progressive and enlightened courses and principles which were discussed in the informal conversations and thus would not, in the opinion of this Government, make for peace or offer prospects of stability.

It is believed that a clear-cut manifestation of Japan's intention in regard to the withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and French Indochina would be most helpful in making known--in particular to those who might be inclined to be critical--Japan's peaceful intentions and Japan's desire to follow courses calculated to establish a sound basis for future stability and progress in the Pacific area.

With reference to the attitude of each country toward the European war, this Government has noted with appreciation the further step taken by the Japanese Government to meet the difficulties inherent in this aspect of the relations between the two countries. It is believed that it would be helpful if the Japanese Government could give further study to the question of possible additional clarification of its position.

In the exchanges of views which have taken place between the two Governments in an effort to reach an agreement in principle upon fundamental questions in order to prepare the ground for the proposed meeting of the responsible chiefs of government, this Government has endeavored to make clear that what it envisages is a comprehensive program calling for the application uniformly to the entire Pacific area of liberal and progressive principles. From what the Japanese Government has so far indicated in regard to its purposes this Government derives the impression that the Japanese Government has in mind a program which would be circumscribed by the imposition of qualifications and exceptions to the actual application of those principles.

If this impression is correct, can the Japanese Government feel that a meeting between the responsible heads of government under such circumstances would be likely to contribute to the advancement of the high purposes which we have mutually had in mind?

As already stated, this Government welcomed the assurances contained in the statement of the Japanese Government which accompanied the Japanese Prime Minister's message to the President of the United States that the Japanese Government subscribed to the principles which have long been advocated by this Government as the only sound basis for stable international relations. This Government believes that renewed consideration of these fundamental principles may be helpful in our effort to seek a meeting of minds in regard to the essential questions on which we seek agreement and thus lay a firm foundation for a meeting between the responsible heads of the two Governments. The subject of the meeting proposed by the Prime Minister and the objectives sought have engaged, and continue to engage, the close and active interest of the President of the United States, and it is the President's earnest hope that discussion of the fundamental questions may be so developed that such a meeting can be held. It is also the President's hope that the Japanese Government shares the conviction of this Government that, if the Governments of Japan and of the United States are resolved to give those principles practical and comprehensive application, the two Governments can work out a fundamental rehabilitation of the relations between the United States and Japan and contribute to the bringing about of a lasting peace with justice, equity and order in the whole Pacific area.


Source: Department of State Bulletin, December 20, 1941; ibiblio