411 Sir John Latham, Minister to Japan, to Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs

Dispatch S-39 TOKYO, 18 April 1941


I have the honour to report that yesterday I called upon Mr.

Chuichi Ohashi, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and discussed with him a number of subjects.

2. Treatment of Foreigners. In the first place I thanked him for the speech [1] which he recently made to the Governors of Prefectures in which he spoke of the discredit accruing to Japan when foreigners were discourteously treated, and appealed for proper treatment of foreigners by officials and private citizens.

3. As I have already reported in My S-29 [2], the French Commercial Attache [3] was very badly treated by Police at Kobe recently, and the Minister's speech was made in pursuance of a promise which he had given that he would speak strongly on the matter to Government officials.

4. Herman Solf. I explained to Mr. Ohashi that Australia held Mr.

Solf in internment only on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom, and that the Australian Government would act in accordance with any instructions received from the authorities in the United Kingdom.

5. I took the opportunity of mentioning that I had recently heard from the University of Melbourne that classes were being held in internment camps for the education of prisoners, and that the Australian Universities were about to confer in order to see whether it was possible to work out a scheme for holding examinations for interned students and giving them credit for University purposes. I said that Australia was following a course exactly opposite to which Hitler had followed in Czechoslovakia and Poland, where he had deliberately destroyed higher education.

6. Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes-Broadcast. I referred to the complaint that Mr. Hughes had made a broadcast on the 26th February last in which he had used aggressive and provocative language towards Japan. [4] I explained that Mr. Hughes had made no broadcast on the date mentioned, that he had not used the words alleged in any broadcast, and that in a broadcast in February in which he had referred to Japan, what he said was neither aggressive nor provocative. I then handed Mr. Ohashi a Note Verbale a copy of which I enclose [5] to which was attached a copy of the broadcast of the 16th February.

7. I asked that in view of these facts the Minister's complaint should be withdrawn. Mr. Ohashi said he would read the broadcast and would communicate with me upon the matter. [6]

8. Customs Restrictions. Recently the importation of some 274 classes of goods into Australia was prohibited or restricted apparently as a measure towards conserving Foreign Exchange. (No information whatever has at the date of writing been sent to the Legation in respect of this matter, and I have had to handle it as best I could upon the basis of material published in the Japanese press. Before I left Australia I was assured that special care would be taken to supply me with prompt information of any governmental action which might raise questions in Japan).

9. The material in the Japanese press showed that the action taken was of a general character and was not specifically directed against Japan. Nevertheless, as I have reported in my telegram No.

188 [7], the press complained, and alleged that, because Japan was affected, though only to a slight intent [sic], the measures taken were intended to be hostile to Japan. The press asked that Japan should take 'strong action' against Australia.

10. I told Mr. Ohashi that these statements looked like deliberate attempts to create bad feeling. I reminded him that he himself had referred, in conversation with the British Ambassador [8], to this Australian action as an example of hostility to Japan, and I said that there was not any justification whatever in this case for such an allegation. The Vice-Minister did not dispute what I said, but stated that the Government was engaged in examining the economic restrictions imposed upon Japan trade by the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada and Australia. He particularly referred to the refusal of Canada to sell wheat to Japan. I replied that he knew one reason why restrictions were imposed, namely that so many goods went through Japan to Germany, and I said further that he must recognize the position created by the war and the necessity in the case of all countries concerned of conserving their resources, 11. Mr. Ohashi asked me more than once in the course of the conversation whether I had seen any statement made in Japan that Japan intended to attack Australia. I replied that there was so much talk and propaganda about Southward expansion and exclusion of all British interests from Asia, etc. etc., that it was not a matter for surprise that there was uneasiness in countries south of Japan.

12. I have observed in the case of both Mr. Matsuoka, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Ohashi, the Vice-Minister, that they are apparently most concerned to convince me that Japan has no designs against Australia. On several occasions they have made such a statement to me. When I refer to the fact that Australia is interested in the security of the Islands near Australia and of all British possessions, it has appeared to me that a different turn has been given to the conversation.

13. As I have already said in my despatches, my view of the attitude of Japan in relation to what is called 'Southward expansion' is that Japan intends to bring about the expansion of Japanese power by gradual degrees in Indo-China, Thailand, Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies, the expansion to be quite peaceful, unless it is opposed. I am inclined to believe that there is no definite design against Australia at the present time.

If the earlier expansive steps were successfully taken, Australia could then be dealt with in due course and as required.

14. As I left the Vice-Minister, I remarked to him that Japan had made a pact with Russia. I said 'I hope you have better luck with it than Finland, or Poland, or Estonia, or Latvia, or Lithuania.

They all had pacts with Russia'. The Vice-Minister laughed unconstrainedly, and did not resent in any way the suggestion that Russia might not be entirely reliable. From various sources I have heard that Japan is not inclined to put very much trust in the agreement with Russia, and that it is doubtful whether even a single soldier will be removed from Manchukuo as a result of the pact.


1 Latham here referred Stewart to the eighth paragraph of his dispatch S-40 of 22 April. See file AA: A816, 19/304/313.

2 Dispatched 19 March. See FA: A4231, Tokyo, 1941, dispatch S-29.

3 Count de Tascher.

4 See Document 333.

5 Not printed. See file AA; A981, Japan 101, iii.

6 F. K. Officer, Counsellor at the Legation in Tokyo, discussed Hughes's broadcast at tbe Japanese Foreign Office on 20 June when it was agreed that the incident should be regarded as closed. See Officer's dispatch D86 of 21 June on file AA: A981, Japan 101, iii.

7 Dispatched 15 April. On file AA: A981, Trade 68, iv.

8 Sir Robert Craigie.

[AA: A981, JAPAN 101, iii]