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

Dispatch S-75 [1] (extracts) TOKYO, 19 September 1941

CONFIDENTIAL

I have the honour to report that, as I have advised you in my telegram No. 442 [2], on 17th instant I had an interview with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Admiral Toyoda, lasting for about an hour.

2. I spoke to him on the subject of the propaganda with respect to the encirclement of Japan by 'the A.B.C.D. powers' [3], which has become such a prominent feature of Japanese publicity in recent weeks. I said to him that the whole idea of the encirclement of Japan was unfounded, that the assertion that the four powers, America, Great Britain, China and Holland were combining to encircle Japan was not based upon any facts, and that it represented merely the introduction into Japan of the German idea that the existence of any neighbour constituted an element in a hostile circle. I said that such a view would make it impossible for humanity ever to live in peace. Neither Australia nor Great Britain had any idea of encircling Japan, though we were certainly determined to defend our interests, wherever those interests existed. I added that, as far as Australia was concerned, we would be only too glad if it became possible to reestablish normal conditions, so that Japan and Australia could trade together for mutual benefit.

3. The Minister said that Japan had not the slightest intention of attacking Australia and he asked why Australia did not, therefore, now trade in the ordinary way with Japan. I replied that the cessation of trade (the freezing of assets) was directly due to the Japanese advance into Indo-China. I said that that advance was regarded by us as unprovoked aggression against a poor, helpless country. The arguments by which Japan sought to defend it were quite unconvincing; the Japanese attack upon China did not require the occupation of the southern part of Indo-China, and the assertion that the occupation of Indo-China was necessary to protect that country against a threatened attack by Great Britain was really absurd upon the face of it. Not only was there no evidence whatever that Great Britain intended to attack Indo- China, but, on the contrary, there was every reason why Great Britain should at the present time not desire any extension of belligerent operations.

The Minister said that he was aware that it was being stated that the occupation of Indo-China was a preliminary to some further advance by Japan and he said that he gave me an express assurance that this was not the case.

I reminded him of the former Vice Foreign Minister's [4] statement to Sir Robert Craigie, the British Ambassador, on 5th July last, that Japan had no intention of demanding bases in Indo-China.

Before the end of July, Japan was actually in occupation of such bases. I said that Sir Robert Craigie had informed me of this statement, which was most explicit and, to use mild language, it was very disappointing to find that it was falsified by the deliberate action of the Government of Japan.

[matter omitted]

5. The Minister then discussed questions of general policy. He spoke with great feeling of the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. [5] I replied that it had in recent years become the practice in Japan to resent the abrogation of the Alliance, but that at the time of the Washington Conference opinion in Japan was divided, and I promised to produce evidence to the Minister that this was the case. (I will do this later upon a suitable occasion.

I propose to use the attached quotation from 'These Eventful Years'.) [6]

I said to the Minister that the outlook for the relations between China and Japan was very bad indeed if Japan insisted on pursuing the project of conquering China. Japan was creating intense bitterness in China, which would be permanent unless some agreed solution of the difficulties existing between Japan and China was reached. The Minister denied that Japan was trying to conquer China, but did not give any clear reply to my enquiry why, if that were the case, the Japanese armies were in China at all.

6. When I last saw the Minister, he said that he was very concerned to see the hostility displayed in Australia towards the Japanese policy of a co-prosperity sphere in Greater East Asia, saying that Australia had nothing to fear from this policy. I then told him that many Japanese speakers and writers referred to Australia as included within the intended 'sphere', urging that countries which did not voluntarily join the 'sphere' should be compelled to join. I said that such propaganda was clearly hostile to Australia. The Minister replied that no responsible people said things like that.

[matter omitted]

J. G. LATHAM

1 Latham also sent copies of this dispatch to the Minister to the United States and the High Commissioners in the United Kingdom and Canada.

2 Not found.

3 See Document 44, note 9.

4 Chuichi Ohashi.

5 The Agreement between the United Kingdom and Japan relative to China and Korea signed in London on 30 January 1902 and subsequently revised in 1905 and 1911. At the Washington Conference of 1921-22 it was replaced by a Four Power Treaty signed on 10 December 1921 by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

6 In FA:A4231, Tokyo, 1941, Dispatch S-75, Annex A.

[FA:A4231, TOKYO, 1941]