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52 Mr Longfield Lloyd, Trade Commissioner in Japan, to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Memorandum 395 TOKYO, 14 June 1937



I have regularly forwarded by each mail, without comment, a series of local Press cuttings setting forth or otherwise discussing, a proposal purporting to have been made, in. London, by the Right Honourable J. A. Lyons, C.H., P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia.

These cuttings showed something of the reaction in Japan so far as it could be noted from the Press in these early stages; but as Japan does not usually react with certainty at an outset, it is yet too early to make any definite report in that respect.

I take opportunity however to send this Memorandum to cover one or two additional items, including note of an informal approach made to me by an American official in Japan.

This official, a member of the United States Embassy in Tokyo [1], who is known to me, called in order to enquire what reactions I had heard or experienced since the first publication of this matter. I replied that no person, Japanese or otherwise had up to then said anything to me about it, which was really the case at the time, though I have since heard of some reactions which I later mention.

My American visitor after some few preliminary hypotheses based upon the Press articles and having heard from me that I had no other source of information myself, discussed a view which seems to have been the general one arrived at from the local Press announcements. That is, he imagined (and presumably his Embassy generally) that Mr Lyons, doubtless with the knowledge even encouragement of the United Kingdom Government and possibly also of the United States Government, propounded a plan which could be regarded as a pleasant gesture to Japan who stood to benefit by it to a marked extent in that it could give pause to armament and presumably simultaneously facilitate acquisition by a Pacific 'have not'-by approved friendly means-of certain materials fairly essential to the point of general well-being.

My caller seemed to consider that the Japanese showed too untoward a hesitancy-engendered though it be by the traditional suspicion of all foreign proposals-and were unwise not to make some show of jumping at the chance, thus demonstrating in a spontaneous way an alignment with the peaceful objective (which they always aver themselves) by which such proposals would have been inspired.

He seemed to feel too-a possible conclusion in the Pacific situation of the day-that Japanese failure to join in with Powers which could, in the ultimate, control the situation, could imply Japanese reluctance to modify the much heralded present expansion programme (e.g. 'Southward Expansion Movement'); a programme which if pursued could well result in British and United States increased preponderancy of establishment in the Pacific with a consequent check to any untoward phases of the said 'Southward' enterprise.

That is the 'appreciation of the situation' by the observer on the spot and is nothing new of itself However I think that I should confidentially mention the foregoing for although some of the Press reports imply that the United States Government is dubious about the Prime Minister's reported proposal (and that even Whitehall affects doubt) it is one which has obviously interested U.S. Representatives in the Orient and they may tend to judge the sincerity or otherwise of Japan's oft-repeated but not particularly well and/or tactfully demonstrated desire for peace, by the ultimate measure of her reaction to a proposal which whether correctly reported or otherwise, is a formula, and one which does not have any appearance of other than material consideration for Japan.

Japanese officials themselves are very reticent about the matter;

and the inherent nervousness amongst the Japanese generally in international affairs has precluded any utterances by men who even in their everyday lives are accustomed to examine all doors and speak with painful trepidation upon much smaller issues than that now referred to. Death stalks the indiscreet or even supposedly indiscreet Japanese.

Ultimate negotiation, should it reach that stage, would hardly be but several months distant, and although I should here (by first safe-hand opportunity) touch upon the matter because it is a 'live' Press subject, I have no special information from any official source other than that already available to the Prime Minister, both at London and Canberra-that is the British Embassy cable already sent to both points recording the present lukewarm Japanese reaction; and a reference thereto in the regularly transmitted Embassy 'Diary'.

I now refer to some indirect but usually reliable reactions which I have otherwise obtained, and which, in passing, I have also mentioned to H. B. M. Embassy. These are:

(1) The Japanese War Office (by which term the Army is meant) seems to be favourably inclined towards the Prime Minister's plan;

(2) The Japanese Navy Office is hesitant and if anything dubious.

In the normal course of events in Japan, it is usually the Army which takes an uncompromising view, and the Navy a more liberal one. This is supposed to be-probably is-due in most instances to the more travelled and experienced outlook of the Navy as compared with the Army, but in the present instance the Navy doubtless regards itself as the very spearhead of the 'Southward Expansion Movement' which is unquestionably an emphatic feature of Japan's present Pacific policy.

In Australia, it is not perhaps easy to reason why, if pleasant and friendly solutions are proffered in any cases of such Japanese need as may invite consideration, such formulae are not at once appreciated by Japan in the spirit in which they are conceived, but it may throw some light upon the inherent Japanese outlook if it is just mentioned that 'Shinto' has been analytically defined as being practically indivisible from the State and the undercurrent of belief in force; one succinct view is:

'Conquest is the basis of Shinto as a political force and an engine of State.' Whilst the principal religion of Japan is Buddhism, Shinto is the National and united cult and is the very basis of the outlook of Japan and its people. This background can never advisably be left unconsidered.

[The remainder of this dispatch dealt with Japanese activities in Portuguese Timor, duplicating information already in Documents 18 and 49.]


1 Probably George D. Andrews, Second Secretary at U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, who sent a report of his conversation with Longfield Lloyd to Washington. See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1937, vol. III (Washington, 1954), p. 980.

[AA : A981, PACIFIC 23]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History