301 Sir John Latham, Minister to Japan, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 87 TOKYO, 15 February 1941, 1.30 p.m.

MOST SECRET

Repeated to Washington 15, London 16.

I saw Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs [1] to correct the statement reported in my telegram No. 84. [2] He deplored messages sent by British and United States Ambassadors [3] which he said were alarmist and quite unfounded. Said Japan would not enter war unless attacked or United States came in. Denied vigorously that Japan would allow herself to be used by Germany to help some German movement in the war. When I said that army might create incident as on former occasions and force hand of civil government he said 'Have we not adequate war[?]' (i.e. China). He was not challenging in manner but conciliatory and I believe sincerely apprehensive of further involvement of Japan in war.

My telegram 86. [4] I realize from your telegram 58 [5] that there were good local reasons for Acting Prime Minister's public statement re gravity of position of the East but effect here is to increase feeling of apprehension on all sides. See last sentence my telegram 76. [6]

LATHAM

1 Chuichi Ohashi.

2 Dispatched 14 February. It described Japanese press reports which claimed that the majority of Australians were opposed to war with Japan and that there had been vigorous protests in Australia at the 'draft' of soldiers to aid the United Kingdom. See file AA:A981, Japan 101, iii.

3 Sir Robert Craigie and J. C. Grew. Ohashi was apparently referring in particular to the Ambassadors' instructions to their Embassy staffs to be prepared to leave Japan at short notice. See Latham's dispatch S-19 of 13 February in series FA:A4231, Tokyo, 1941.

4 Dispatched 15 February. It read: 'Press last night and this morning give great prominence to reports from Sydney of special meeting of War Cabinet and that Acting Prime Minister (A. W.

Fadden] termed situation in Far East as one of utmost gravity.' See file AA:A981, Japan 185B, i.

5 This was a repeat to Latham of cablegram 361 to Casey quoted in Document 296, note 5.

6 Dispatched 11 February. The paragraph read: 'British Embassy regards situation so seriously that staff have been instructed to be ready for emergency. I have not issued such instructions.' See file AA:A981, Japan 185B, i.

On 22 February Latham reported that Yosuke Matsuoka, Japanese Foreign Minister, had told Craigie that reports of troop movements and defence preparations in Australia and elsewhere had resulted in pressure from the Japanese Army and Navy to send more troops south. See cablegram 95 on file AA:A981, Japan 185B, i.

[AA:A981, JAPAN 101, iii]