44 Note of Meeting between Lord Halifax, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the Dominion High Commissioners
Extract [LONDON], 31 July 1940
11 FAR EAST Lord Halifax then discussed the position which had arisen in the Far East. His view was that the Japanese were definitely out to make trouble, but although they were likely to pursue a policy of pinpricks it was considered unlikely that they were ready to embark on a total war with us. He explained that, subject to the approval of the authorities concerned, he was in favour of our arresting a dozen prominent Japanese in this country; he had asked his Department to keep in touch with the Dominions Office about this, but Mr. Bruce expressed the personal opinion that if the matter were urgent it was not essential to consult the Commonwealth Government before action was taken.
Mr. Bruce explained his views as regards a general settlement in the Far East which it would be in Japan's interest to keep. Lord Halifax said that this point had been fully in the minds of the War Cabinet and he thought that it had been specifically covered in a recent telegram to Washington. He was, however, sceptical of the prospects of reaching a general settlement. As regards Japan the army appeared to have taken the bit between their teeth and were unlikely to listen to reason: as regards the United States their attitude could be summed up in the phrase 'The American Fleet is in the Pacific, but their mind is in the Atlantic'. In fact, one of the most remarkable developments recently had been the change in American interest from the East to the West and this had not altogether been to our disadvantage.
Lord Halifax explained that there were two alternatives which we could adopt:-
(1) a policy of' appeasement';
(2) a policy of standing up to Japan while she was still heavily engaged in China.
Mr. Bruce agreed that while the Commonwealth Government had previously largely been in favour of (1) it was probable that in view of recent developments they would support (2).
Lord Halifax also intimated that in his view it would be desirable that the British garrisons at present in China should now be withdrawn; this would involve some loss of prestige to us, but would be preferable to their being forced to surrender in the event of hostilities with Japan.