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

Cablegram 310 TOKYO, 23 June 1941, 8.50 p.m.


Repeated to London No. 45.

I have seen Foreign Office telegram No. 728 to Tokyo. [1]

Estimates of Japan's supplies are no doubt correct and provide a strong case economically for the stoppage of all supplies to Japan. But politically the fact remains that the Japanese people are short of rice, wheat and cooking oil, and that it would be easy to work up popular indignation against us on the ground that while we have plenty we are denying them supplies. As the Netherlands East Indies and United States are allowing supplies of oil and wheat it is against us that indignation would be concentrated. So long as supplies are being obtained elsewhere, our prohibitions can do no more than change the source of supplies.

I assume that we do not desire such popular movement and risk an attack on us at present.

I therefore repeat my view in my telegram No. 285 [2] that subject to the final sentence of this telegram we allow small supplies to come to Japan explaining that we can only grant licences for shipments from time to time because we have to conserve our own and United Kingdom supplies. I would represent this as a favour to Japan in view of their temporary shortages.

Exports to Germany are not now possible through Siberia. I suggest we take advantage of the uncertain international position to delay decision for a time.

1 Dispatched 18 June. See PRO: FO 371/27896. It transmitted the U.K. Govt's view that food shortages in Japan were a consequence of Japanese economic and military policy rather than of trade restrictions imposed by the British Empire.

2 Dispatched 11 June. On file AA: A981, Trade 68, iv.

[AA: A981, FAR EAST 20B, i]