100 Mr F. K. Officer, Charge' d'Affaires in Japan, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Dispatch S-83 (extract) TOKYO, 5 November 1941

CONFIDENTIAL

I have the honour to report that on 30th and 31st October the new Minister for Foreign Affairs received in turn the heads of the various Missions accredited to the Court of His Imperial Majesty.

As the latest in date of assumption of duty of the Charges d'Affaires, he received me last, about 6.30 p.m. on 31st.

2. Mr. Togo spoke in Japanese, which was then interpreted to me, but appeared to understand English perfectly well, so that it was not necessary for what I said to be translated back into Japanese.

I noticed also that once or twice he corrected in Japanese the English translation being made by his Secretary. I had been warned that he was somewhat taciturn and stern, but in actual fact he was extremely friendly and smiling.

3. He commenced by enquiring about the health of Sir John Latham [1] and expressed regret at his illness and said that he looked forward to his return to Japan and having dealings with him. He then proceeded to express his regret that he had never been able to visit Australia and the hope that he might be able to do so at some future date. He stated as his opinion that nothing was more important for the improvement of international relations than that those in charge of international affairs should know one another's countries.

4. Mr. Togo then stated at length Japan's anxiety and wish to maintain peace in the Pacific. In reply I said that he could rest assured that His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia was no less anxious for the preservation of peace, but that they felt that the key was not in their hands, but in the hands of Japan. I said that the Japanese advance into French Indo- China had aroused the gravest apprehension in Australia and that the flow of statements in the Japanese press about Japan's southward aims maintained that apprehension. If Japan made no more further move the Government could be assured that Australia had no hostile intentions and that the stories of encirclement were all the creation of Japanese pressmen and often self-appointed authorities on international relations. However, should Japan contemplate further moves, then she must realise that there was complete unanimity between Great Britain and the Dominions and so between Great Britain and Australia, and that any threat that touched one touched the other. I read in the Japanese press frequent references to Japan's lifeline. I hoped His Excellency would appreciate that the lifeline extending from Australia through Singapore to the westward was no less vital to Australia.

5. His Excellency said that if the key was, as I had said, in Japan's hands, then we could rest assured that Japan would maintain the peace. However, after a pause he added that this was provided that Japan's adequate economic needs were met. I said that His Excellency, no doubt, knew our reasons for economic action against Japan. His Excellency, with a somewhat wry smile, assented, and added that it was quite possible that he might wish to discuss the question in greater detail at a future date. The interview closed with a few friendly words by the Minister.

6. The effect of the interview on me was to give me the same feeling of apprehension that Sir Robert Craigie [2] had after his interview on 29th October, and which I reported in my telegram No.

486. [3]

7. This afternoon I called on Mr. Nishi the new Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. As I have reported in my telegram No. 493 [4] I referred to the broadcast dealt with in your telegram No. 286. [5] Mr. Nishi clearly knew nothing of the broadcast, and was not prepared to treat it seriously; he assured me that Japanese policy would not be affected by such 'incitements'. I then referred to the tone the Japanese press were adopting-treating the discussions with the U.S.A. as a failure owing to the U.S.A.'s refusal to 'understand' the Japanese position, and appearing to accept as inevitable increasing bad relations until a climax was reached and war ensued. Mr. Nishi ascribed the tone of the press to the impatience of the public at the lack of progress of the negotiations. (I have heard it ascribed to the Government's hope of bringing pressure on the U.S.A. or the British Commonwealth to induce them to give way.) He assured me that the Government intended to persevere and hoped that a way would be found to relieve the tension. Mr. Nishi emphasized Japan's desire for peace in the Pacific, and I took the opportunity of speaking again on the lines reported in paragraph [4] above.

[matter omitted]

KEITH OFFICER

1 Minister to Japan, See Document 80, notes 1 and 3.

2 U.K. Ambassador to Japan.

3 Document 94 4 Dispatched 5 November. On file AA : A981, Japan, 185B, ii.

5 Dispatched 2 November. On file AA : A981, Far East 21. It read:

'Please advise whether you know of broadcast October 30th by German admiralty spokesman Lutzow inciting Japan to attack Australia and if so whether you have suggested disclaimer from Japanese Government.' An earlier draft of this cablegram (on the file cited in note 5) gives further details of the broadcast.

[FA : A4231, TOKYO, 1941]