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70 Sir John Latham, Minister to Japan, to Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs

Dispatch S-75 [1] (extracts) TOKYO, 19 September 1941


I have the honour to report that, as I have advised you in my
telegram No. 442 [2], on 17th instant I had an interview with the
Minister for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Admiral Toyoda,
lasting for about an hour.

2. I spoke to him on the subject of the propaganda with respect to
the encirclement of Japan by 'the A.B.C.D. powers' [3], which has
become such a prominent feature of Japanese publicity in recent
weeks. I said to him that the whole idea of the encirclement of
Japan was unfounded, that the assertion that the four powers,
America, Great Britain, China and Holland were combining to
encircle Japan was not based upon any facts, and that it
represented merely the introduction into Japan of the German idea
that the existence of any neighbour constituted an element in a
hostile circle. I said that such a view would make it impossible
for humanity ever to live in peace. Neither Australia nor Great
Britain had any idea of encircling Japan, though we were certainly
determined to defend our interests, wherever those interests
existed. I added that, as far as Australia was concerned, we would
be only too glad if it became possible to reestablish normal
conditions, so that Japan and Australia could trade together for
mutual benefit.

3. The Minister said that Japan had not the slightest intention of
attacking Australia and he asked why Australia did not, therefore,
now trade in the ordinary way with Japan. I replied that the
cessation of trade (the freezing of assets) was directly due to
the Japanese advance into Indo-China. I said that that advance was
regarded by us as unprovoked aggression against a poor, helpless
country. The arguments by which Japan sought to defend it were
quite unconvincing; the Japanese attack upon China did not require
the occupation of the southern part of Indo-China, and the
assertion that the occupation of Indo-China was necessary to
protect that country against a threatened attack by Great Britain
was really absurd upon the face of it. Not only was there no
evidence whatever that Great Britain intended to attack Indo-
China, but, on the contrary, there was every reason why Great
Britain should at the present time not desire any extension of
belligerent operations.

The Minister said that he was aware that it was being stated that
the occupation of Indo-China was a preliminary to some further
advance by Japan and he said that he gave me an express assurance
that this was not the case.

I reminded him of the former Vice Foreign Minister's [4] statement
to Sir Robert Craigie, the British Ambassador, on 5th July last,
that Japan had no intention of demanding bases in Indo-China.

Before the end of July, Japan was actually in occupation of such
bases. I said that Sir Robert Craigie had informed me of this
statement, which was most explicit and, to use mild language, it
was very disappointing to find that it was falsified by the
deliberate action of the Government of Japan.

[matter omitted]

5. The Minister then discussed questions of general policy. He
spoke with great feeling of the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese
Alliance. [5] I replied that it had in recent years become the
practice in Japan to resent the abrogation of the Alliance, but
that at the time of the Washington Conference opinion in Japan was
divided, and I promised to produce evidence to the Minister that
this was the case. (I will do this later upon a suitable occasion.

I propose to use the attached quotation from 'These Eventful
Years'.) [6]

I said to the Minister that the outlook for the relations between
China and Japan was very bad indeed if Japan insisted on pursuing
the project of conquering China. Japan was creating intense
bitterness in China, which would be permanent unless some agreed
solution of the difficulties existing between Japan and China was
reached. The Minister denied that Japan was trying to conquer
China, but did not give any clear reply to my enquiry why, if that
were the case, the Japanese armies were in China at all.

6. When I last saw the Minister, he said that he was very
concerned to see the hostility displayed in Australia towards the
Japanese policy of a co-prosperity sphere in Greater East Asia,
saying that Australia had nothing to fear from this policy. I then
told him that many Japanese speakers and writers referred to
Australia as included within the intended 'sphere', urging that
countries which did not voluntarily join the 'sphere' should be
compelled to join. I said that such propaganda was clearly hostile
to Australia. The Minister replied that no responsible people said
things like that.

[matter omitted]


1 Latham also sent copies of this dispatch to the Minister to the
United States and the High Commissioners in the United Kingdom and

2 Not found.

3 See Document 44, note 9.

4 Chuichi Ohashi.

5 The Agreement between the United Kingdom and Japan relative to
China and Korea signed in London on 30 January 1902 and
subsequently revised in 1905 and 1911. At the Washington
Conference of 1921-22 it was replaced by a Four Power Treaty
signed on 10 December 1921 by the United States, the United
Kingdom, France and Japan.

6 In FA:A4231, Tokyo, 1941, Dispatch S-75, Annex A.

[FA:A4231, TOKYO, 1941]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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