The Holocaust Historiography Project

Copy of document 3733-PS

   Minutes of an interview field on 19 August 1941 between
            Vice-Minister Amau and Ambassador Ott

On the 19th August the German Ambassador Ott called upon the
Vice-Minister and, after an exchange of courtesies and after a
presentation of the war situation in Europe, advanced the idea (1) that
it would be to the advantage of Japan also if at this time she attacked
Russia from the east, and (2) stating that intelligence had been
received to the effect that America was going to provide oil to
V1adivostok by means of transport vessels, that the first of these ships
had already sailed, and that after that they would sail in rapid
succession, he remarked that this oil would doubtless be used for an
attack upon Japan too, and this would have a very important bearing upon
Japan. Thus, he tried to find out what Japan's attitude was regarding
these matters. (3) He also tried to sound out Japan's attitude on the
problem of American vessels stopping at Japanese ports (the problem of
the President Coolidge). And (4) referring to Japan's attitude toward
Thailand, he asked whether Japan was planning merely for the economic
development of that country or whether she was think-

                                                              [Page 546]

ing of a political or military penetration. He asked various questions
in order to obtain intelligence of this kind.

To this the Vice-Minister replied: "For Japan to do a thing like
attacking Russia would be a very serious question and would require
profound reflection. As for the problem of American oil we are giving
the matter very careful attention. And while we do not consider such a
matter as American vessels stopping at our ports to be of such
importance as to cause the world to get excited, we have not yet had
time to investigate the facts in the case. (At this point Ambassador Ott
interjected the remark that at the interview with the news reporters
held today at the Information Bureau there were many questions and
answers relating to the matter.) Then with regard to Thailand, Great
Britain, in view of the fact that Thailand [?bears such a close relation
?] to the defense of the importance to that country British Empire,
attaches very great and Japan's attitude will therefore have to be
decided by giving consideration also to the attitude of England and
America."

In the course of the above interchange of questions and answers
Ambassador Ott stated that the Russo-German war was at present making
progress in the southern sectors, that southern Russia would soon fall
into the hands of Germany, that Moscow would fall perhaps during the
first part of September, but in that case whether or not the Stalin
regime would fall or not could not be affirmed.

                         ----------

Gist of a Consultation held between the German Ambassador Ott and
           Vice-Minister Amau on 29th August, 1941

At 6 p.m. on 29th August Ambassador Ott called and had the following
interview with Vice-Minister Amau:

The Ambassador:

According to a communique issued by the Japanese government this
afternoon, Ambassador Nomura handed a message from Premier Konoye to
President Roosevelt. Is that correct? In fact, I had requested an
interview with the Foreign Minister about this problem, but I have now
come to you because I consider it my duty to get a detailed explanation
on the question as to whether there would be any objection for us to
understand that today's message does not depart from the policy which
was determined at a conference held in the Imperial presence on 2nd
July, at which time confidential information relating to the policy of
the Japanese government in regard to the Axis was given to us, as well
as on the question as to whether the present Cabinet is contemplating
any change with regard to this point.

                                                              [Page 547]

The Vice-Minister:

I regret that the Foreign Minister could not see you because a previous
engagement, but I will reply to your questions to the limit of my
knowledge. It is true that Ambassador Nomura conveyed a message from
Premier Konoye to President Roosevelt. But that does not mean that there
has been a change in Japan's policy nor that we are contemplating any
change in our relations with the Axis. As you know, when Matsuoka was
Foreign Minister, negotiations were carried on between Japan and America
with regard to various problems, and at that.time we sent confidential
reports regarding the negotiations to your country. However, because of
the Japanese Army's advance into French Indo-China a temporary rupture
in these negotiations took place. And meanwhile in China, as well as in
Japan and America, various questions arose between Japan and America,
causing Japanese-American relations, contrary to our wishes, to become
strained, so that in fact communications between Japan and America have
at present come to a standstill, and the situation is such that even
economic relations have been broken off. It is natural that no country
would desire such a situation to persist for any length of time. It
seems that America too desires a break in the deadlock, and the same
thing is true of Japan. I understand that the reason for sending the
message was to clarify the atmosphere in the Pacific.

The Ambassador:

Although I am aware that negotiations had previously been carried on
between Japan and America, that these negotiations had been
discontinued, and that since then various incidents have come up, do the
proposed negotiations between Japan and America involve only matters
that have fallen into abeyance, or do they concern entirely new
problems?

The Vice-Minister:

As I have just said, the idea back of the message which was sent from
Premier Konoye to President Roosevelt was merely an attempt to start
conversations between the two parties. It was not concerned with any
concrete problem such as to what questions would be talked about.
Furthermore we have not yet received any reply to the message from the
President.

The Ambassador:

Have you received any notification from the American authorities that
they are prepared to consent to negotiations?

The Vice-Minister:

We have not received any such particular notification from the American
authorities, but as I have just said, we have received the impression
that the American authorities are prepared to enter into negotiations in
order to break the deadlock.

The Ambassador:

As usual, America will try to gain time by beginning negotiations with
Japan, and meanwhile will put forth still greater efforts to carry out
her objectives. Therefore, I think that precautions must be taken
against America's scheme to prolong these negotiations, so that this
might work to her advantage.

                                                              [Page 548]

The Vice-minister:

We have given those points full consideration. And we have also given
the matter careful thought so that the carrying on of negotiations by
Japan with America might not have any disadvantageous consequences upon
German\ and Italy. As you are aware from the Imperial edict and other
proclamations issued by government authorities at the time, the original
purpose of the Tripartite Alliance was the quelling of disturbances and
the restoration of peace. So even if we begin negotiations between Japan
and America, the objective will always be to maintain peace, and
therefore this will not conflict wit~ the spirit of Axis diplomacy.

Moreover, if next I may express my own personal opinions, our aim at the
time when Matsuoka was Foreign Minister was to keep America from
participating in the war, and for this reason we took a firm attitude
toward America. In order to prevent her from joining in the war, we
considered it necessary to get her to reflect upon her attitude, and,
judging from the situation at the time, it was no mistake at all for its
to think that it was quite proper for us to take a firm attitude toward
her. Nevertheless the results proved to be just the opposite, and we can
not deny that American public opinion has grown stronger and stronger,
speeding up American preparations for war. Meanwhile Germany took a very
mild attitude toward America. That is, America in all kinds of ways gave
aid to England, instituted a system of convoy, and invaded Iceland, on
the other hand freezing German funds in America and even closing German
Consulates, while Germany took a very gentle attitude. Even at present
Japan's policy of preventing America from participating ill the war
remains unchanged, and our aim is to keep her from joining in the war.
Even now there is no change whatever ill that objective. However it will
be necessary for us to consider a policy that is adequate for the
attainment of said objective, depending upon the time and occasion. In
the present situation, America being a country, of wide expanse and
plentiful raw materials, we might possibly think it preferable, just at
this time when the hostile feeling of the people toward the situation is
on the point of becoming violent, to appease them and bring about a
domestic disintegration, rather than to excite and unify them.

The Ambassador:

Negotiations between Japan and  America may prove to be quite
troublesome. For instance, when we think of the China problem, since the
sending of aid to Chiang Kai-shek is one of the fundamental policies of
America, she will not readily give this up. And I think that it may be
very difficult to come to all agreement with regard to various other
problems. At any rate, since the contents of this message is considered
to be of tremendously great importance to Germany also, even though I
have not received any instructions from my government, would it not be
possible for me to receive a secret report of its contents since will
have to .,end a report about it to the government?

                                                              [Page 549]

The Vice-Minister:

As I have just said, the message conveys a statement from premier Konoye
to the American President, and we have not received a reply from the
President as yet, but I will convey the substance of your desire to the
Foreign Minister.

The Ambassador:

If that is the case, then will it be all right for the present for me to
send a report to my, government to the effct that the content of the
message signifies that for the maintenance of peace in the Pacific
negotiation, are to be carried out between Japan and America on the
basis of the Tripartite Alliance?

The Vice-Minister:

As I have just said, the object of beginning parleys between Japan and
America is to clarify the atmosphere in the Pacific. And while there is
no objection to the use of the words "for the maintenance of peace," we
think that it would be permissible to suppose that nothing like a
concrete problem, such as, for instance, the concluding of a
non-aggression pact, is mentioned in the message.

The Ambassador:

If so, do you have am idea of sending a special missssion to America to
carry on these negotiations?

The Vice-Minister:

As I have just said, it has not yet been settled as to whether or not
negotiations will be begun, and preliminary arrangements regarding
concrete problems have not yet been completed. So I understand that no
decision has yet been reached as to such a problem as sending a mission.

The Ambassador:

Is this problem to be -,vorked out through Ambassador Grew?

The Vice-Minister:

(Hesitated to say anything for a moment.)

The Ambassador:

Is Ambassador Nomura to do it?

The Vice-Minister:

(Nodded assent.)

The Anibassador:

Again may I ask you to tell the Foreign Minister that I would like to
have a confidential report of the contents of the message. In fact, it
has also some bearings upon instructions which I recently received from
my home government regarding the Russo-German war. Will you please make
arrangements so that I might by all means have an interview with the
Foreign Minister tomorrow.

The Vice-Minister:

I will tell the Minister.

                            -----

                                                              [Page 550]

   The Gist of an Interview held between Foreign Minister
      Toyoda and Ambassador Ott on 30th August 1941, at
             3:00 p.m. in the official residence
  (administrative oflicial Yoshiuchi acting as interpreter)

After Ambassador Ott made a statement relating to the situation in the
Russo-German War, the conversation proceeded as follows: (Ambassador Ott
is to be designated by "0" and the Minister by "Toyo" in the following
account.)

0 :

In the notice sent to the German government on the 2nd July, the
statement is made that Japan is making preparations for every possible
eventuality in her relations with Russia and America, but are the
intentions of the Japanese government still the same today? Is there any
possibility that Japan may participate in the Russo-German war?

Toyo:

Japan's preparations are now making headway, and it will take more time
for their completion.

0:

Are the intentions of Japan as given in the notice of 2nd July still the
same?

Toyo:

There is no change in our intentions, which are, to make preparations in
order to avail ourselves of any new development that may take place in
the situation henceforth.

0:

I learned of the message which Premier Konoye sent to President
Roosevelt for the first time through the newspapers, and later according
to the Domei (in response to a question from the Minister Ott replied
that this Domei dispatch was one that was "carried" by DNB on the
evening of the 29th as a Domei report).

I learned that this message mentions the disposal of the China problem
and the establishment of a Greater East Asia Prosperity Sphere as the
ultimate aims of Japan's national policy, and refers to the fact that as
a result of the Russo-German War Japanese-American relations have become
delicate. So far as the problems referred to in the message are
concerned, from the viewpoint of the Tripartite Pact Germany has very
grave apprehensions, and since a detailed report will have to be sent to
my government, in disregard of propriety I must once more make inquiry
about this matter. Yesterday Vice-Minister Amau gave me an explanation
as to the contents of this message, but if you have anything beyond that
to add, will you please state it.

Toyo:

The situation being what it is, all kinds of reports are bound to arise,
but what I would like to tell you explicitly is that the report about
problems concerning which I have just now heard for the first time, is
absolutely false. Vice-Minister Amau gave you the right explanation of
the message.

0:

If so, then the message does not concern any concrete matters?

                                                              [Page 551]

Toyo:

It is just as Vice-Minister Amau explained.

0:

I would like to inquire what your impression is as to how the message
was received by them [the Americans]. Even if it does not deal with any
concrete matters, I would like to ask whether it was received in a
friendly spirit, or whether their attitude was one of disapproval.

Toyo:

I can't tell you because I have as yet received no report whatsoever
about the matter.

0:

In Foreign Minister Matsuoka's time the Japanese government authorities
thought that what America was planning to do was to get Japan to take an
attitude in conflict with the Tripartite Pact, that is, to give up
taking any positive action in the Pacific area no matter what occasion
might arise, and Germany is very grateful that at the time the Japanese
government resolutely resisted these American designs, and we hope that
it will continue to take that "line." I would like to ask what Your
Excellency's views are concerning this point.

Toyo:

In a word I may say that the purpose of the Tripartite Pact is to
prevent American participation in the war, and that this view is the
same as in the past; nor will it change in the future.