IN OUR RELATIONS with Japan the United States Government sought constantly and consistently to protect this country's nationals and rights, and to uphold the principles of peaceful and orderly international conduct which Japan was violating by its attack on China. At the same time, in keeping with overwhelming public sentiment, this Government endeavored to prevent the development of a situation which would be likely to involve the United States in hostilities. It consistently protested against and declined to give assent to actions on the part of and situations brought about by Japanese authorities or agents in China in violation of treaties and international law and through the unwarranted use of force. While resolved not to compromise the principles of United States policy-much less abandon those principles-it sought to avoid closing the door to such chance as there might be, however small, for peaceful negotiation of differences and general pacific settlement.
Throughout this period the United States Government had under active consideration various ways and means which might be used to induce Japan to renounce its policies and programs of conquest and domination through the use of force or threat of force. Among other methods, this Government frequently had under consideration the question of applying economic pressure-advocated in many quarters as a means of checking Japanese aggression. It was the opinion of the responsible officials of the Government, including the highest military and naval authorities, that adoption and application of a policy of imposing embargoes upon strategic exports to Japan would be attended with serious risk of retaliatory action of a character likely to lead to this country's becoming involved in war. Practically all realistic authorities have been agreed that imposition of substantial economic sanctions or embargoes against any strong country, unless that imposition be backed by show of superior force, involves serious risk of war.
The President and the heads of the Army and the Navy and the Department of State were in constant consultation throughout this period in regard to all aspects of the military and diplomatic situation confronting the United States. They knew that Germany and Italy were arming in Europe, as Japan had armed in the Far East, preparatory to resorting to force to achieve objectives of expan sion. They realized that, with the outbreak in 1939 of war in Europe, the fall in June 1940 of France, and the conclusion in. September 1940 of the Tripartite Pact, danger of war in the western Pacific was progressively increasing. They realized also that Axis; preparations were virtually complete and that this country and similarly minded countries were far behind parity with offsetting preparations. They were in agreement that prevailing public opinion in this country and, with the imminence of and finally the outbreak of war in Europe, the comparative military unpreparedness of this country were such as to render it inadvisable to risk, by resort to drastic economic measures against Japan, involvement in war. Even before the common objectives of Germany, Italy, and Japan were formalized in the Tripartite Pact, this Government had to consider that if the United States became involved in war there might easily arise the problem of defense in both oceans-and to meet that problem this country was not adequately prepared.