Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conference With the Japanese Ambassador on Special Mission (Ishii), September 26, 1917

Early this morning I sent to Viscount Ishii a draft of a note,5 embodying the formula which I had said in our previous conference I would prepare, and which, if it met with his approval and that of his Government, was to be formally communicated to him and by him formally confirmed.

By appointment the Viscount called upon me in the afternoon at the Department, because he was later to be received by the President. He brought with him the draft of note and said that in general it met with his approval but that he had a few changes which he would like to suggest.

Appended is a copy of the draft with the changes which were finally agreed upon between us. . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Having very quickly reached a complete agreement in regard to the form of the note we compared our respective copies to be sure our changes were alike.

The Viscount then said that he would at once cable the text to his Government and ask their consent to confirm it if it should be formally sent to him. He also said that he hoped that the text could be given publicity simultaneously in Washington and Tokio. I said that I would be very glad to have such an arrangement, as so important and epochal agreement should be given out to both peoples at the same time.

I further told Ishii that it was possible that China might be willing to send 40,000 or 50,000 troops to Europe to be used by the Allies in certain classes of work and that I thought, if it was decided upon, that this country and Japan would have to cooperate [Page 439] and ought to cooperate in making such an enterprise successful. He seemed to be a little surprised at my statement but only asked how we could cooperate. I replied that we would have to furnish the money to equip and supply the force and that Japan ought to contribute by providing transportation. He said that the whole idea was new to him, and that he did not see how China could spare any troops at the present time of domestic unrest to go so far away. I replied that frequently troops were a cause of unrest, at least such forces as were of uncertain loyalty, and it might be well in some circumstances to have them otherwise employed than at home. While he did not dissent I saw that he was not favorably inclined to the idea.

The Ambassador said that, while I knew his Government was most anxious to cooperate in every possible way in the war, he was not sure that it had available ships to transport Chinese troops on so long a voyage. I replied that I did not expect him to decide so important a question now, that I had only mentioned it as a possibility, and that I would not have done so before the matter took shape but for the fact that I wished to lay everything before him with the same frankness which he had exhibited in our conversations. I went on to say that his sincerity and candor had profoundly impressed me and that his broad-mindedness and unreserved statements had done more than had been done by any representative of Japan to remove the suspicions which had unquestionably arisen in this country as to the purposes of his Government. I said further that I hoped he would carry back to Japan a similar feeling of trust and goodwill for the United States and could impress upon his countrymen that they have no truer or more loyal friends than the Americans.

The Viscount said that any doubts which had existed in his mind had been entirely removed by the genuine expressions of friendship and the lavish hospitality with which he had been received everywhere and that he would not only return to his country convinced of the goodwill of the United States but would endeavor to impress it upon the people of Japan.

I said to him that both our countries had suffered from the sinister activities of the Germans, who had undoubtedly been at work for a decade or perhaps two decades, poisoning the minds of both Governments and peoples with rumors of hostile intent and endeavoring to cause a barrier of suspicion between the two countries. We were both ignorant of these agents and naturally fell victims to the plausible stories which they told; we had been drifting further and further apart and seeing in the acts of the other evil motives which never existed; but those days had passed; we now knew the source of these [Page 440] falsehoods, which are in line with the character of German diplomacy. I said—“We now are closer friends than ever before.”

Viscount Ishii replied with warmth that he entirely agreed with me as to the vile part the Germans had played in our relations, and that he should use his whole influence to counteract the great wrong which had been done to both countries; that we had both been too easily deceived; and that, if we had only been frank with each other, all our differences would have long ago disappeared as they have now.

I then bade the Viscount goodbye with expressions of personal regard, which he returned in kind.

(He leaves tomorrow morning for New York and probably will not return to Washington.)


Draft of Note as Amended September 26, 1917

Excellency: I have the honor to communicate herein my understanding of the agreement reached by us in our recent conversations touching the questions of mutual interest to our Governments relating to the Republic of China.

Charges have repeatedly been made of late, some accusing the United States and others Japan of seeking to take advantage of present world conditions to acquire political influence or control in China. The Governments of the United States and Japan having always recognized China as a sovereign and independent state, resent such accusations as offensive and as wholly unjustified.

In order to silence such mischievous reports, however, it is believed by us that a public announcement once more of the desires and intentions shared by our two Governments with regard to China is advisable.

The Governments of the United States and Japan recognize that territorial propinquity creates special relations between countries; and consequently the United States Government recognizes that Japan has a special interest in China, particularly in that part to which her possessions are contiguous. The territorial sovereignty of China, nevertheless, remains unimpaired and the Government of the United States has every confidence in the repeated assurances of the Imperial Japanese Government that, while geographical position gives them such special interest they have no desire to discriminate against the trade of other nations or to disregard the commercial rights heretofore granted by China in treaties with other Powers.

The Governments of the United States and Japan deny that they have any purpose to infringe in any way the independence or territorial integrity of China and they declare furthermore that they [Page 441] always adhere to the principle of the so-called “Open Door”, or equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China, and that they will not take advantage of present conditions to seek special rights or privileges in China which would abridge the rights of the citizens or subjects of other friendly States. Moreover they mutually declare that they are opposed to the acquisition by any other government of any special rights or privileges that would affect the independence or territorial integrity of China or that would deny to the subjects or citizens of any country the full enjoyment of equal opportunity in the commerce and industry of China.

They furthermore agree to bring this declaration to the attention of other interested governments and invite those Governments to give their adherence to these declarations.

I shall be glad to have Your Excellency confirm this understanding of the agreement reached by us.

  1. This draft not printed.