Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conference With the Japanese Ambassador on Special Mission (Ishii), October 10, 1917

On the 8th Viscount Ishii left with me a draft of the proposed note from this Government to Japan, showing in lead pencil the changes desired by his Government in the note. (The document is hereto attached.)7

The Viscount called upon me this morning and asked if I had had an opportunity to consider the changes proposed. I told him that I had and that so far as striking out the second paragraph on the first page8 and making the insertion which he proposed it would be agreeable to this Government.

[Page 442]

As to the next change, which appears on the third page of the document, I said that while I admitted the phrase which his Government desired to have eliminated9 would not materially affect the document, it seemed to me that both Governments were losing a very great opportunity of placing themselves in a generous light before the Allied Powers.

The Viscount replied he realized that, but that there were political reasons at home which he felt embarrassed his Government in accepting the phrase as it stood, especially as the preceding declarations cover the entire ground.

I said to him that while I felt that was so, the direct declaration that neither of the Governments would seek advantage during the war would receive the greatest applause in the Allied countries; that those countries were in difficult financial situations; that they were almost on the verge of bankruptcy; that Japan and the United States were the only countries who could use their resources in the development of China; and that it would be a noble and generous act to say to these countries—“You have been fighting our battles and we will not take advantage of your condition but will hold your rights sacred and give you every opportunity to recover from this war along commercial and industrial lines in the Far East.”

The Viscount replied to this that he was in full accord with me, but in view of his Government’s desires he could not commit them to an acceptance of the phrase; but that he would immediately telegraph and explain the advantage of retaining it.

I said to him that of course it might be found politically impossible to concede this request, although it affected both nations equally; that I only saw one other way of making the document complete in case that phrase was rejected and that was to strike out the word “other” in the 4th line from the bottom of page 3;10 and that while I hoped his Government would not feel compelled to reject the clause proposed, especially as it only applied to the present time, it might not be inadvisable to consider the alternative proposal of striking out the word “other”.

The Viscount said he would bear this in mind and also communicate with his Government.

We then discussed the matter of better telegraphic communication between Japan and the United States, and I made the suggestion to him that it might be advisable to appoint a joint commission of four to consider the subject, in order that they might work out a general plan of wireless and cable communication which would materially [Page 443] reduce the present rates and expedite the transmission of information.

The Viscount said he would communicate this to his Government at once and that it met with his approval.

I asked him if there had ever been any communication with any of the Allied Powers in regard to the military participation of Japan in the war. He said that almost three years ago the matter had been broached by Great Britain informally but that his Government had pointed out at that time the impossibility of maintaining a force at any considerable distance from Japan. I asked him if there had been any later communications and he said not to his knowledge. I therefore let the matter drop.

He left with the understanding that as soon as he had received a reply from his Government he would see me again.

  1. Not printed; further citations in this document are to the draft as printed on page 440.
  2. Ante, p. 440, par. 5 (beginning “Charges have repeatedly been made”).
  3. Beginning “and that they will not take advantage,” p. 441, 1. 2.
  4. Ante, p. 441, 1. 6.