Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conference With the Japanese Ambassador on Special Mission (Ishii), October 20, 1917

Viscount Ishii called at the Department by appointment this morning.

He first said that I probably knew that the Japanese Naval Commissioner had arranged with our naval authorities to take over certain patrol duty in the Pacific now being performed by the Saratoga in order that the latter might be released for service in the Atlantic, but that his Government desired the arrangement be confirmed formally through the Department of State. I told him I would communicate at once with the Navy Department and take the necessary steps.

He then said that he had received a communication from his Government and that, rather than vary the language of the Root–Takahira agreement11 by inserting the words “and sovereignty”12 as I had suggested on the 13th, they would consent to retain the phrase “The territorial sovereignty of China, nevertheless, remains unimpaired, and”—13 . . . He said further that his Government still insisted on the omission of the declaration on page 314 . . . but were willing to strike out the word “other” in the fourth line from the bottom.15

[Page 444]

I told him that I was of course disappointed at the omission of so important a declaration at this time, as I knew the President would be, but that the retention of the clause relating to “sovereignty” and the elimination of the word “other” indicated to me that his Government were desirous of reaching an agreement.

He said that I must know how sincerely he was in favor of the declaration and how he had urged his Government to retain it, but that they seemed to fear domestic criticism, although he seemed to be very vague as to what the criticism would be.

I said that, if the declaration had not been in the draft, it would matter very little, but having been submitted to Japan and rejected it might convey a very wrong impression, that the President felt this very strongly and I hoped they would exchange confidential notes on the subject as I had suggested.

The Viscount replied that he had already presented the suggestion to his Government and that they did not deem it wise to do so. He then produced the paper which is annexed16 and read to me the argument presented against an exchange of confidential notes. He handed me the paper and I read it again.

When I had finished I told him that I did not consider the arguments very substantial, but that I would like to consider the matter further, and after doing so, I would consult with the President, who I knew would be disappointed that his Government were unwilling to take a course which would remove all possibility of future misunderstanding.

He said that he had hoped to persuade his Government to take one of the two courses which I had suggested, but that he had been unable to do so.

I told him I appreciated the efforts which he had made, that I thought the amendments which he had obtained from his Government had brought the negotiation to an almost successful conclusion, and that I was still hopeful of finding a way which would be satisfactory to both Governments.

I said that I would ask another conference as soon as I could explain the situation to the President.

  1. See Foreign Relations, 1908, pp. 510512.
  2. After the phrase “the independence or territorial integrity,” which appears twice in the fifth paragraph of the draft note as printed on page 440.
  3. Ante, p. 440, par. 7, 1. 5.
  4. See footnote 9, p. 442.
  5. See footnote 10, p. 442.
  6. Not printed.