Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conference With the Japanese Ambassador on Special Mission (Ishii), October 22, 1917

The Viscount called at the Department by request and I told him that the note as finally agreed upon on the 20th was acceptable in [Page 446] itself, but that the President was seriously concerned over the elimination of the declaration following the one referring to the “Open Door” policy unless some statement was made in regard to it. I said that, as I understood that his Government were opposed to an exchange of confidential notes on the subject, I would suggest that there should accompany the Japanese reply a memorandum, which I could retain in my confidential files. I then produced a draft of memorandum such as I had in mind and read it to him. (A copy of the paper is annexed.)18

The Viscount, to whom I handed a copy, read it through very carefully and said that he would submit it to his Government.

I then handed him the redraft of the note which I had made on the 20th (of which a copy is annexed).

He spoke of the elimination of the word “other” and asked if I did not think it well to retain it. I told him “No”, and he dropped the subject.

He asked if the ending of the note would be the same as the Root-Takahira agreement and I told him that I had not thought about the matter, but would let him know the next time we met.


Redraft of Note, October 20, 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.

In order to silence the mischievous reports that have from time to time been circulated, 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 Government of the United States recognizes that Japan has special interests in China, particularly in the 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 Japan such special interests they have no desire to discriminate against the trade of [Page 447] 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 always adhere to the principle of the so-called “Open Door” or equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China.

Moreover, they mutually declare that they are opposed to the acquisition by any 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 a19 full enjoyment of equal opportunity in the commerce and industry of China.

I shall be glad to have Your Excellency confirm this understanding of the agreements20 reached by us.

  1. Supra.
  2. For “a” the word “the” has been substituted with the marginal notation in Secretary Lansing’s hand: “Change agreed to, Oct. 31/17.”
  3. The word “agreements” has been changed to “agreement” with a marginal notation as in footnote 19.