File No. 894.032/19

Address of Viscount Motono in the Imperial Japanese Diet


[Handed to the Secretary of State by the Japanese Ambassador January 29, 1917]

You are aware that Japan has always preserved the most sincerely amicable relations with the Government and people of America, though from time to time there have been light clouds which have cast a shadow upon our relations though never so slight. These clouds have generally been dissipated by the common good will of the two Governments. There certainly have been questions about which the two Governments could not come to a complete accord, but that will be the case between even the best of allies. However, when one faces the most thorny questions in a friendly and frank spirit, with the will of solving them in an amicable and conciliatory manner, there will surely be found a way to an understanding. It is this end that the two Governments have always pursued to the great satisfaction of our two countries. It affords me great pleasure to state that there have been symptoms of more real sympathy manifested of late between the two countries. As one instance we have been approached by the American capitalists for cooperation in financial affairs in China. The Imperial Government are watching with lively interest the further development of the economic rapprochement between the two countries.

I would not speak of all the events that have come to pass in China in recent years, which must be still fresh in your memory. We must recognize that as the result of these events there has been created a certain atmosphere which is not altogether desirable. It is for the good of our two countries that this state of things should absolutely disappear. In view of the great political and economic interests which Japan possesses in China, it has always been the sincere desire of this country to see her neighbour developed along the paths of modern civilization and we have spared no efforts for that purpose. It was for that purpose also that we sent to China a number of civil and military advisors, and that we concurred with other countries in furnishing China with the financial means of accomplishing reforms of every kind and also that we undertook the education and instruction of the young Chinese students who are coming to Japan by thousands. [Page 120] Nobody would contradict me when I say that China certainly is indebted much to Japan in her work of re-organization pursued for several years. Why is it that in spite of all our well meant efforts, China seems often to regard us with mistrust and even animosity? There may be many causes for that, but the chief reason, to my mind, is the tendency on the part of the Japanese towards interference in China’s internal quarrels since the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty and the establishment of the republican régime. There have since been formed in China a number of political parties for one or another of which parties there have been some Japanese who have expressed sympathy. These persons have developed marked tendency towards a desire to help these political parties to obtain power according as their own political opinions or personal sympathy dictate. I am persuaded that all these persons are perfectly sincere in their desire of helping our neighbouring friends, but the results were deplorable. To what did our attitude at the moment of the formation of the Republic lead, and to what did all the movements inimical to the President lead? You are aware of it so well that I need not dwell upon it. But what I have to state is that in the wake of all these acts we have had no other results than to invite, on the one hand, the animosity of our neighbours and, on the other, to cause other nations’ misunderstanding of the real intentions of Japan. I do not hesitate to state that the present Cabinet absolutely repudiate this mode of action. We desire to maintain the most cordial relations with China. We desire nothing more than the gradual accomplishment by China of all her schemes of reform and we shall leave nothing undone in order to help her in the task, if she so desires. Endeavours shall not be wanting on our part to make China comprehend the sincerity of our sentiments toward her, though it must always remain with China whether she should have faith in us or not. We have not the least intention, I formally declare hereby, of favouring this or that political party in China; all we desire is the maintenance of cordial relations of amity with China herself and not with any political party. It is essential that China should develop herself smoothly along the path of progress and we dread nothing more than the possible disintegration of China through her continued troubles. We must put forth every effort to prevent that sad possibility, for nothing is more indispensable than that China should maintain her independence and territorial integrity. The other point to which the Government must call your attention is the special position occupied by Japan in certain portions of China. I am speaking especially of South Manchuria and East Inner Mongolia. Our special situation in these parts has been acquired at the cost of immense sacrifice and immeasurable efforts on our part and on the strength of this circumstance our rights and interests in these parts have been consecrated by treaties and arrangements. It is therefore the most elementary duty of the Imperial Government toward the nation to safeguard these rights and interests. In the same way it is necessary that China should comprehend that it is not only a matter of compliance with international duty that China should respect these rights and interests of Japan, but it would be nothing more than the realization of the good understanding between our two countries.

If China would continue, as we sincerely desire she would, relations of the greatest confidence and amity with Japan, it is necessary that [Page 121] she should follow the same lines of conduct as those we intend to follow with her. It is on this condition alone that anything like a firm understanding can exist between us. The Imperial Government have the strongest conviction that if the Chinese Government understood the pure and clear intentions of Japan, China would not have any objection to Japan’s sincere policy of good understanding in the relations between Japan and China. Nobody certainly would dispute the fact that Japan occupies a peculiar position in China as well on account of her geographic position as her political and economic interests; but we must not any more ignore the fact that other powers have likewise immense interests in China. We must, therefore, while safeguarding our own interests there, take care to respect those of other nations. We must before everything try to move in accord with powers with which we are under the pledge of special arrangements and in a general way endeavour to reconcile our interests with those of others. We are firmly convinced that such is the line of conduct best suited to the common interests of all powers concerned. Japan has not any intention to follow an egoistic policy in China. It is her sincere desire to keep in complete accord with the countries concerned, and the Imperial Government firmly believe that with good will on both sides we shall be able to arrive at a complete understanding which will be for the best interests both of China and all other countries.