File No. 793.94/570
The Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador
As evidence of the friendly attitude of the United States toward Japan in respect to questions relative to China, the American Government is pleased to remove any doubts which may arise as to its purposes by reaffirming the statements made in the note of Secretary Bryan to Viscount Chinda, dated March 13, 1915.56 In that note Secretary Bryan, after reviewing what he termed the
beginnings of the policy of the United States and other Powers interested in the welfare of China for the maintenance of the territorial integrity and administrative entity of China and for equal opportunities in commerce and industries in her behalf,
and after pointing out in what respects the proposals made by Japan to China in 1915 (in so far as the objects and purposes of those proposals were known and understood by the United States Government at the time) were in derogation of the policy mentioned as well as of the understanding based upon the exchange of notes of November 30, 1908,57 and the treaty rights of the United States in China, said in conclusion:
The United States, therefore, could not regard with indifference the assumption of political, military, or economic domination over China by a foreign Power, and hopes that your excellency’s Government will find it consonant with their interests to refrain from pressing upon China an acceptance of proposals which would, if accepted, exclude Americans from equal participation in the economic and industrial development of China and would limit the political independence of that country. * * *
The United States Government embraces this opportunity to make known that it has viewed the aspirations of Japan in the Far East with that friendship [Page 261] and esteem which have characterized the relations of the two nations in the past. This Government cannot too earnestly impress upon your excellency’s Government that the United States is not jealous of the prominence of Japan in the East or of the intimate cooperation of China and Japan for their mutual benefit. Nor has the United States any intention of obstructing or embarrassing Japan, or of influencing China in opposition to Japan. On the contrary, the policy of the United States, as set forth in this note, is directed to the maintenance of the independence, integrity and commercial freedom of China and preservation of legitimate American rights and interests in that Republic.
I desire to direct your excellency’s attention to the fact that, while Mr. Bryan’s note thus expressed the views of the United States in regard to international relations in the Far East, I do not find that it anywhere went to the extent of stating or recognizing that Japan has special and close relations, political as well as economic, with China as a whole, as your excellency stated at our interview on June 15 last. Mr. Bryan merely said that the United States recognized that territorial contiguity created special relations between Japan and the districts of Shantung, Southern Manchuria and East Mongolia, but he did not admit that the United States might not in the future be justified in expressing its views in regard to Chino-Japanese relations involving even these districts. This view is borne out by the fact that Mr. Bryan felt justified in his communication of May 11, 1915,58 in declining to recognize any agreement or understanding entered into then or thereafter between Japan and China impairing the treaty rights of the United States, the political or territorial integrity of China, or the international policy of the open door.
As the official memorandum which your excellency handed me on June 15 referred to Japan’s interests both political and economic in China as “paramount,” and as Mr. Shidehara informed the American Chargé at Tokyo that your excellency had telegraphed to your Government that I had expressed myself as quite in accord with the deep sense of the memorandum, I feel that in this restatement of the attitude of the United States Government I ought to make it clear to your excellency that I had no intention in our conversation of June 15 to convey the impression that this Government recognized that Japan possessed in China a paramount interest. It was my intention to vary in no way the formal declaration of Mr. Bryan, and, as I recall my language, I did not employ the word “paramount” but spoke of “special” interest in the same sense in which the term was used in the note of March 13, 1915.
The United States has no political ambitions in respect to China, but its historic interest in the welfare of the Chinese people and the territorial and administrative integrity of the Republic, its treaty relations and extensive commerce with China, render it impossible for the United States to be indifferent to matters affecting these interests, which the civil dissension in China, according to reports, threatened to do. As, however, the factional difficulties did not seem to threaten the status quo in the region of the Pacific and the principle of equal opportunity, there would seem to have been no necessity under the Agreement of 1908 to communicate to the Japanese Government the intention of the United States Government to express to China its views on the internal dissension in that country and its interest and hope in the composing of the political difficulties, but with the purpose of avoiding any possible misunderstanding on [Page 262] the part of your excellency’s Government as to the motives of this Government, the subject of the proposed communication to China was promptly brought to the attention of the Japanese Government, notwithstanding the fact that the Japanese proposals of 1915 were made to China several weeks before Japan acquainted the United States with them in accordance with the exchange of notes in 1908. In the case of the Japanese demands growing out of the Cheng Chia Tun trouble, the United States was not informed of the action of Japan until after inquiry had been made by this Government.
In taking the action which has led to the representations by the Japanese Government the United States Government is of the opinion it has departed in no way from its traditional policy towards China or from the views expressed by Mr. Bryan in 1915, in neither of which has the United States claimed the prerogative to control China’s political development nor recognized the right or paramount interest of any other country to extend political influence over China.
Washington , July 6, 1917.