File No. 793.94/589C
The Secretary of State to Ambassador Morris
Washington, November 5, 1917, 2 p.m.
The following notes were exchanged on November 2 between Viscount Ishii and myself: [Quotes notes exchanged, printed ante.]
By agreement with Viscount Ishii the notes will be made public here on November 6 and in Japan on November 7. When the notes are given out the following statement will be given to the press by the Department:
Viscount Ishii and the other Japanese Commissioners who are now on their way back to their country have performed a service to the United States as well as to Japan which is of the highest value.
There had unquestionably been growing up between the peoples of the two countries a feeling of suspicion as to the motives inducing the activities of the other in the Far East, a feeling which, if unchecked, promised to develop a serious situation. Rumors and reports of improper intentions were increasing and were more and more believed. Legitimate commercial and industrial enterprises without ulterior motive were presumed to have political significance, with the result that opposition to those enterprises were aroused in the other country.
The attitude of constraint and doubt thus created was fostered and encouraged by the campaign of falsehood, which for a long time had been adroitly and secretly carried on by Germans, whose Government as a part of its foreign policy desired especially to so alienate this country and Japan that it would be at the chosen time no difficult task to cause a rupture of their good relations. Unfortunately there were people in both countries, many of whom were entirely honest in their beliefs, who accepted every false rumor as true, and aided the German propaganda by declaring that their own Government should prepare for the conflict, which they asserted was inevitable, that the interests of the two nations in the Far East were hostile, and that every activity of the other country in the Pacific had a sinister purpose.
Fortunately this distrust was not so general in either the United States or Japan as to affect the friendly relations of the two Governments, but there is no doubt that the feeling of suspicion was increasing and the untrue reports were receiving more and more credence in spite of the earnest efforts which were made on both sides of the Pacific to counteract a movement which would jeopardize the ancient friendship of the two nations.[Page 267]
The visit of Viscount Ishii and his colleagues has accomplished a great change of opinion in this country. By frankly denouncing the evil influences which have been at work, by openly proclaiming that the policy of Japan is not one of aggression, and by declaring that there is no intention to take advantage commercially or industrially of the special relation to China created by geographical position, the representatives of Japan have cleared the diplomatic atmosphere of the suspicions which had been so carefully spread by our enemies and by misguided or overzealous people in both countries. In a few days the propaganda of years has been undone, and both nations are now able to see how near they came to being led into the trap which had been skillfully set for them.
Throughout the conferences which have taken place Viscount Ishii has shown a sincerity and candor which dispelled every doubt as to his purpose and brought the two Governments into an attitude of confidence toward each other which made it possible to discuss every question with frankness and cordiality. Approaching the subjects in such a spirit and with the mutual desire to remove every possible cause of controversy the negotiations were marked by a sincerity and good will which from the first insured their success.
The principal result of the negotiations was the mutual understanding which was reached as to the principles governing the policies of the two Governments in relation to China. This understanding is formally set forth in the notes exchanged and now made public. The statements in the notes require no explanation. They not only contain a reaffirmation of the “open door” policy, but introduce a principle of noninterference with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, which, generally applied, is essential to perpetual international peace, as clearly declared by President Wilson, and which is the very foundation also of Pan Americanism as interpreted by this Government.
The removal of doubts and suspicions and the mutual declaration of the new doctrine as to the Far East would be enough to make the visit of the Japanese Commission to the United States historic and memorable, but it accomplished a further purpose, which is of special interest to the world at this time, in expressing Japan’s earnest desire to cooperate with this country in waging war against the German Government. The discussions, which covered the military, naval and economic activities to be employed with due regard to relative resources and ability, showed the same spirit of sincerity and candor which characterized the negotiations resulting in the exchange of notes.
At the present time it is inexpedient to make public the details of these conversations, but it may be said that this Government has been gratified by the assertions of Viscount Ishii and his colleagues that their Government desired to do their part in the suppression of Prussian militarism and were eager to cooperate in every practical way to that end. It might be added, however, that complete and satisfactory understanding upon the matter of naval cooperation in the Pacific for the purpose of attaining the common object against Germany and her allies have been reached between the representative of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who is attached to the Special Mission of Japan, and the representative of the United States Navy.
It is only just to say that the success, which has attended the intercourse of the Japanese Commission with American officials and with private persons as well, is due in large measure to the personality of Viscount Ishii, the head of the mission. The natural reserve and hesitation, which are not unusual in negotiations of a delicate nature, disappeared under the influence of his open friendliness, while his frankness won the confidence and good will of all. It is doubtful if a representative of a different temper could in so short a time have done as much as Viscount Ishii to place on a better and firmer basis the relations between the United States and Japan. Through him the American people have gained a new and higher conception of the reality of Japan’s friendship for the United States which will be mutually beneficial in the future.
Viscount Ishii will be remembered in this country as a statesman of high attainments, as a diplomat with a true vision of international affairs, and as a genuine and outspoken friend of America.
Communicate textually to the Foreign Office the above press statement and repeat it to Peking immediately for information only.