File No. 793.94/636
Ambassador Morris to the Secretary of State
Tokyo , November 16, 1917 .
Sir: I have the honor to report, as stated in my previous despatch No. 1 of November 1,4 that I reached Tokyo on the afternoon of Thursday, October 25, and was duly received by the Emperor and presented my credentials on Tuesday, October 30, whereupon I assumed charge of the Embassy.
On Thursday, November 1, I made one of the required official calls on the Russian Ambassador, and during our conversation he remarked to me that he was deeply interested in the agreement which had been reached between the United States and Japan in reference to China. As the Embassy had not then received formal advice as to the result of the conversations between the Department and the Viscount Ishii, I was not in a position to make any reply to his comment.
On the following day, November 2, I paid an official call on the French Ambassador, and he at once referred to the agreement which had been reached in reference to China, between Japan and the United States, and then volunteered the information that the representatives of the Allied Powers had been called to the office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the previous day, namely, Thursday, November 1, and had been given copies of the notes exchanged between the Secretary of State and Viscount Ishii. Viscount Motono stated to the representatives that he handed these notes to them in confidence and for their information, to be transmitted to their respective Governments, and that he expected they would be duly and formally executed within a day or two, but would not be made public before the 7th of November, and possibly later. As a consequence of this information the notes became the subject of confidential discussion among members of the Diplomatic Corps during the following days. Those representatives whom I saw personally, all expressed warm approval of the result of the negotiations, and felt that the notes would do much to clarify the diplomatic situation throughout the Orient. I heard no criticisms except from the British Ambassador, who feared that the words “special interests” might be the cause of difficulty in the future.
On the afternoon of November 6 I received from the Foreign Office printed copies of the notes.
In the morning newspapers of November 7, the notes were given wide publicity, and editorial comments followed in practically all of the Japanese papers, and also in the foreign papers during the succeeding week. On November 11 I received the Department’s cablegram [Page 272] of November 9, 4 p.m.4 requesting me to cable a brief summary of press comment, to which I replied on November 14, 6 p.m.4
Speaking generally, the joint agreement was greeted with approval by the majority of the Japanese press.
Among prominent educators Mr. Kamada, President of Keio University, is of the opinion that it will be beneficial to both countries, as it recognizes Japan’s privileges in the Orient, cements friendship with America, arid contributes to the peace of the world. On the other hand Dr. Senga, Professor of International Law in the Kyoto Imperial University, regards the conclusion of this agreement by Japan as one of her most serious diplomatic failures, for she should never have agreed to restrict her freedom of action in China by admitting the open door and equal opportunities, his desire being that Japan and China form an economic league for excluding the influence of European and American countries in the Orient. Dr. Suehiro of the same university is, however, more lenient in his judgment. The Government, he says, must at the risk of being censured by the people for adopting a retrogressive and effeminate policy, abandon its ambition in China, for otherwise, even if it did not lead to a conflict with America, Japan would be regarded by other Powers as an Oriental Germany and be isolated accordingly.
The views of statesmen, politicians, and the official circles in general, as expressed, are more stereotyped. Moreover, those who have any political affiliations are more or less biased in their judgments. Thus the leaders of the Seiyukai and Kokuminto consider the agreement a great success for Ishii’s diplomacy, while those who are connected with the Kenseikai, though stating that it was satisfactory on the whole, have attempted to minimize its importance. Viscount Kato, Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Okuma Cabinet and President of the Kenseikai, grudgingly admits that the declaration is a profitable one in so far as America recognizes that Japan has special rights in parts of China contiguous to Japanese territories.
I might add that I have observed two tendencies in the comments of those Japanese with whom I have had the privilege of talking during the past week: One is to interpret very broadly the definition of “special interests,” and if possible to disconnect it from any geographical considerations. The second is to express a rather exaggerated delight at what is termed in official Government circles “Viscount Ishii’s great diplomatic victory.”
On the 8th instant I received the Department’s cablegram of November 6, 5 p.m., in reference to the premature publicity of the notes in China. I promptly communicated in writing with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, transmitting the Department’s message, and asking for an investigation, as directed. This note I despatched on the morning of November 9, but have as yet received no formal reply. In conversation last evening with Mr. Shidehara, the Vice Minister, he advised me that the Government was making a careful investigation through their representatives in China, and would report to me the results of this investigation as soon as it was completed. Immediately upon receipt of this report, I shall advise the Department by cable, and also transmit it, as directed, to the Legation at Peking.
I have [etc.]