File No. 793.94/628
Ambassador Morris to the Secretary of State
Tokyo , November 28, 1917, midnight .
Your telegram of November 5, 6 p.m. [November 6, 5 p.m.], and November 21, 6 p.m. Following letter marked private and confidential received yesterday from Viscount Motono.
My dear Ambassador: [By your] excellency’s private and confidential note of the 8th instant you were so good as to communicate to me the substance of a telegram from the Secretary of State calling my attention to the premature publication of the notes recently exchanged between Mr. Lansing and Viscount [Ishii] and you requested that an investigation be made to determine if possible the responsibility for such publication.
Being myself embarrassed as much as the Secretary of State by the disclosure of the contents of the notes in question before the time agreed upon, I did not fail to telegraph to the Japanese Minister to China and to cause thorough inquiries to be made at Peking where the leakage appears to have emanated.
Baron Hayashi now reports that on November 4 he confidentially communicated the text of the notes to Premier Tuan and to Mr. [?] Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the absence of the Foreign Minister on an express message that the whole subject should be kept strictly secret pending official announcement of the documents at Tokyo on the afternoon of November 7. On the evening of November 4 Baron Hayashi received the call, of the American Minister and in the course of the conversation with him referred to the subject. He sent to Doctor [Reinsch], American Minister, at the latter’s request, a copy of the notes early next morning. On the evening of November 5 Mr. Smith, correspondent of the Associated Press, called upon the Japanese Legation and after having stated that both had learned of the recent exchange of the notes at Washington respecting the Chinese questions he asked for a copy of the correspondence, replying to the questions put to him by the Secretary of the Japanese Legation who received him. He said that private information had reached him from New York late at night on the previous day to the effect that the United States had recognized the special interests of Japan in China and that the Government of the United States and Japan had selected the policy of the open door. The Secretary of Japanese Legation admitted in strict confidence the accuracy of the report but declined to give out the text of the notes.
Baron Hayashi states that prior to the time fixed for publication neither he nor any member of his staff had ever divulged the fact of the exchange of the notes, still less the contents of such documents, to any quarters except to his American colleague and the Chinese Government as above explained. He is unable to discover nor has he any reason to suspect that the revelation originated from the Chinese authorities. He requested the cooperation of Doctor [Reinsch], American Minister, in tracing the source of the information which Mr. Smith had obtained but it now appears that Doctor [Reinsch], American Minister’s, efforts in that direction have also proved unsuccessful.
Such is the result of the inquiries made at Peking and while regretting as I do the failure to determine the responsibility of the premature publication, I do not think that any further steps could at this moment be usefully taken to throw light on the mystery.