Paris Peace Conf, 861.77/4: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Commission to Negotiate Peace

92. For the Secretary of State. In a cable dispatch from Tokyo dated December 18, on the Siberian railway situation,16 Morris reports that his British colleague, failing to receive instructions from his Government, has relapsed into his former unsympathetic indifference. Morris then asks:

“Would it be expedient at this time to point out to the British Ambassador reasons affecting the entire situation in the Far East, and particularly China, which call for closest cooperation of our two Governments in establishing a policy which shall limit pecuniary, exclusive commercial or political control?”

In raising this question Morris has evidently in mind Japan’s demands on China in 1915,17 her subsequent loan policy, the secret military agreements of this spring intended to give Japan control of Chinese military establishment, equipment and related industries, Japan’s extensive military activities in Siberia, and in general the tendency of Japan’s policy to so combine her commercial and political activities that they become one and inseparable, and in practice to make both as far as possible exclusive of the interests of all others wherever she obtained sufficient foothold. Minister Paul S. Reinsch is even more emphatic in his statements as to the tendency and probable results of Japan’s policies in China and the Far East.

I am very anxious, as you know, about the whole Far Eastern situation, feeling that if matters are left to their course, the doctrines of equal opportunity for all will disappear as the Japanese political and commercial program extends and that herein lies an actual danger of future complications between the powers concerned in the Far East.

Morris is evidently impressed with the feeling that in order to meet the situation the American and British Governments should reach a frank understanding of each other’s purposes and act at least on parallel lines in order to avoid needless misunderstandings and possible antagonisms.

It occurred to me that with the approaching visit of the President and yourself to London, the opportunity will come as perhaps never again, to reach some broad and comprehensive understanding with the British Government on the whole question of relations of the United States and Great Britain in the Far East, particularly as to [Page 518] whether the interests and ideals of the two nations and those of France and even Italy are not identical; and if so, whether this is not the moment to agree upon a reasonable policy and to have our respective representatives clearly so instructed.

In another telegram from Morris just received,18 he states that the general staff controls the Siberian situation and that popular opinion in Japan favors a strong policy in all Asiatic questions. He believes that the Hara Ministry are sincerely convinced that Japan’s interests will best be served by policy of cordial cooperation with the United States, but that without popular support they are too weak to take issue with the general staff. It would seem, therefore, that a complete understanding between the United States and the European Governments might strengthen the hands of the liberal element in Japan as against the ambitious political program which is now being conducted by the military party.

I sincerely hope that this question and the opportunity for its solution will appeal to the President19 and to yourself as it does to me.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. iii, p. 296.
  2. See ibid., 1915, pp. 79 ff.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See telegram No. 131, Jan. 2, 1919, 10 a.m., from the Commission to Negotiate Peace, p. 484.