The Chargé in Japan (Bell) to the Secretary of State

No. 590

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following summary of the press comments in connection with the question of the renewal of the Anglo–Japanese Alliance which has been one of the prominent topics of discussion in this country during the past two weeks.

On the whole, the intellectual classes favor the renewal of the Alliance, as is shown in the views of leading statesmen, which are inclosed herewith.91 The Kokumin however believes that, generally speaking, public opinion in Japan is indifferent to it, because it has already fulfilled its mission, and because its future continuation will be more beneficial to England than to Japan. In fact, it would be difficult to convince the average Japanese that the Alliance was [Page 683]not a very one-sided affair. One constantly hears of the great sacrifices that Japan has had to make during the war in order to carry out her obligations. Not only do Japanese publicists dwell with much unction upon the costly Tsingtau campaign and the operations of the Japanese navy in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, but also even advance the theory that the Siberian expedition was undertaken in response to the solicitation of Great Britain. Japanese are reminded that the Alliance makes Japan the “watch-dog” of British interests in Asia, and that at any time Japan may have to assume the burden of saving India from the menace of Bolshevism.

On the other hand, although it feels that the Alliance has little material value, there is a large element which attaches great importance to its moral value in that it adds greatly to the prestige of the nation to have the support of one of the greatest powers of the west. For instance, the Nichi Nichi observes “We are not concerned with whether the provisions of the Alliance have any practical value or not; the very fact of the Alliance being continued will point to the intimacy of the two countries and will benefit both of them, and moreover with the present state of affairs in the world there is no knowing what new situations and problems may occur during the next two or three years”.

Moreover, there is a widespread feeling that the Alliance secures for Japan the adherence of Great Britain to a Japanese counterpart of a pax Romana in the Orient. As the Osaka Mainichi puts it, “the Alliance is as important as it ever has been as the principal factor in the preservation of the peace of the Orient. It may also have to undertake the task of vindicating peace on the Pacific, which is why it is being discussed so earnestly in America and Australia”.

Nevertheless there is considerable opposition among the more chauvinistic elements to Article IV of the revised Alliance of 1911, which provides that neither of the contracting parties shall be obliged to go to war with a power with which it has a general arbitration treaty. They feel apprehensive lest further modifications may be introduced, at the instance of Great Britain for the benefit of British colonies and America. Commenting on this point, the Yorodzu, a popular organ, intimates “If the British Government intends to reduce the scope of the Alliance out of consideration for the sentiment of Australia and other colonies as well as America, Great Britain should learn that it will be very difficult to renew it A similar note is sounded by the Osaka Asahi, “We do not say that the Anglo–Japanese Alliance is absolutely useless, but if the terms for renewal are even more unfavorable than the present terms, we do not wish it to be renewed. At present the Anglo–Japanese Alliance is the only card in the hands of the Japanese authorities. [Page 684]The only possible alternative is isolation, but we do not wish the nation to be in the position of entreating Great Britain to renew the Alliance”.

In contrast to these views is the position of a liberal organ, the Tokyo Asahi, which observes, “We do not hesitate to support the renewal of the Anglo–Japanese Alliance. Some Japanese hold that Great Britain should not be absolved from the obligation of assisting Japan in case of war with America. It is impossible that Great Britain and America should go to war for a third country. Instead of hoping for such an impossibility, we had better see to it that besides the maintenance of the Anglo–Japanese Alliance, Japanese–American friendship is strengthened so that the three powers can cooperate for the vindication of the world’s peace and for the promotion of the welfare of mankind”.

On the subject of Anglo–American relations, the Yorodzu, by the way, seems to have reached an entirely different conclusion. It notes that the economic rivalry between the two nations cannot but cause intense antagonism, and that Americans are instigating Indians and Irish as much as they are the Koreans, which precludes the existence of amicable relations between Great Britain and America. This probably is a case of the wish being father to the thought, for there are many Japanese who would be pleased to learn that the relations between the two Anglo–Saxon powers were strained.

There has also been considerable discussion of the advisability of enlarging the Anglo–Japanese Alliance to include America. One of the foremost protagonists of this project is the Yomiuri, one of the mouth-pieces of the liberal group in Japan. Although it regards the realization of such a plan as somewhat difficult in view of the traditional policy of America, it suggests that a new international agreement embodying the spirit of the Hay Declaration, the Root–Takahira and Ishii–Lansing Agreements and the Franco–Japanese Agreement, while not as effective as an offensive and defensive alliance, might be better than an emasculated alliance between Great Britain and Japan without the participation of America.

I have [etc.]

Edward Bell
  1. Enclosures not printed.