Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Johnson)57

The Japanese Ambassador came to see me at noon today by appointment. He stated that he desired to know whether there had [Page 1056] been any developments in the matter of the Federal wireless contract and the Japanese proposal for wireless consortium since his last conversation with the Secretary of State, which was early in January. I told him that there were no developments. I stated that this was due to two facts. First, that political conditions in Peking had been such recently that no progress had been made toward completing the Federal wireless contract with the Chinese Government, and second, that we were still interested in knowing what reply the Chinese Government had made to the Japanese Government’s memorandum of last October proposing the consortium to the Chinese Government.58

The Ambassador stated that his Government laid great importance upon the Japanese proposal for a radio consortium, as they considered that proposal to be in every sense of the word just to all parties, in accordance with Chinese national aspirations, and, at the same time, a proposal that would mean the settlement of radio construction problems in China upon a basis both economic and business like. In this latter case he stressed the point that it would save money for China in that their proposal would not force the Chinese to unnecessarily large expenditures for radio stations at this time.

I stated that it was our impression that the Chinese Government had been from the beginning opposed to the idea of a radio consortium. I reminded him that when such a proposal was first advanced during the Washington Conference the Chinese delegation had indicated their opposition to such a plan. I stated that this Government had not yet heard that the Chinese Government had changed its attitude on this subject and that we are still interested to know what reply the Chinese Government would make to the Japanese note of last October. The Ambassador stated that the Japanese Government had received no reply as yet and that it felt that no reply would be forthcoming unless the powers, and particularly the United States, could get together and agree on the proposition beforehand as the Japanese Government felt that the Chinese Government would accept any arrangement of this matter which the powers might agree upon. He pointed out that the Japanese proposal for a consortium represented a tremendous advance in the ideas of the powers hitherto interested in Chinese radio, and it meant that they definitely abandoned any idea of monopolistic or exclusive control over radio stations in China. He stressed the point that the Japanese proposal was that the stations were to be turned over to the control of the Chinese. I reminded him that I understood that the proposal would require that the stations be controlled during the [Page 1057] existence of the consortium by engineers of the several countries involved. He stated that this was doubtless true.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I stated to the Ambassador that the Department was still interested, of course, in knowing whether this proposal of the Chinese Government was workable. I reminded him that the Japanese proposal was, in a sense, based on the old proposal for a financial consortium and I pointed out to him that the financial consortium had never been recognized by the Chinese Government, even though the consortium had expressed a willingness to take a Chinese group into membership.

I asked the Ambassador whether the Mitsui station near Peking was in operation and he replied that it was not. I asked him why the Mitsui station was not in operation, stating that I had assumed that it was completed and had become operative. He stated that he did not know why it was not in operation but that he and his Government believed (doubtless someone in Peking had made such a statement to the Japanese) that the Chinese were refusing to take delivery of the station or issue a permit for its operation in face of American opposition to the station. I told him that this surprised me very much because I was certain that there was no opposition on the part of the United States to the operation of a station by Mitsui and Company or any other Japanese company in China. I stated that our interest in this matter was merely in seeing that an American company having a station at Shanghai might be completed; that we were not interested in frustrating the efforts of any other nation. The Ambassador stated that doubtless that was true but that nevertheless they were under the impression that the failure of the Chinese to issue a permit to the Mitsui station was due to American opposition. I stated that I was satisfied that there was no American opposition to the Mitsui station, that Mr. MacMurray, our Minister at Peking, and Colonel Davis, the representative of the American company, had endeavored to explain to Mr. Saburi of the Japanese Foreign Office in Peking that the interested Americans were anxious to cooperate with other stations in every possible way, and to that end would be ready to make proper arrangements for exchange of traffic whenever the American station was ready to function.

The Ambassador remarked that that, of course, was the American proposal but that the Japanese felt that the Japanese proposal was in every respect more just, particularly in view of the fact that under the American proposal competitive conditions would exist which would make it difficult for several stations to live. I stated that it seemed to me that radio stations could make arrangements one with [Page 1058] the other just as the cable companies had made traffic arrangements one with the other and that it was the feeling of our radio interests that there was ample room for a station at Shanghai.

The Ambassador stated that as he had merely come to inquire whether there had been any recent developments that he was not prepared to go into a discussion of the details. With my final statement that no recent developments had occurred in the matter, the conversation ended.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]
  1. Copies transmitted on Apr. 23 to the Ambassador in Japan in instruction No. 54 and to the Minister in China in instruction No. 206.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, p. 932.