Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Johnson)

The Japanese Ambassador called on the Secretary today and stated that he had received a telegram from his government saying that it was reported in the Japanese press that the advice which had been addressed by the Japanese Government to the Nationalist and Northern authorities in China55 had been looked upon with suspicion in the United States where it was interpreted as indicating a desire on the part of the Japanese to declare Manchuria as being a protectorate of Japan and it was reported that the Secretary of State during press conferences had indicated by the tone of his replies to questions that he was somewhat disturbed by this action on the part of Japan.

The Ambassador stated that he had been instructed to say that there was no ground for any misinterpretation on the Japanese position as set forth in this advice, which was that Japan was forced to take this step for the purpose of preventing disturbances in Manchuria where nearly 200,000 Japanese residents lived and where nearly 500,000 Koreans possessing Japanese nationality also lived. The Ambassador stated that this action on the part of the Japanese did not represent any change in Japan’s policy with regard to China, that Japan still adhered to the policy of respecting the administrative and territorial integrity of China and equality of opportunity and the open door in Manchuria and Mongolia.

The Secretary stated that he was at some loss to understand how reports of this character should have gotten to Japan as he had consistently refused to comment upon Japan’s intentions in Manchuria. The Secretary said that he had been asked questions in the course of press conferences and it was quite true that he had stated that he had not been consulted in so far as this matter was concerned and also that in reply to the question as to the terms of the Nine Power Treaty regarding the principles and policies concerning China he had furnished the correspondents with copies of the Treaty, but beyond this he had not gone.

Later the Ambassador came with Mr. Johnson to his room where he reiterated the statements made above from a copy of a telegram which he had in his hand. The Ambassador said that he himself [Page 228] had seen the various statements in the papers and had seen nothing to indicate that the Secretary had said anything that might show that he was suspicious of Japan’s motives but of course the press had been pretty free in its comments and that doubtless these comments had been telegraphed to Japan. The Ambassador stated that he had been told that the Prime Minister had read to the British, American, French and Italian Ambassadors at Tokyo the text of the communications which was to be addressed to the Nationalists and the Northerners and that he himself had not come around to speak to the Secretary at the time because there seemed to be no necessity for his doing so and that he only came on this occasion because of these instructions. He said that if the press should ask the reason for his visit he would say it was for the purpose of registering a denial that Japan intended in any way to establish a protectorate over Manchuria or that Japan’s policy of respecting the political and administrative integrity of China and respecting the open door policy of equal opportunity in Manchuria and Mongolia had in no way been changed nor abandoned.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]
  1. See telegram No. 63, May 17, from the Ambassador in Japan, p. 224.