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

No. 1084

Sir: Referring to the Embassy’s despatch No. 961 of September 24, 1928,2 informing the Department that the Minseito, the principal opposition party, regarded as objectionable the phrase “in the name of the people”,3 which appears in Article 1 of the Treaty to Renounce War, I have the honor to report that on the second day of the present session of the Imperial Diet (January 23rd) Mr. Keijiro Nakamura, a member of the Minseito, interpellated Baron Tanaka4 with respect to the phrase.

The content of Mr. Nakamura’s somewhat lengthy speech was in brief as follows: Certain provisions of the Constitution show that the Emperor enjoys supreme power in Japan, namely, Article 4, which provides that “The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them according to the provisions of the present Constitution”, the second clause of Article 17 which reads, “The Regent shall exercise the powers appertaining to the Emperor in his name”, and Article 57 which provides that “The judicature shall be exercised by the courts of law in the name of the Emperor”. Two of these articles contain the phrase “in the name of the Emperor”. It is only in a democratic or republican country that such rights rest with the people. Thus ratification of a treaty which contains the disputed phrase would mean an alteration of the Constitution. The Government in its anxiety to have the Treaty succeed regarded this point as of little consequence, apparently viewing the Treaty as more important than the State. Nor was any effort made to effect an amendment. Did the Government exchange notes with [Page 238] the United States respecting this point and how has it protected the rights of Japan?

In reply Baron Tanaka stated that the Government understands the phrase to mean “for the sake of the State”, that Japan held negotiations with the United States respecting the phrase, that the United States had made the meaning of the words clear, but that, as the treaty has not yet been ratified, these negotiations cannot at present be made public.

Mr. Nakamura, apparently still dissatisfied, then said that an annex should be attached to the treaty which would make clear, for the sake of the inviolability of the Constitution, that the phrase “in the name of the people” means “in the name of the Emperor”. Baron Tanaka briefly repeated his first reply and added that the phrase in no way would affect the Constitution.

Since this interpellation no further mention of the Treaty to Renounce War has been made in the Diet. At present it seems unlikely that it will be seriously employed by the Opposition as it apparently feels there is material of a more forceful nature for attack upon which it is concentrating its energy. (Reference is made to despatch No. 1087 of January 31, 1929.)5 As the Privy Council and not the Diet advises the Emperor in treaty-making, it is doubtful if anything will occur in the Diet to influence Japan’s attitude toward the Treaty. No information regarding the views of the Privy Council on the Treaty has reached the Embassy since those reported in despatch No. 977 of October 8, 1928.6 I shall not fail to inform the Department should any new developments in this respect arise.

I have [etc.]

Edwin L. Neville
  1. Not printed.
  2. Text of pact reads “in the names of their respective peoples”; Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 155.
  3. Japanese Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  4. Not printed; see despatch No. 1071, January 17, 1929, from the Chargé in Japan, especially footnote 9, vol. ii, p. 126.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 215.