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

No. 630

Sir: Reference is made to your despatch No. 1156 of April 25, 1929, in which you reported that, according to a statement made to you by a representative of the Foreign Office, the South Seas Bureau of the Japanese Government could not see their way clear to welcoming the visits of American vessels to places in the islands under mandate to Japan other than at the open ports.

Although the Department does not wish to raise with the Japanese Government the question of its legal right to exclude American naval vessels from those places in the Mandated Islands not open to foreign commerce, it is desired that the Embassy discuss the subject informally and discreetly with the Foreign Office at the first favorable opportunity with a view to bringing about a modification of the Japanese Government’s attitude in regard to the matter.

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It is noted that in your despatch under reference the reasons given by the South Seas Bureau for its decision were that “harbor accommodations were limited in these small islands, there were no pilots available, and these harbors or anchorages were difficult to approach and at times dangerous.” You may explain that while the Navy Department appreciates the hesitation of the South Seas Bureau in permitting American naval vessels to expose themselves to danger on account of the lack of proper aids to navigation in the islands, it is of the opinion that if proper precautions are taken by the commanders of the vessels the visits of the character contemplated may be accomplished without unduly risking the safety of the vessels.

You may also explain to the Foreign Office that what the Navy Department has in mind is that from time to time as its vessels travel from one station to another between the West Coast of the United States and the Far East the opportunity be taken to obtain hydrographic information regarding the islands.

You may point out in this connection that a study of the records of this Government indicates that it has consistently made it a practice, whenever a foreign Government requests permission through diplomatic channels for any of its public vessels to visit a port under American jurisdiction, to grant such permission irrespective of whether the port in question is a port of entry for the purpose of foreign trade, except in the cases of certain military and naval ports publicly declared to be closed to foreign vessels.

It is surmised that there are other reasons than those mentioned by the South Seas Bureau for its attitude on this matter. The Department would be glad to learn your views in this regard and, in case the Japanese Government is still unwilling to accede to the request of the Navy Department, to receive any suggestions that may occur to you for overcoming possible objections on the part of the South Seas Bureau to the visits contemplated.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Francis White