793.94/3766: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Forbes) to the Secretary of State

31. [Paraphrase.] In compliance with Department’s telegram 28, January 29, midnight.

At 4:30, after conferring with the British Ambassador, Sir Francis Lindley, I called upon the Foreign Minister just after the departure of the British Ambassador; the French Ambassador followed me. During the interview, which lasted for an hour and a half, I gave the Foreign Minister your message, with a duplicate paraphrase at a few points. Before the Embassy had decoded the telegram, the gist of the message had been telegraphed to the press here from Washington. A written protest, I understand, was left by Sir Francis against the use of the Settlement as a base for military operations after the Japanese had given assurance it would not be. Previous to the delivery of my message [end paraphrase], Mr. Yoshizawa5 made a long statement of facts to clarify the Japanese position substantially as follows:

He claims (1) that collaboration has been maintained in Shanghai with the Municipal Council and with the foreign military and naval authorities; (2) that the clash between the Chinese and Japanese forces bore no relation to the acceptance by the Chinese Mayor of the Japanese demands; and (3) that the Japanese marines took up positions in a sector allotted to them in accordance with joint defense arrangements.

Supporting the first, he stated that on the 25th the Municipal Council decided upon its own initiative to close the Chinese newspaper, the Minkuo Pao and also decided to close the headquarters of the anti-Japanese society. On the 26th the Municipal Council did close the paper, and the Japanese Consul General was given to understand that the Municipal Council of Shanghai would help the Japanese if they were going to close the headquarters of the anti-Japanese society. The Japanese informed the Municipal Council of the steps that they proposed to take to accomplish this purpose, and the details were discussed by the Japanese Navy and the Shanghai municipal police. [Page 170] On the 27th the Japanese Consul General in person or through an intermediary explained the position of the Japanese to the American and British Consuls General and informed them of contemplated steps. On the same day the commanders of the foreign military and naval forces met and determined a plan of joint defense of the Settlement.

In support of number 2 he stated that the Chinese Mayor accepted the Japanese demands at 3:15 p.m. on the 28th, and the Japanese Consul General and naval [sic] decided to watch how the Chinese were planning to carry out the undertakings requested by the demands.

On that evening the situation became more serious he said and a large body of people assembled near the Mayor’s office. Wild rumors circulated and the Chinese guard at Chapei fled. The Municipal Council at 4 o’clock that afternoon declared a state of siege (Yoshizawa’s expression). In consequence, the Japanese commander distributed his forces to protect nationals at Chapei. At midnight, while they were proceeding on the North Szechuan Road, the Chinese troops suddenly opened fire and the Japanese marines, as he puts it, were then obliged to retaliate. Many Chinese in plain clothes participated.

In support of number 3 he says the marines took their positions in the sector allotted to them at the meeting of commissioners of the foreign forces in the interests of joint defense of the Settlement. As a result of the efforts of the American and British Consuls General, an armistice was agreed upon, to be operative from 8 o’clock in the evening of the 29th. Despite this arrangement Chinese troops using armored trains opened fire on the morning of the 30th. Shells fell in the area of the Settlement where there were many Japanese residents. He charges that the Chinese are bringing up as reenforcement the 19th and 3rd divisions of the guard under orders of General Chiang Kaishek and that in the vicinity of Shanghai a concentration has been completed, that four companies of airplanes are being transported to Nanking destined to Soochow and it is reported that he is planning to bring up other reenforcements in case of necessity. The Chinese are said to be contemplating taking the offensive when these reenforcements are completed. This action is incompatible with their attitude at Geneva. If these reenforcements come up a situation of the gravest nature will be created and Mr. Yoshizawa says the Japanese Navy may be forced to cut the railroad and to consider sending land troops to Shanghai.

He expressed appreciation of the good offices of the American and British Consuls General toward stopping hostilities and he requests that the United States use its good offices to induce the Chinese troops not to bring up further reenforcements and to withdraw the troops now in Shanghai to a safe distance to avoid clashes. He made the [Page 171] definite statement that it was not the desire of the Japanese to send any further reenforcements or to send land troops.

He then quoted a message from Debuchi quoting your comments to him charging the Japanese with wanton firing, dropping bombs, et cetera.6 He went on to say that, if the facts are as represented to you, your conclusions are absolutely logical and unanswerable, but there seems to be a notably wide divergence of facts as reported to you and him. He said he would like to see the reports upon which you base your deductions and expressed entire confidence in Mr. Cunningham.7 He said that unfounded rumors were sent out from Shanghai but admitted that in the heat of the clash some blunders may have been committed.

In regard to the wireless station at Chenju he had asked the Minister of the Navy who communicated with Shanghai and received a report that the Japanese had not interfered with it in any way nor operated in its vicinity.

At the end he laid especial stress upon his request that we use our good offices to induce the Chinese not to move up their troops.

  1. Kenkichi Yoshizawa, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. See memorandum by the Secretary of State, January 30, 1932, p. 166.
  3. Mr. Edwin S. Cunningham, American Consul General at Shanghai.