Address Delivered by the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Hirota) Before the Japanese Diet on January 22, 1938 71

At the last session of the Diet I had the honour to speak on the policy of the Japanese Government regarding the China Affair. Today I desire to address you on the subsequent developments which have occurred in the Chinese situation as well as on our foreign relations in general.

The attitude of the Japanese Government towards the present Affair has been clearly set forth in their statements made public from time to time in the past. Japan has no territorial ambitions in China, nor has [Page 441] she any intention of separating North China from the rest of the country. All she wants is that China, taking a broad view of the situation, will collaborate with Japan toward the fulfilment of the ideal of Sino-Japanese co-operation for the common prosperity and well-being of the two countries. Accordingly, even after the outbreak of the present Affair, we eagerly looked forward to joining forces with China for the purpose of securing peace in East Asia as soon as the Nationalist Government should have discarded their policy of opposition to Japan and Manchoukuo and evinced a sincere desire to work together for this ideal of Japan. However, the Nationalist Government failed to understand our true intentions, and they were caught, so to speak, in the trap set by themselves, being bound by their commitments to the anti-Japanism that they had fostered for such long years. Unable to act wisely and well with a calm judgment, but relying upon third Powers, or allying themselves with Communists, they are even now calling for a prolonged resistance, regardless of the plight of the 400 million people of China whom they have plunged into the depth of suffering and misery. Now the heroic operations of our loyal and valiant forces in the north and in the south, have forced the Nationalist Government to abandon Nanking, their capital, and to flee far up the Yangtze River. Still unrepentant, they persist in their desperate opposition. It is a most lamentable thing for the sake of East Asia as a whole as well as for the people of China.

Some time ago when the Japanese Government received a proffer of good offices by the German Government to act as an intermediary for bringing about direct negotiations between Japan and China, they proposed, with a view to affording the Nationalist Government a last opportunity for reconsideration, the following four points as the basic conditions for the solution of the Affair:

China to abandon her pro-Communist and Anti-Japanese and anti-Manchoukuo policies to collaborate with Japan and Manchoukuo in their anti-Comintern policy.
Establishment of demilitarized zones in the necessary localities, and of a special regime for the said localities.
Conclusion of an economic agreement between Japan, China and Manchoukuo.
China to pay Japan the necessary indemnities.

These items summarized the minimum requirements which were considered absolutely indispensable by the Japanese Government. It was my earnest hope that the Nationalist Government would sue for peace on the basis of these fundamental conditions. However, that Government, blind to the larger interests of East Asia, and ignoring both our magnanimity and Germany’s friendly intention, exhibited no readiness to ask frankly for peace, but only sought to delay the matter and ultimately failed to send a reply that could be regarded in [Page 442] any way as sincere. The Nationalist Government having thus wilfully thrown away the last chance placed at their disposal by the Japanese Government, it became clear that there would be no hope of ever arriving at a solution by waiting indefinitely for any reconsideration on the part of the Nationalist Government. It is because of these circumstances that the Japanese Government issued on the 16th of this month the statement that they would from thenceforward cease to deal with the Nationalist Government. As is made plain in that statement our Government now look forward to the establishment and the growth of a new Chinese regime capable of genuine co-operation with Japan, which it is their intention to assist in the building up of a new and rehabilitated China. I am fully convinced that this is the only way of realizing our ideal of securing the stability of East Asia through Sino-Japanese co-operation.

I desire to avail myself of this occasion to say that in Europe and America there are some who are apt to entertain misgivings regarding Japan’s intentions as though she were trying to close the Chinese door, and expel the interests of the Powers from China. Let me state explicitly that not only will Japan respect to the fullest extent the rights and interests of the Powers in the occupied areas, but she is prepared, for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the Chinese people, to leave the door wide open to all Powers and to welcome their cultural and economic co-operation there. It is earnestly to be hoped that the Powers, by recognizing the new conditions prevailing in China, and by appreciating the propriety of such Japanese demands for necessary and rational adjustments as have been submitted, or may be submitted hereafter, in order to meet those conditions, will co-operate for the establishment of a new order in the Far East.

As regards our relations with Manchoukuo, it is the fundamental principle of our national policy to help that country to achieve a healthy progress as an independent state, maintaining all the while its intimate and inseparable relationship with our own. In accordance with this basic principle our Government decided upon the abolition of the extraterritoriality long enjoyed by Japan and transfer of her administrative rights in the South Manchuria Railway zone. And in the execution of that programme the first treaty was concluded in June, 1936, and the second treaty in November last year, the operation of both of which has proved exceedingly satisfactory. As for the international status of Manchoukuo, because of the various governmental reforms and improvements accomplished through her strenuous efforts exerted with the help of Japan for their materialization, the Powers have come to revise their appraisement of the new state. Italy, first of all, extended formal recognition towards the end of November last, and the mutual extension of formal recognition with the Franco [Page 443] Government of Spain took place in the early days of the following December.

Japan’s policy towards the Soviet Union has always been guided by our conviction of the urgent need of placing the relations of the two countries upon a normal footing for the sake of the peace of East Asia. It is in accordance with this policy that we endeavoured within the past year to solve the long pending issue of the revision of the Fishery Treaty; but unfortunately, owing to the attitude of the Soviet authorities, we were obliged to conclude a modus vivendi at the year end as in the year before last. I should add, however, that since the Soviet Government are proceeding with the necessary internal preparations for the conclusion of an agreement providing for a revision of the treaty now in force, we are taking steps for the continuance of the negotiation and the signing of the new agreement at the earliest possible date.

This Government attach great importance to a smooth operation of the Japanese concession enterprises in North Saghalien. Let me say that the Japanese Government will never allow these rights and interests derived from the Soviet-Japanese Basic Treaty71a to be nullified through unreasonable pressure. Again, the relations between the Soviet Union and China are attracting the special attention of our nation. China concluded in August last a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, while members of the Communist International have penetrated all classes of the Chinese, destroying the social order of the country and endangering the stability of East Asia. Japan, ever solicitous for the civilization of East Asia and the welfare of its people, cannot but view the situation with the gravest concern.

In conducting military operations in China, Japan has been exercising special care lest the nationals and the rights and interests of third Powers should suffer. But there have occurred, I regret to say, toward the end of last year the Panay Incident72 and the Ladybird Incident, involving Great Britain and the United States. While it is needless to say that their occurrence was entirely unintentional, it was feared for a time that these incidents might lead to an alienation of feeling between Japan and those two countries. I rejoice that thanks to the calm and fair-minded attitude taken by the governments of both countries and the sincerity of our government and people, the incidents have been brought in each case to an amicable settlement.

Since the outbreak of the present Affair, the United States has always maintained a fair and just attitude, acting on all occasions with such careful regard for the cause of Japanese-American friendship [Page 444] that, despite such mishaps as the Panay Incident, the relations of the two countries, I am happy to say, have suffered no impairment. The importance to the conduct of our foreign affairs of American understanding needs scarcely to be mentioned. We shall continue to do our best towards the furtherance of Japanese-American amity and good will.

As regards Great Britain, there has been no change in the policy of the Japanese Government, which aims at the maintenance of the traditional friendship between the two countries. I hope that the British Government and people, grasping fully the importance of Anglo-Japanese relations, will endeavour to comprehend correctly Japan’s position in East Asia and to co-operate with Japan for the furtherance of peace and good understanding between the two nations. At the same time, I desire to urge upon our own people to stand solidly behind this policy of the Government, in view of the seriousness of the general situation.

I am glad to say that Japan and Germany have been brought closer together than ever through such auspicious events as the visit of H. I. H. Prince Chichibu who was pleased to make a tour of that country on his way home from England last year, and also the cruise of the H. I. M. S. Ashigara, which included a call at Kiel. Especially do this Government appreciate the friendly and most sympathetic attitude Germany has taken in consonance with the spirit of the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Agreement. We will strive to strengthen further the co-operation between the two countries.

From the beginning of the present Affair, Italy, understanding our true motives, has collaborated with us along all lines. It is well known to you how consistently and how energetically the Italian Government supported our country in November last year at the Brussels Conference of the Signatory Powers to the Nine Power Treaty. In connection with the question already mentioned of the settlement of the present Affair, the Italian Government again manifested their sympathetic concern. This Government are most grateful for these proofs of good will on the part of Italy. Italy, which had taken actually the same position as Japan in the matter of combatting the Comintern, joined in the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Agreement in November last. It is a subject for congratulation from the standpoint of securing world peace that Japan, Germany and Italy have come to join forces under the Anti-Comintern banner. This Government will seek to extend further the effective operation of this agreement in concert with Germany and Italy.

In Spain, the civil war which broke out in July 1936 has developed steadily in favour of the regime under General Franco, which has now succeeded in bringing the greater part of the country under its control, and in consolidating its foundations. Moreover, the Franco [Page 445] Government is identified with the Government of this country in the policy adopted against the Comintern. In the light of these facts we have decided to recognize that Government, and the necessary steps to that end were taken early in December last year.

A survey of our foreign trade shows that there has been in the past year a notable increase, as compared with the preceding year, of more than 35 per cent, in value as regards imports and 18 per cent, in value as regards exports—the total value of imports and exports together exceeding 7,270,000,000 yen, which is an unprecedented sum in the history of our foreign commerce.

Nevertheless, there still remain the economic barriers as heretofore. While endeavouring on the one hand to eliminate these obstacles through diplomatic means by dealing individually with the various countries according to their respective circumstances and the measures employed by them, this Government are exerting on the other hand unremitting efforts to promote our foreign trade by every means available. During the past year trade agreements have been concluded with British India, Burma, and Turkey. There were also signed in December a Treaty of Commerce with Siam and a supplementary agreement to the Italo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce relating to the Italian colonies. Negotiations are now in progress with other countries for the conclusion of the necessary trade agreements, covering both old and new markets.

A boycott of Japanese goods has been initiated in certain countries owing to misleading Chinese propaganda concerning the present Affair and to the machinations of the Chinese who reside there in large numbers. However, nowhere has it developed into any serious proportions, thanks to the united efforts of the Government and people and the fair attitude of the general public in the countries concerned.

The Japanese Government believe it to be one of the necessary conditions of the peace and harmony and the prosperity of Japan, Manchoukuo and China, and consequently of the entire world, to increase rationally the productive power of those three countries, and to strengthen their economic ties, and at the same time to promote their trade with the rest of the world. For the realization of this purpose the Government are now carefully preparing appropriate plans at home and abroad.

Finally I desire to say a few words on cultural work. In order to promote international friendship and to bring about a real peace among mankind it is necessary that nations should form intimate cultural bonds and cultivate a full understanding of one another’s ideals and aspirations. The present Affair is traceable in no small degree to Chinese lack of understanding in this regard. If Japan and China are to build up a lasting friendship, they should understand each other’s national conditions and characteristics, and co-operate culturally [Page 446] according to the fundamental spirit of the Orient. Taking this standpoint, the Government intend to carry on in China more intensively than heretofore the cultural work which will serve as a foundation for the permanent peace and prosperity of the two nations. At the same time the Government will not relax their cultural work elsewhere since there is a special need, in the face of the present international situation, of making other peoples better acquainted with our unique culture and the national traits of our people who love justice and peace.

I hope that from what I have now said you have been able to understand the views of the Government regarding the present China Affair and foreign questions in general. In brief, the underlying aim of the foreign policy of the Government is to eradicate the root of evil in East Asia, to make known throughout the world the justice of our cause, and to contribute toward laying the foundations of world peace. To that end the Government are doing their very utmost. And I trust that you will appreciate the intentions of the Government and will extend your co-operation for the attainment of the objectives of our foreign policy in dealing with the grave emergency that confronts the nation today.

  1. English text received by the Embassy in Japan from the Japanese Foreign Office.
  2. Signed at Peking, January 20, 1925; League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. xxxiv, p. 32.
  3. See pp. 517 ff.