793.94/2611a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Dawes)

326. [Paraphrase.] With regard to our conversation this morning over the telephone, it is my desire that during the next few days you should be in Paris so that you may be available for conference with Monsieur Briand and possibly with the representatives of the other nations who are assembling on November 16 for the adjourned meeting of the League of Nations Council concerning the problem which has arisen out of the developments in, and in connection with, Manchuria. That you will find it necessary to attend the Council meetings is not anticipated. It is desired, however, that you be available for conference on matters which affect treaty rights and general interest of the United States, in view of the fact that the developments in Manchuria and the discussions which will take place in Paris will presumably involve matters pertinent thereto.

It is assumed that you know generally of the events in Manchuria and of the discussion which has occurred at Geneva and the action taken by the Council and by the American Government.

Your Government sees it as follows: The armed forces of Japan for practical purposes have in South Manchuria taken control of all important cities, the railway lines, the telephone, telegraph, radio systems, and some other public utilities, and have destroyed or seriously disrupted there the administrative machinery of the Chinese.

It is the contention of the Japanese Government that all measures taken have been necessary in order to protect the lives and property of Japanese subjects and to protect the South Manchuria Railway. [End paraphrase.]

[Page 42]

The Council of the League was in session when this trouble began and China immediately appealed to it. Both China and Japan are represented on the Council. On September 30, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution in which it was affirmed that Japan had no territorial designs on Manchuria; that Japan would withdraw its troops as rapidly as possible into the Railway Zone, in proportion as the safety of the lives and property of Japanese nationals was effectively assured; and that the Chinese Government would assume responsibility for the safety of Japanese lives and property as the Withdrawal continued. The Council then adjourned, to meet on October 14.

When the Council met again on October 14 [13], no progress had been made in the matter of withdrawal. The Japanese military had somewhat extended its activities. It appeared that the question of invoking the Kellogg Pact must be dealt with. We authorized Gilbert to accept an invitation of the Council to sit with the Council as an observer, to take part in the discussions in so far as they might relate to the Kellogg Pact, but to participate in no discussions which did not relate to the Pact. He of course had no vote. The first result was a request by several governments represented on the Council to signatories of the Kellogg Pact to call attention to that treaty. The governments thus acting immediately sent notes to Japan and to China invoking that treaty, and several other governments, including the American, soon did likewise.

The Council continued in session and Briand, Reading,59 Grandi60 and others endeavored to persuade Japan and China to agree to a new resolution intended to hasten the resolving of the military situation and a solution by peaceful means. It became apparent, however, that, among other matters, Japan was now insisting as a condition precedent to withdrawal that China expressly confirm certain old treaties and treaty obligations which had been in dispute over a number of years. When it finally appeared that Japan insisted absolutely on that point, the Council drew up a resolution, which was voted upon affirmatively by all the representatives except the Japanese on October 24.61 This resolution, in view of the fact that the vote was not unanimous, lacks legal force. Its essential features were as follows: The points made in the September 30 resolution were reiterated. Japan was called upon to withdraw its forces before the next meeting of the Council on November 16. China was called upon to make arrangements for taking over the territory evacuated and to associate with [Page 43] her authorities designated for that purpose representatives of other powers to follow execution of these arrangements. It was recommended that China and Japan appoint representatives to meet and arrange details of evacuation and taking over. It was recommended that as soon as the evacuation was complete China and Japan should begin direct negotiations and, if necessary, set up a committee of conciliation. The Council was to adjourn until November 16.

At the last meeting, the Japanese made a counter-proposal, which was not accepted.62 Examination of this and of subsequent statements of the Japanese Government63 indicate that the real issue is as follows: The Japanese insist that before releasing the military grip which they have gained, matters of long-standing dispute between them and the Chinese shall be settled. These matters appear to include questions of validity of treaties which China disputes and details of interpretation of treaties which China does not dispute. The Chinese have stated in a formal note to the League that they regard themselves as bound by the League Covenant to a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations and they have offered to submit to arbitration or judicial settlement.64 They have not denied that they dispute the validity of certain treaties. It appears that at one point the Japanese stated that they would give the Council a list of the treaties for which they demand respect; but we are not informed that they have submitted such a list.

[Paraphrase.] Japan has not appeared to us to be justified in insisting that all these matters should be settled as a prerequisite to withdrawal; in fact, it has seemed to us that to insist thus would amount to exerting military pressure in order to bring about a settlement. In addition, we have taken the position from the outset that, while acting independently, we should endeavor, insofar as might be proper, to reinforce the League’s action. Therefore, we stated to Shidehara in a memorandum left with him by Forbes, November 5,65 that the use of military force in order to influence negotiations would be deprecated by us, and that our attitude was the same as that expressed by the Council in its resolutions; that is, withdrawal of Japan’s forces should not be conditioned upon the settling of long-standing questions. Since we did not wish to give an opinion one way or the other concerning the wisdom of the Council’s strategy in setting a date for the evacuation, we did not mention the date specified in the resolution.

Although, technically speaking, war has been avoided so far, these efforts seem as yet to have produced no very effective results. Realizing from the beginning that conflict in regard to policy existed within [Page 44] Japan, our purpose has been to avoid any measure which might help in the gaining of uncontested control by the military element. China has also had her conflicts within, and it has been our hope that the Chinese would themselves view the situation and its requirements more realistically than they seem to have done so far.

We still feel that it should be possible for a method to be found for the peaceful settlement of this issue. Careful consideration should be given to the respecting by both China and Japan of the treaty rights between those two countries and those of other powers.

The disputants must be made to realize that we have no intention of taking sides as between them, nor do we intend to allow a line of cleavage to be created between us and the Council, since we feel that our objectives are the same: namely, to effect a peaceful settlement and prevent war. We can associate ourselves with the Council’s efforts on behalf of peace although we cannot ally ourselves with it. The obvious fact that the whole world desires peace must be impressed on both the Japanese and Chinese.

In view of the above, it is my desire to send you to Paris and place you in close touch with the Council’s leading members in order to add force to my efforts here along these lines. Leaving the lead to Briand, you should, in your discretion, contribute by your counsel to the search for a way of obtaining the agreement of China and Japan to some method of peaceful solution. I do not want us to push or lead in this matter; neither do I want the American Government to be placed in the position of initiating or instigating League action. I do desire that we confer with the principal Council members on this difficult problem of common concern and that our efforts shall be added to theirs.

My suggestion is that you feel your way cautiously. Notify me fully in regard to such possibilities as you may envisage, as well as in regard to actual developments.

I have in mind other possibilities which I shall indicate to you in a later telegram. [End paraphrase.]

  1. The Marquess of Reading (Rufus Daniel Isaacs), British representative on the Council for the second part of the 65th session, October 13–24, 1931.
  2. Dino Grandi, Italian representative on the Council for the second part of the 65th session, October 13–24, 1931.
  3. Ante, p. 29.
  4. See League of Nations, Official Journal, December, 1931, pp. 2346, 2358.
  5. Ibid., pp. 2514, 2516.
  6. Ibid., p. 2513.
  7. See telegram No. 217, Nov. 3, 1931, to the Chargé in Japan, p. 34.