Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation With the Japanese Ambassador (Debuchi)

The Ambassador said that he had come in to tell me that the Japanese forces at the Nonni River had been ordered to stand still, but having been attacked by the Chinese they had attacked in return and had driven the Chinese northward, and later that he had had a message from Mukden stating that the Japanese had occupied Tsitsihar. The Ambassador said that it was a dark day for him. I told [Page 45] him that I thought it was proper now to give him the whole picture in which this matter presented itself to my mind, and that it was as follows: That on September 18th the regular organized Chinese Government in Manchuria consisted of the government of the young Marshal Chang Hsueh-Liang; that this government had been recognized by the Central Chinese Government at Nanking and was the only regular government of Manchuria; that on that day and thereafter the Japanese army had attacked and destroyed the forces of Marshal Chang wherever they could find them and the only time they stopped attacking was when there were no Chinese forces to attack; that in this last instance, when a new force had cropped up in the extreme northern part of Manchuria, many hundreds of miles from the Japanese railway zone, the Japanese had attacked and taken Tsitsihar; and that I could not but regard this as a violation by the Japanese army of the provisions of the Kellogg Pact and of the Nine-Power Treaty.

I told the Ambassador that under these circumstances I must ask him to tell Baron Shidehara that I must reserve full liberty to publish all of the papers and documents which have passed between our two governments on this subject; that I did not intend to publish them at once necessarily, but that I must retain full liberty to do so. I told Debuchi that as he knew, for two months I had been preserving these papers in confidence in the hope of a settlement, so that it might not embarrass the Japanese Government or the chance of such a settlement. I told him that I had gone so far in this hope as to urge our press not to publish anything which would inflame American sentiment against Japan, but that now in the interests of the position of my own government I must reserve full liberty of action to make public the whole matter. He said he appreciated fully my position and they had no complaint to make of it. I told him further that there had been very unfortunate rumors coming from various sources in regard to my having assured Debuchi that the American Government would not support the League in its issue against Japan. I told Debuchi that I did not attribute these rumors to him, but that they were very false and very embarrassing, and I reminded him of how I had made it very clear that on the central point of the controversy between the League and Japan we fully sympathized with the League. I told him further that I had received word from Paris that yesterday Mr. Yoshizawa, in his speech before the League, had gone back to the most extreme contentions of Japan in regard to insisting upon ratification by China of these treaties before there was any evacuation by the Japanese troops; that Yoshizawa had even gone so far as to say that it would not be sufficient even to ratify the old treaties, but there must be a new treaty ratifying them. I pointed [Page 46] out that this was a complete repudiation by Yoshizawa of Baron Shidehara’s position taken in his last memorandum to me,66 in answer to my memorandum of November 5th.67 Debuchi said he was very much surprised at this and that he thought there must be some misunderstanding. He asked me where I got the information. I told him that it had come direct from Paris through General Dawes and I was sure there was no misunderstanding because Yoshizawa had been cross-examined very carefully by Mr. Briand about his meaning. Debuchi was very much troubled. In closing, however, he said that he wanted me to know that whatever happened in the future, he knew that from the beginning my position had been perfectly fair and even friendly towards his government and that that was appreciated by Baron Shidehara; that Baron Shidehara’s views had reflected themselves of late in the Japanese press, so that no matter what happened the record between him, Debuchi and me was clear. I told him that that was so and I had no complaints or criticisms as to the way he had conducted business with me, and in all respects he had been fair and friendly and accurate with me.

H[enry] L. S[timson]
  1. Ante, p. 39.
  2. See telegram No. 217, Nov. 3, 1931, to the Chargé in Japan, p. 34.