Memorandum by the Secretary of State
The Japanese Ambassador came in today as a result of my request, made on yesterday, for an early report in reply to our conversation of July tenth, at which time I asked for an explanation and suitable expressions of the Japanese Government in regard to the reckless bombing near an American vessel anchored in the Yangtze River, damage to a church owned by American missionaries, and the dropping of bombs near the official residences of the American Ambassador and Counselor in Chungking. The Ambassador handed me the two attached statements, one of the Japanese Government and the other a report of their Commander-in-Chief of the China Sea Fleet, relative to this matter.1 As I read the statements I observed that the Government of Japan was repeating its old line of suggestions and comment to the effect that their military forces were warned to exercise full care in bombing operations and that Americans should be more appreciative of this attitude than they seem to be. I said further that this line of comment gets nowhere; that the big fact to be considered and dealt with is that Japanese bombs fell dangerously near the residences of our Ambassador and Counselor and our vessel on the Yangtze; that it is no answer in regard to this sort of dangerous bombing merely to repeat that Japanese officials are always warned to be cautious. I said that the fact is that this dangerous bombing did occur and, if it should be continued, something very serious was liable to happen, as the Government of Japan must realize, and, hence, the double emphasis my Government is placing on this single fact. I further [Page 666]said that, naturally, I did not attach much importance to these repetitions of the Government of Japan that the military officials are directed to exercise caution; that the big point is that some way must be found to avoid this dangerous bombing in localities entirely away from any of the armed forces or properties of the Chinese Government. I indicated my disappointment, by repeating such remarks as the foregoing, and in no way indicated any satisfaction with the Japanese communication, but, on the contrary, continued to say that the sole question relates to whether the Japanese Government would in the future use sufficiently increased precautions as to put an end to such dangerous bombing as occurred in the instant case.
The Ambassador said that it was hoped my Government would urge its nationals to exercise as much caution as possible to keep away from places of danger. I replied that my Government does not concede the right of any other outside country to a monopoly of highways or streets or other localities in China; that my Government, from the general standpoint of their personal safety, and without any implied concessions of any superior right or privilege of Japanese nationals to travel in and to occupy given areas, does caution its nationals in China to use reasonable and ordinary diligence to avoid danger or injury to their persons or properties. I further added that at the same time my Government stands unalterably for the doctrine of damages for any injury to the person or property of its nationals in connection with the Japanese activities in China. The Ambassador then said his Government hoped that our nationals would mark and locate their properties so these could be recognized and their locality and nature known. I said to him that while my Government, as just stated, does advise its nationals to exercise reasonable and ordinary diligence for the avoidance of injuries both to person and property, it does not undertake to indicate the manner in which this shall be done, but leaves this to its nationals there on the ground; that I might add, however, that they naturally and on their own initiative take many different steps to avoid injury to themselves or their properties, and, probably in most instances, they do endeavor to mark or otherwise indicate and make known the location of their properties to the proper officials of the Japanese forces. I said my recollection was that there could not well have been anything lacking in the way of information given to Japanese officials as to the location of the American Embassy, the residence of the Counselor, the American vessel nearby on the Yangtze River, and the church building. The Ambassador did not pursue this matter any further.
He then inquired what my opinion was about the outlook in Europe. I replied that my Government makes no predictions about the future in Europe but it is taking absolutely nothing for granted; that when [Page 667]the rulers of powerful nations put all their resources in armaments and in the organization of huge military forces, and when in speeches, every week or two, announce to the world that they have not got as much of the world’s goods as they are entitled to and that they propose to get the desired additional amount by force, my Government still makes no predictions, but it does undertake to arm and to continue to arm so as to be prepared for any possible eventuality, and that this will continue to be its very definite policy. I then said that with so many nations exhausting all of their economic vitality by putting their entire substance into armaments and armies and navies, it is just a question of time when most nations will be utterly bankrupt and when not only will their peoples be in a state of more or less destitution, but, what is far worse, they will continue, as they are doing today, to drag the entire world down towards lower levels of existence; that this is a course now being accelerated in its awful effects in the way of human deterioration. I then added that my country fights Bolshevism as do numerous others, but that the powerful nations, who are steadily lowering the standards of life of their own and other peoples by a course of militarism and military conquest, are really the greatest friends that Bolshevism has, in that they are steadily dragging the entire world unerringly in the direction of Bolshevism, even though they may imagine that they are actually fighting Bolshevism. The Ambassador did not express any disagreement with this.