Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Japanese Ambassador called this afternoon at his request. I asked the Ambassador if he had formed any conclusions with regard to the memorandum listing incidents affecting American nationals in China which I had handed to him on August 9.62 The Ambassador said that he had and pulled out a very bulky envelope, which he opened, and then presented me with a memorandum, a copy of which is attached herewith,63 containing what the Ambassador termed were his observations [Page 865]concerning my memorandum of August 9. After a glance at the memorandum I said that it was evident that this was a very detailed document which would require careful study and that I would be glad to comment upon his observations in our next interview.

I then stated that I was sorry to have to tell the Ambassador that other additional incidents affecting American nationals and American interests in China had arisen since the preparation of my other memorandum on the subject, and I thereupon handed the Ambassador a memorandum entitled “Supplementary Summary of Incidents Affecting Adversely the Interests of the United States and its Nationals”, a copy of which is attached herewith.64

The Ambassador read this supplementary list very attentively and then stated that it was the view of his Government, and his own view, that it was very difficult for such incidents to be discussed by the two Governments concerned, in as much as the high officials of both Governments were so far removed from the scene where these incidents had occurred, and that his Government believed that they should be settled by the local authorities.

I replied that, as the Ambassador well knew, this Government has frequently stated that it hoped and believed that local incidents could be settled in a friendly and equitable manner by the local American and Japanese officials, but that I was sure the Ambassador would admit, as must his Government, that in the event that negotiations between the local authorities did not result in settlements which were fair and equitable to the American interests or the American nationals involved there was no recourse other than for the two Governments to confront the task of adjusting them in a satisfactory manner to both sides. I said that as a practical matter I was entirely confident that there would be no further incidents of this character which could not be promptly and satisfactorily settled and that, moreover, very few incidents of this character would arise if the Japanese Government informed its military and naval authorities in China that it desired that under no conditions should such incidents adversely affecting American interests and nationals occur.

At this stage the Ambassador said that it was, of course, the desire of his Government that no unfair treatment be accorded American interests or American nationals in China. I added if that was the case I felt sure that the conversations between the Ambassador and myself regarding these questions would be productive of beneficial results and that I therefore trusted that at our next meeting no new incidents would have arisen in the meantime and that with regard to the outstanding incidents of which I had complained a prompt and satisfactory adjustment could be made.

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The Ambassador then remarked that he felt confident that in practically all cases satisfactory adjustments could be made provided the local American authorities were permitted to settle them directly with the corresponding Japanese authorities. He went on to say that at the time of the so-called Marines incident a satisfactory adjustment had been found by the local American authorities but that they were impeded from making such adjustment effective on account of orders received from the State Department. I stated that my understanding of that situation was entirely counter to the Ambassador’s impression but that in this case, as in all other cases listed, I would be glad to discuss the full details with the Ambassador in our next session.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. See telegram No. 297, August 9, 1940, to the Ambassador in Japan, supra.
  2. Infra.
  3. No copy attached to this file.