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

The Secretary: The Japanese Ambassador called to see me on the subject of Chinese extraterritoriality and I took the occasion to speak to him casually on the silver question. I said that I had read with interest Mr. Kagami’s47 speech at the meeting of the International Chamber of Commerce and that I had noted particularly his references to the silver situation and to the great importance to Japan of stabilization. I told the Ambassador that I wondered whether this might mean that Japan had under consideration the calling of an international silver conference. He said that he rather doubted whether his Government would want to do this because the Japanese seriously doubted whether such a conference would accomplish its object. He asked me whether, if Japan should call a conference in Tokyo, this country would be represented. I said that I felt sure we would be as we also thought the stabilization of silver of vital importance. The Ambassador asked why we did not call a conference and I told him that as we were a silver producing country it would probably look better to have it called by someone else. I said that Tokyo would seem to me the ideal place since the effect of the depreciation of silver was very largely an oriental question. I reminded him also that Japan was not a silver producing country and not a very heavy user of silver, but that, of course, the depreciation in value was an enormous handicap to Japan’s trade with China, just as in a lesser degree it was a handicap to our trade with China. I said that I was more sure that we would be glad to be represented at a conference in [Page 614] Tokyo for the fact that, at the present time, the relations between Japan and the United States were completely cordial, that it seemed to me that we had fewer troublesome questions with Japan than with almost any other nation. To this he agreed enthusiastically. He said that he would like to think over the matter and perhaps communicate with his Government to get their ideas, that he would also like to talk with Mr. Kagami.

I told the Ambassador that it would be very interesting to know whether Japan had this matter under consideration, that the idea had occurred to us merely because of Mr. Kagami’s speech. The Ambassador said there had been talk of China calling such a conference, but that he felt it would be far more useful to call it in Japan, if it were to be in the orient, since nobody knew from month to month what conditions would be in China and since they might be perfectly unable at any moment to cope with a conference. I agreed with this and said I thought also that Japan, having no ax to grind, would be less likely to introduce extraneous matters. The Ambassador said that he felt a silver conference would be more useful either in this country or in the Orient than in Europe because at such a conference in Europe all sorts of extraneous questions would be introduced. I agreed with this and said that I felt a silver conference, to have a reasonable chance of success, ought to confine itself strictly to the question of silver. The Ambassador asked whether I thought Great Britain would accept an invitation from Japan. I said that, of course, I had no idea, that I had not discussed the matter with the British at all, but that it would seem to me Great Britain would be unlikely to refuse an invitation to such a conference.

The Ambassador said that he would communicate with me shortly.

W. R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Kenkichi Kagami, President of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha and of the Mitsubishi Trust Company.