The Chargé in Japan (Neville) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 611

Sir: I have the honor to report that, judging from comment in the press, there is a strong opinion in Japan in favor of withdrawal from membership in the League of Nations. This opinion, it is true, has been apparent in some form since the first action taken by the League to settle the affair in Manchuria, but in recent weeks there has been a recrudescence of anti-League feeling brought on largely by the League’s activities in the Shanghai affair. Particularly, the resolution of the Committee of 193 which the Japanese consider coercive and unjust, has created much indignation in Japan and occasioned much newspaper agitation for withdrawal from the League.

I have not attempted to translate for the Department any of these articles as most of them are prolix and repetitious. Their tone and attitude may be judged from the following quotations which are fairly representative. The Osaka Asahi stated editorially “What makes the paragraph in question (No. 11 of the Resolution) so seriously [Page 4] objectionable to this Empire as to make it determined even to secede from the League, should the worst come, is that the proposition amounts to an encroachment on the Imperial Prerogatives”. The Kokumin Shimbun reported, on April 21st, that a certain group of Peers are advocating withdrawal from the League. This paper states “These Peers declare that Japan should sever connection with the League and attempt to reestablish Sino-Japanese friendship by frank and direct negotiations between the two countries.…4 The behavior of the League is eloquent testimony of the fact that it is a league of European nations to all intents and purposes”.

General Araki, in an astonishingly frank speech at Osaka on April 21st is reported as stating “If the League puts obstacles in the way of Japan’s efforts to preserve peace in Manchuria, Japan should sharply ask it if it intends to bring that territory back into chaos. If the League persists, Japan should utter a vigorous warning that the League is working for the destruction, not the preservation, of world peace. The Japanese people will not deviate in the least from their considered course”. The Osaka Mainichi reported, on April 24th, that at a meeting of military leaders, including General Araki, the Minister of War, the opinion prevailed that if the League does not alter its present attitude of curbing Japan’s just cause, Japan should withdraw from membership. The Jiji Shimpo reports that the Premier recently discussed, with the Chief Secretary of the Seiyukai, the public agitation for withdrawal from the League. The same paper says that the Secretary described the situation in detail to the Premier, adding that if the League persists in its present attitude, circumstances may force Japan to leave it altogether.

According to the Osaka Mainichi, there is a steady growth of the view favoring Japan’s withdrawal from the League in Government circles, in the Foreign Office as well as among the military authorities. In the opinion of these officials it would be better to sever connection with the League entirely than to take up a makeshift attitude of opposition to the resolution of the Committee of 19. Moreover, the secessionists think, so long as the League retains its present constitution, Japan’s grave differences with the League will not end with the present dispute. Although the issue is of vital importance to Japan, the smaller states within the League treat it as an abstract question. Japan must decide, once for all, either to discontinue cooperation with the League, or else formally to withdraw. Incidentally, the Osaka Mainichi has been running a serial article in the morning issue, entitled, “Japan Should Withdraw from the League”. The English edition of this paper stated editorially on April 27th: “Should the [Page 5] League persist in radically disappointing Japan’s expectations and confidence in that body, Japan and the Japanese would never hesitate to withdraw from its membership”.

Opposing the views of those who advocate secession from the League, there have appeared in the press opinions of influential people warning against the movement for withdrawal and pointing out advantages of retaining membership. The statement of Lord Lytton, interviewed in Mukden by Japanese reporters, advising against hasty withdrawal from the League, seems to have had a sobering effect on the agitators and caused favorable comment in several newspapers. I append hereto an editorial article from the Osaka Asahi5 which commends Lord Lytton’s view and warns against the movement for withdrawal. Incidentally, Lord Lytton’s statement, as quoted locally, seems to have touched on a subject that has been studiously avoided heretofore by the press in discussing the question of League membership, that of disposition of the Mandate Islands. There is little doubt that this matter would weigh heavily among Japanese in any decision regarding membership in the League.

There is also appended hereto a translation of an article by Dr. Ashida,6 formerly counselor of the Japanese Embassy in Belgium, written for the Hochi Shimbun. Dr. Ashida gives counsel of caution, and points out the serious consequences that would follow withdrawal from the League.

There is no lack of argument from either side of the case for withdrawal from the League. It may safely be stated that the matter is receiving close attention from both Government and public. There is no immediate prospect of withdrawal from the League, but it is easy to perceive, from the opinions appearing in the press, that continued irritation from the League might cause Japan to sever relations with that organization.

Respectfully yours,

Edwin L. Neville
  1. See telegram No. 165, April 30, 1932, 1 p.m., from the Consul at Geneva, vol. iii, p. 735.
  2. Omission indicated in original despatch.
  3. Not reprinted.
  4. Not printed.