Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck) of a Conversation With the Counselor of the Japanese Embassy (Taketomi)

Mr. Taketomi called and said that he wished to talk about accounts which were current with regard to T. V. Soong’s plans. He said that the Japanese had been informed that T. V. Soong was proposing the organization of an international “consultative committee” the purpose of which would be to render assistance, especially in the financial field, to China. He said that Mr. Soong had proposed this in various conversations in Europe; that in Great Britain, Sir Charles Addis had submitted the matter to the British Government which had been unfavorably disposed with the result that Addis had declined to serve on the committee; that in France, Soong had thought of having Mr. Monnet on the Committee, but that the attitude of the French Government was adverse and Monnet’s decision was not known; and that, when Soong visited the President at Hyde Park (on August 7) Soong had laid the idea before the President and the President had declared himself favorable. At this point Mr. Hornbeck asked: “From what source have you had such information?” Mr. Taketomi replied that Mr. Monnet had recently had a conversation with Viscount Ishii in the course of which Monnet had stated that he had been informed that such had been the tenor of the conversation held at Hyde Park. He inquired whether Mr. Hornbeck could confirm or correct this report. Mr. Hornbeck replied that he did not know what had been said on either side in the conversation between Mr. Soong and the President; that he only knew that Soong had a plan for a consultative committee which plan Soong had informed him he had put forward in Europe in much the terms in which Mr. Taketomi had just described it.

Mr. Taketomi then said that the Japanese felt that this plan was objectionable: it was premature and it was doomed to failure—without Japanese participation no such plan could be successful. Mr. Hornbeck asked why should not Japan participate. Mr. Taketomi replied that even if the Chinese wanted them to and the Japanese were willing to, Chinese statesmen could not at this time, in the light of Chinese popular prejudice against Japan, foster any plan which would involve Japanese participation in activities in China, and that, for that reason among others, T. V. Soong was excluding Japan from any proposed participation in the projects which he was formulating. Mr. Taketomi said that the Japanese Ambassador had asked him to come especially to state Japan’s position. [Page 513]Mr. Hornbeck said that he would appreciate being given a very definite statement expressive of the Japanese Government’s position. Mr. Taketomi said that the Japanese Government was opposed to the idea of an international consultative committee, just as it was opposed, as he had stated in our last previous conversation (July 25), to the League of Nations’ project for technical assistance to China; this because the time was not yet ripe, these projects meant encouragement to China to persevere in an attitude of hostility to Japan, and Japan was being excluded from these projects.

There followed a lengthy informal discussion in the nature of an exchange of personal opinions covering in general the subject of Japan’s objectives and methods in her China policy.

See pages of Comment—following (attached):


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In the informal discussion referred to in the concluding paragraph of my memorandum, I made it a point to convey to Mr. Taketomi a distinct impression that I was not in sympathy with and the American Government could not be expected to be sympathetic toward the attempt by the Japanese Government to dictate to the American Government and other governments in the field of policy with regard to China; I pointed out to him that, right or wrong, the League of Nations, of which Japan is still a member, and the fourteen countries parties to the Nine Power Treaty29 have all indicated clearly that it is the policy of the nations to be patient with China and try to help the Chinese toward the development of a new political order within China’s boundaries, and that the Japanese Government alone appears to hold the view that no form of outside assistance should be rendered to China. I took occasion, among other things, to inquire whether the Japanese Government had approached other governments in a manner comparable to the approach which it had made to this Government through Mr. Taketomi (as recorded in my memoranda of conversation of July 25) on the subject of the effort by the League of Nations to render technical assistance to China. Mr. Taketomi said that it had done so and he mentioned expressly approaches to the French and British Governments. …

It is my opinion that we should not allow ourselves to be substantially influenced by these manifestations of the Japanese Government’s attitude. The fact, however, of these approaches should serve to put us on guard. It may well be doubted whether T. V. Soong’s [Page 514]project will prosper to such an extent and so rapidly as to bring about in the near future a situation which would produce a definite “issue”. There is no reason why we should not, and there is sufficient reason why we should, take an attitude favorable toward the project. Assuming that, in course of time, Soong succeeds in organizing an international “consultative committee”, the bringing into existence of that committee would probably have as its first result the directing of the attention of that committee to study of ways and means for taking care of existing indebtedness and obtaining new credit, on China’s part, rather than the soliciting at once of substantial and definite financial assistance on a large scale from an international (or even a national) foreign source. The Japanese probably do not apprehend immediate and substantial foreign assistance to China. What they fear is the growth of the influence in China and abroad of T. V. Soong. They regard him as an obstacle to the consummation of their plans, first, for forcing upon the Nanking Government the conclusion of a formal agreement favorable to Japan, and second, the consummation of other features of their program achievement of which would be facilitated by the weakening in China of Soong’s position and the strengthening in China of the position of personalities more favorable toward or subservient to Japan. Also, it has been their manifest policy over the period of the last twenty years to emphasize the “paramount influence” of Japan as among the foreign powers in relations with China and to warn other powers and as far as possible prevent other powers from exerting substantial political influence in and with China. It is a fact that China and Japan are engaged in a definite conflict which will be prolonged; and that, therefore, anything which tends to strengthen China must have a proportionately weakening effect as regards the policy of Japan to put over Japan’s program. That, however, does not alter the fact that at the bottom of the trouble in the Far East lies the weakness of China. There is (or there was), even in Japan, a substantial body of opinion thoroughly in line with the principle, agreed upon by the powers, including Japan, at Washington in 1922, that, toward creating conditions of stability in the Far East, the course should be pursued which was outlined in the preamble of the Nine Power Treaty. That preamble was and is directly in line with the traditional policy of the United States. We should continue to adhere to the principles therein laid down, disregarding, though not failing to take account of, Japan’s unique present (and expressed) dissent from these principles and her efforts to dictate to the resit of the world a tacit or express abandonment of them.30

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. Signed at Washington, February 6, 1922, Foreign Relation, 1922, vol. i, p. 276.
  2. See letter of July 31 from Mr. D. Nohara to Sir Charles Addis, p. 505.