The Naval Attaché in Japan (Johnson) to the Chief of Naval Operations (Pratt) 72

Report No. 32

The naval authorities on February 22, 1933, made public the following unofficial statement in connection with Japan’s expected withdrawal from the League and the question of the sovereignty of the South Sea Islands over which Japan holds the mandate.

The question of the sovereignty of the mandated islands after the withdrawal of Japan from the League is being widely discussed. It is quite natural that all the discussions, except a few which are based upon a limited legal standpoint, agree that the sovereignty of the islands lies with Japan. This point of view coincides with that held by the Foreign Office, and being a sound legal and political interpretation, is supported by American and European authorities. In a word, the question of the sovereignty of the mandate area has no connection with our withdrawal from the League. So far as the Navy is concerned we will refuse to recognize any move on the part of foreign countries to attempt to deprive us of these mandate islands. We have nothing to fear in standing on our rights. To sum up, the importance to Japan of the South Sea Islands is comparable to that of Manchuria and Mongolia to her. They are the life line at sea of the Empire as the latter regions are on land. Japan will stake her existence upon the maintenance of the islands.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Navy Department; received March 30.