The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

No. 1019

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch No. 1005, dated October 10, 1934,17 on the subject of Japanese representation in Manchuria, and to report that, since that despatch was written, the dispute referred to on pages 6 and 7, between the civil police of the Kwantung Leased Territory and the Kwantung Army Gendarmerie, has developed to a point where it threatens the continued existence of the Okada Cabinet.

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The controversy is being waged around the War Office and the Ministry of Overseas Affairs, the latter department having jurisdiction over the civilian administration of the Kwantung Leased Territory. Both of these Departments have issued public statements explaining their positions, creating what the Japanese newspapers describe as “the battle of statements”. The War Office contends that the civilian police should be placed under the command of the Kwantung Army because of the necessity for unified control, while the Department of Overseas Affairs bases its arguments on the ground that civilian administration should always be separate from military affairs. The newspapers have been rather non-committal in regard to the matter, and confine their comments to deploring the break-down in official discipline. The reactionary element, as is usually the case, supports the Army view, but, according to information which has reached the Embassy, a large section of the public is inclined to support the civilian view of the case. It is being asserted privately, according to one informant, that the Army is becoming much too arrogant and grasping, and that it is not working entirely for the good of Japan and Manchuria. It has personal reasons for wishing to control everything possible in Manchuria. Army officers, in the Japanese service, are usually retired when comparatively young, on small pensions, and they wish to create numerous positions in Manchuria under their control, in order that they may be able to step into these positions when they are retired.

The Army, however, is adamant in its demand that the original plan be carried out and that the Kwantung police be placed under the Gendarmerie commander. The Cabinet was forced to agree with the Army and announced on the 18th that there would be no deviation from the original scheme for reform of the administrative organs in [Page 295] Manchuria. Immediately upon receipt of the news, a number of the civilian officials of the Kwantung Government resigned, and the Kwantung police is reported to be considering resignation en masse. The Kwantung Army has reported that it is prepared to take drastic action (presumably meaning the proclamation of martial law in the Leased Territory) if necessary.

The principal danger to the Okada Cabinet arises from the fact that the Cabinet cannot withdraw its plan for reforming the Japanese administrative organs in Manchuria without such loss of face that it will be compelled to resign. On the other hand, if the civilian police continue their resistance to military control, a situation will be created which will amount practically to a revolt against the military. Premier Okada, who is also Minister for Overseas Affairs, will have to assume responsibility for the insubordination of the officials of his Department, and will have to resign. Admiral Okada is in a most difficult position. As Premier he must carry out the plans of his Cabinet and enforce the reform of the administrative organs in Manchuria; as Minister for Overseas Affairs, however, he must present and uphold the principles for which the officials of his department are battling. General Hishikari, the Commander of the Kwantung Army, Ambassador to “Manchukuo”, and Governor of the Kwantung Leased Territory, also is in an anomalous position. As a representative of the Army, he must support unification of control of Japanese administration in Manchuria under the Army; as a representative of the Foreign Office and the Overseas Ministry he must advocate civilian administration. General Hishikari is reported in the newspapers to have given up the situation as beyond his control, and to be preparing to resign.

The rumor is current in political circles in Japan that there is more in the present controversy than meets the casual eye. According to the rumor, the Genro, Prince Saionji, the Keeper of the Privy Seal, Count Makino, the Minister of the Imperial Household, Baron Dr. Ikki, and other officials close to the Throne, are dissatisfied with the Okada Government, principally because it has not been able to withstand the demands of the military. The Genro and other pacific influences wish to save the coming naval disarmament conference, if possible, but the Okada Cabinet was prevailed upon by the radical elements in the Navy to consent to Japan’s abrogation of the Washington naval agreement.18 Likewise, the liberal element was opposed to the Army’s plan to unify all Japanese administrative organs in Manchuria under the control of the Army, but the Okada Cabinet was forced or induced to agree to the Army’s plans with but slight modification. Because of the difficult times ahead of the nation, careful, [Page 296] peaceful and friendly diplomacy is needed, but efforts along these lines are continually being frustrated by the violent views of the military, and Premier Okada has shown himself as virtually powerless in his efforts to curb the military. The present incident, therefore, according to the rumors, is being used to force the Okada Cabinet out of office.

The Teito Nichi-Nichi states that the Genro and other high officials are already secretly casting about in search of a suitable candidate for Premier. Viscount Ishii (formerly Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Washington), Viscount Saito (recently Premier) and Mr. Korekiyo Takahashi (recently Finance Minister) are mentioned as possible candidates.

Respectfully yours,

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Not printed.
  2. Signed February 6, 1922, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 247.