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

No. 1577

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 865 of October 28, 1935, stating that it had been suggested that there be incorporated in the proposed consular convention between the United States and Japan a provision which would permit of a visit at any time by consular officers to their nationals accused of a criminal offense, who may be under arrest or confinement. The instruction further referred to despatch No. 240 of January 16, 1899, from Mr. Buck, then American Minister to Japan, in which it was stated that the Minister had handed a memorandum to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs on this subject, and to despatch No. 245, of January 23, 1899, from the Legation in Tokyo, reporting that the British Legation had taken similar steps. A thorough search of the archives of the Embassy indicates that no reply was ever received to Mr. Buck’s [Page 1068] note to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. There appear to be no documents in the Embassy bearing on the subject other than those already forwarded to the Department.

In this connection, it may not be amiss for me to point out that there would very probably be difficulties in inducing the Japanese to incorporate in a consular convention, a provision such as that suggested to the Department. Before concluding a treaty, it is the practice of the Japanese Government to examine carefully all the domestic legislation in force, and to conclude no international agreement which is likely to contravene any portion of it. If the subject matter of the proposed treaty is of sufficient importance to justify the step, a project to amend the domestic legislation affected is first introduced into the Diet. If no legislation is affected, but the proposed treaty requires it, the legislation to make the treaty effective is introduced subsequently or an Imperial Ordinance is issued for the purpose.

A proposal to permit a consular officer to visit an accused person would require an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure, or at least, some action on the part of the Government to curb the powers of the Procurators or examining magistrates. It seems unlikely that the Japanese Government would be willing to precipitate a political discussion on this subject at the present time.47

Respectfully yours,

Edwin L. Neville
  1. Further discussion in 1936 and 1937 of proposed articles of a consular convention led to no result.