500.A15A5/602: Telegram

The Ambassador in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

11. Department’s 4, January 7, 7 p.m.

I have heard no hint of any proposal for a non-aggression pact. I have no reason to believe that situation has changed from that set forth in my telegram No. 72 of November 11, 2 p.m., sent from Nanking,13 setting forth the character of the three-point policy reported at the time to have been accepted by the Japanese Cabinet, communicated to the Japanese diplomatic, military and naval representatives in China and to the Chinese Ambassador to Japan when the latter was about to return to China. I was given to understand while in Nanking in November that the Chinese Government indicated its willingness to discuss these matters with the Japanese Government provided that the Japanese Government would (a), treat China as a sovereign nation, and (b), lay before Chinese Government a concrete proposal elaborating the three points.
In his telegram No. 160 of December 31, 11 a.m.14 Peck reports that a proposal for the fundamental readjustment of Sino-Japanese relations through proper diplomatic channels had been made by the Chinese Government to the Japanese Government. I am instructing Nanking by telegram to make discreet inquiry as to the exact nature of the proposals said to have been put forward by the Chinese Government. If in fact they include a suggestion for a nonaggression pact between China and Japan, I would suspect that a suggestion may have been put forward to counter a claim made by the Japanese that the Chinese have entered into some kind of an agreement with Soviet Russia against Japan. But I am extremely doubtful that the Sino-Japanese controversy can be reduced to such a simple formula as that suggested by Craigie. There is no evidence locally that the Japanese intended to abandon their plans to achieve a portion of domination on the Asiatic Continent, and particularly in China. I doubt whether Japan will use actual military force to accomplish this purpose [Page 6]except by way of threat or bluff. Thus far the Japanese military have succeeded in coercing local Chinese authorities to assent orally or in writing to situations [permitting] Japanese encouraged autonomy movements to be undertaken (1st) under the so-called Tangku truce;15 (2d) under the so-called agreement between Ho Ying Chin and [General Umetsu in 1935?]16 and (3d) under the settlement of the Chahar [dispute?] of June 27th17 and the Japanese military threaten to meet with force any attempt on the part of the Nationalist Chinese Government to suppress these autonomous movements in North China as being in contravention of the above-mentioned three agreements. The Japanese have thus succeeded in obtaining a certain legalization of their military needs in North China which can be extended more or less indefinitely.
Japan, Soviet Russia and Great Britain are the three countries immediately involved. Expansion of Japanese interests on the Asiatic Continent will inevitably clash (1st) with the interests of Soviet Russia in the north and (2d) with the interests of Great Britain as the result of interests spread southward. The Japanese are proceeding with their eyes open and have thrown into the discard the League Covenant,18 the Nine Power Treaty and the Kellogg Pact19 in order to be free to carry out their policy. It would be absurd for us or the British to accept a non-aggression [pact?] as guaranteeing Japanese abandonment of ambitious plans on the Asiatic mainland.
I agree with Davis. The political basis for Japan’s acceptance of the League Covenant was the Shantung provisions of the Versailles Treaty.20 The political basis for the acceptance by Japan and the United States of the naval agreement of 192221 was the Nine Power Treaty and the agreement regarding non-fortification of our possessions in the Pacific.22 Japan’s recent attitude toward the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Nine Power Treaty and the Naval Treaty does not in my opinion offer reasonable ground for belief that the political basis offered by Craigie would be of any value.
  1. Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. iii, p. 404.
  2. Ibid., p. 502.
  3. Signed May 31, 1933, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 120.
  4. See Embassy’s despatch No. 332, March 27, p. 89.
  5. See telegram No. 321, June 27, 1935, 4 p.m., from the Minister in China, Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. iii, p. 280.
  6. Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 69.
  7. Signed at Paris, August 27, 1928, Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 153.
  8. See articles 156–158 of the peace treaty with Germany signed June 28, 1919, Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 55, 298.
  9. Signed at Washington, February 6, 1922, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 247.
  10. See article XIX of the naval treaty, ibid., pp. 247, 252.