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

Mr. Suma called at his own request at 3:30 this afternoon.

Mr. Suma said that in continuation of giving us such information as his Embassy had received he wanted to tell me that they had been informed of an apparent inclination on the part of the Nanking authorities [Page 237] to give countenance to the concluding of an agreement by local authorities in the north, and that there seemed to be progress toward the making of an agreement; also, the Nanking authorities seemed to be ready to dismiss certain officials in the north and to withdraw certain troops from certain points. Mr. Suma said that this gave warrant for hope of an amicable adjustment.

I said that I was glad to have this information and that we very greatly hoped that there would be an adjustment without further hostilities.

Mr. Suma then said that, with regard to the “incident in which two American ladies were involved” in Peiping, his Embassy had been informed that the American Embassy in Peiping had sent a memorandum to the Japanese Embassy and the Japanese Embassy had sent a memorandum in reply explaining what had occurred. Mr. Suma asked whether I had the same information. I said that we had been informed of the American Embassy’s memorandum but not of the Japanese Embassy’s memorandum; that we have received, however, quite a little information, including the following: that an officer of the American Embassy had taken to the Counselor of the Japanese Embassy the memorandum of the facts and the Japanese Embassy had undertaken to take the matter up with the commanding officer of the Japanese guard; that thereafter the commanding officer of the Japanese guard, on the occasion of a call by the commanding officer of the American guard, had expressed regret over the incident; but that apparently no expression of regret had as yet come from any Japanese diplomatic source. Mr. Suma said that he thought that the matter had been taken care of completely between the two Embassies. I went on to say that we did not wish to make an issue of the matter but that I would like in all friendliness to call attention to certain aspects of the case. I asked whether Mr. Suma had read the newspaper accounts here in Washington. Mr. Suma said that he had. He also said that he had been called up by many newspaper correspondents with regard to the matter. I then said that, this being the case, he would realize that the matter had aroused quite a little attention here. Mr. Suma nodded assent. I said that of the two young ladies involved one was a daughter of an American naval officer, now deceased, who was well known and widely connected here and in Virginia and whose widow has been employed for many years in the Navy Department here. I said that American opinion habitually reacts with unfavorable criticism to news of any rough treatment of women; that the two women involved in this case were young and perhaps full of curiosity, but that a charge that they were engaged in spying upon or looking into “military secrets” of an Embassy in the Legation Quarter in Peiping could not fail to evoke expressions of annoyance [Page 238] and ridicule from the American public. Mr. Suma nodded assent. I then said that, speaking unofficially and with the thought that he should not make what I said a matter of record, I wondered whether it might not seem to him, upon reflection, that, in such cases, a contribution could be made toward promoting good will and averting ill will between the nations whose nationals are involved, by prompt and graceful expression of regret by diplomatic agencies. I said that we here were not acting on the case, that I was not suggesting or requesting that the Japanese Government act, but that I was offering to Mr. Suma, as between friends and observers, an insight into my own reflections on the general subject involved.

Mr. Suma said that he understood. He said, reverting to the Chinese-Japanese situation, that he hoped that he would be able to bring continually encouraging news. I said that I reciprocated that hope. And the conversation there ended.