The Acting Secretary of State to Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg 84

My Dear Senator Vandenberg: I thank you for your letter of August 7 in which you refer to your resolution in the Senate suggesting the giving of notice of intention to terminate the treaty of 1911 with Japan, to the notification subsequently given by this Government to Japan, and to a particular feature of your resolution.

In this letter, you have been so good as to give me a statement of your views in regard to the notice of intention to terminate under reference and the course which you feel might appropriately and advantageously be followed henceforth in the light thereof. You point out that your resolution affirmed the desirability of the abrogation “for the purpose of enacting a new treaty with Japan in the light of 1939 realities”; you emphasize the point that your theory of the abrogation was predicated upon earnest efforts to enter upon a new engagement and [Page 574] that you would not be interested in “a mere arbitrary prelude to a subsequent one-sided embargo”; and you urge that this Government inform the Government of Japan that we are “prepared and anxious to negotiate a new treaty of amity and commerce between the United States and Japan for the purpose of resolving—if possible—any controversy between us affecting American interests”.

I am very glad to have the benefit of your views and suggestions.

In order that we may both have before us a clear and identic recollection of certain important facts in regard to this matter, may I call attention to phraseology which appears in the text of your resolution and phraseology which appears in the text of this Government’s notice to the Japanese Government. The first sentence of your resolution reads:

“Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the Government of the United States should give Japan the six months’ notice required by the treaty of 1911 for its abrogation so that the Government of the United States may be free to deal with Japan in the formulation of a new treaty and in the protection of American interests as new necessities may require;”

The concluding sentence of Secretary Hull’s note to the Japanese Ambassador reads:

“Toward preparing the way for such consideration [i. e., new consideration of certain provisions of the treaty]85 and with a view to better safeguarding and promoting American interests as new developments may require, the Government of the United States, acting in accordance with the procedure prescribed in Article XVII of the treaty under reference, gives notice hereby of its desire that this treaty be terminated, and, having thus given notice, will expect the treaty, together with its accompanying protocol, to expire six months from this date.”

As you doubtless will have observed, in each case, two reasons or specifications of purpose were given, and these were, though differing in phraseology, the same, in effect, in both documents.

The Government and people of the United States stand for and champion principles of peace, of international order based upon law, and of treaty observance. The Government of the United States has consistently endeavored to protect essential American interests in accordance with rules of law, provisions of treaties, and considerations of justice and fair play among nations. In relations with countries of the Far East, this country’s general objectives have been the same as in relations with other parts of the world. In the conducting of this country’s relations with China and with Japan since the beginning, in September 1931, of the so-called “Manchuria incident”, the Government has been constantly guided by this country’s traditional [Page 575] principles. In the presence of extraordinary problems presented in 1931, 1932 and 1933, and again in 1937, 1938 and 1939, the American Government’s efforts have been directed toward the same objectives and have been guided by the same principles.

In relations with Japan during recent years, this Government has constantly and persistently sought, by reasoned approach and with patience and restraint, to obtain respect on the part of the Japanese authorities and their agents, operating in China, for the rights and interests of the United States and American nationals. In connection with a great number of incidents wherein there have been involved acts in disregard of American rights which Japan is under obligation by treaty or by international law or both to observe, this Government has made appropriate representations; and on several occasions when representations of a comprehensive character dealing with broad principles of universal applicability have seemed called for it has made such representations.

You are familiar with the course of events in the Far East, and I am sure that I need not endeavor in this letter to lay before you facts of which you are already cognizant regarding developments in that area. Notwithstanding our patient efforts and notwithstanding assurances by the Japanese authorities of respect for the rights and interests of the United States and of American nationals in China, disregard of and interference with those rights and interests has been constant, and the number and variety of instances in which such disregard and interference have been manifested has, during recent months especially, greatly increased.

To cite but one example of the manner in which our efforts to safeguard these interests on a basis of international law and treaty provisions have been unsuccessful: On October 6, 1938, in consequence of continued failure on the part of the Japanese Government to implement its repeated assurances of respect for the principles of the equality of opportunity in China for the trade and industry of all nations, we addressed to the Japanese Government a comprehensive note;86 the Japanese reply, dated November 18, 1938,87 contained no satisfactory assurances for an immediate amelioration of the situation, and, on December 31, 1938, this Government delivered to the Japanese Government another note88 setting forth more fully the position of this Government; and no reply to that note has as yet been given us.

This Government has desired and of course continues to desire that the United States have treaty relations with Japan which will effectively contribute toward safeguarding American interests in general [Page 576] and in particular. The question of moving toward conclusion of a new treaty must be considered and will be considered in the light of all known facts and circumstances and of future developments.

Again thanking you for your letter, and with cordial regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. Prepared on the basis of original “rough draft” by the Secretary of State.
  2. Brackets appear in the original letter.
  3. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 785.
  4. Ibid., p. 797.
  5. Ibid., p. 820.