Oral Statement by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Ballantine) on February 1474

We have considered very carefully what you have said in regard to ways and means of improving American-Japanese relations and placing them on a solid and mutually advantageous footing.

We are sure that you will realize that in whatever we may say to you by way of comment in regard to the proposals that you have laid before us none of us is expressing or will undertake to express “the American view” on such subjects or “the views of the American Government”; officials of this Government could not undertake to speak for this Government other than to an accredited official of the Japanese Government. In this connection you may be interested in a statement which was issued on December 30, 194075 in reply to press inquiries regarding statements attributed to Mr. Verne Marshall, of the “No Foreign War Committee”, on the subject of peace proposals said to have been brought from Europe in October 1939 by Mr. William Khodes Davis:

“Naturally individual citizens often volunteer to the State Department information and suggestions pertaining to some phase of international affairs. These are always courteously received. Nothing, however, has come to the State Department on the subject mentioned, which has proved feasible.

“Furthermore, the Government can only conduct important international affairs effectively through duly authorized and official channels created for that purpose.”

We feel, however, that we may without impropriety offer for your consideration in a purely personal way certain general observations which we believe have a bearing upon the subjects which you have brought up.

As you are aware, under our constitutional system, the legislative branch of the Government shares in the responsibility of foreign policy in that treaties require ratification with the advice and consent of the Senate. It naturally follows that the Executive Branch of the [Page 32] Government in negotiating treaties cannot enter into any commitments not embodied in the treaties themselves, that is to say, it would be contrary to the practice of this Government to negotiate a treaty under circumstances where agreement of the other party or parties to the treaty would be contingent upon the entering by this Government into separate commitments. Moreover, it has been in fact the traditional policy of the United States to refrain from making commitments to foreign governments involving future hypothetical situations. This policy permits this Government to extend spontaneously without commitments cooperation to nations which have given practical evidence of their intention to pursue policies in harmony with those of the United States and to withhold cooperation from nations which pursue policies injurious to our interests. Our foreign policies are of universal application, and our friendship and cooperation are open to all countries which pursue policies consistent with the principles in which we believe.

There is also another aspect to the point which we have mentioned in regard to the necessity that any treaty into which this Government enters be submitted before ratification to the advice and consent of the Senate. There would be bound to rise in the debates attending the deliberation of any political agreement covering the Far East and the Pacific area the question of the present status of various treaties, especially the Nine Power Treaty and the Four Power Treaty,76 concluded during the Washington Conference of 1921–1922. As you are doubtless aware, there has been widely expressed in this country the view that Japan by its actions in China has violated the Nine Power Treaty and the question would undoubtedly be raised why should the United States now enter into a new Pacific pact with Japan when Japan has failed to respect the Nine Power Treaty. Of course, if what you have in mind in connection with this proposed Pacific pact is merely a modification of the two treaties in question to meet new conditions, we think that an answer in principle to your proposal is to be found in this Government’s note to the Japanese Government of December 30, 1938,77 in which it was stated that:

“The Government of the United States has at all times regarded agreements as susceptible of alteration, but it has always insisted that alterations can rightfully be made only by orderly processes of negotiation and agreement among the parties thereto.

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“The Government of the United States has, however, always been prepared, and is now, to give due and ample consideration to any proposals based on justice and reason which envisage the resolving of problems in a manner duly considerate of the rights and obligations of all parties directly concerned by processes of free negotiation and new commitment by and among all of the parties so concerned. There has been and there continues to be opportunity for the Japanese Government to put forward such proposals. This Government has been and it continues to be willing to discuss such proposals, if and when put forward, with representatives of the other powers, including Japan and China, whose rights and interests are involved, at whatever time and in whatever place may be commonly agreed upon.”

You raise the question of a recognition by the United States of Japanese leadership in East Asia. Such a recognition, however, would be inconsistent with the fundamental conception which we hold that all nations are equal under international law. There is, of course, such a thing as a nation exercising a moral leadership internationally, but such leadership cannot be conferred upon any nation by the declaration of some other government nor can it be created through unilateral action by the nation which seeks such leadership. It can exist only through the spontaneous realization by others that the nation concerned has demonstrated in its dealings with other countries the qualities of leadership. These qualities include a scrupulous sense of fairness and justice and forbearance in dealing with weaker nations. The United States does not assert for itself any superiority over any of the nations of the Western Hemisphere or over any other nations. It does not seek “recognition” by other governments of any such superiority. If Japan by following a policy of justice and fair play in dealing with its neighbors commends itself to those neighbors in such a way that they voluntarily look to Japan for leadership, such a development would doubtless be welcomed by all peace loving nations.

With regard to the need to which you refer of Japan’s securing equality of economic opportunity, you may have noted in the statement of the Secretary of State of July 16, 1937,78 the following in regard to this Government’s position:

“We advocate steps toward promotion of economic security and stability the world over. We advocate lowering or removing of excessive barriers in international trade. We seek effective equality of commercial opportunity and we urge upon all nations application of the principle of equality of treatment.… We avoid entering into alliances or entangling commitments but we believe in cooperative effort by peaceful and practicable means in support of the principles hereinbefore stated.”

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With regard to the retrocession of special rights in China, the attitude of the United States has already been indicated to the Japanese Government. In this Government’s note to the Japanese Government of December 30, 1938, it was stated:

“… All discerning and impartial observers have realized that the United States and other of the ‘treaty powers’ have not during recent decades clung tenaciously to their so-called ‘special’ rights and privileges in countries of the Far East but on the contrary have steadily encouraged the development in those countries of institutions and practices in the presence of which such rights and privileges may safely and readily be given up; and all observers have seen those rights and privileges gradually being surrendered voluntarily, through agreement, by the powers which have possessed them. On one point only has the Government of the United States, along with several other governments, insisted: namely, that new situations must have developed to a point warranting the removal of ‘special’ safeguarding restrictions and that the removals be effected by orderly processes.”

On July 19, 1940, in a statement79 made in response to inquiries from press correspondents, the Acting Secretary of State, Mr. Welles, referred to the note quoted above and added:

“In 1931 discussions of the subject between China and each of several other countries, including the United States, were suspended because of the occurrence of the Mukden incident and subsequent disrupting developments in 1932 and 1935 in the relations between China and Japan. In 1937 this Government was giving renewed favorable consideration to the question when there broke out the current Sino-Japanese hostilities as a result of which the usual processes of government in large areas of China were widely disrupted.

“It has been this Government’s traditional and declared policy and desire to move rapidly by process of orderly negotiation and agreement with the Chinese Government, whenever conditions warrant, toward the relinquishment of extraterritorial rights and of all other so-called ‘special rights’ possessed by this country as by other countries in China by virtue of international agreements. That policy remains unchanged.”

The people of the United States, of course, desire friendly relations with Japan, as they do with all countries, and there is no reason to suppose that the American Government would not be prepared to negotiate a new commercial treaty with Japan whenever conditions should be such as to render it likely that there would be a reasonable prospect of there being negotiated a treaty which would be mutually advantageous to both countries. We have not failed fully to inform the Japanese Government of our views on this matter.

With regard to the question of American loans and credits to Japan, as was indicated to you in the conversation of January 18, the United [Page 35] States has traditionally encouraged the granting by its citizens of such loans to countries which practiced peaceful and constructive policies; citizens of the United States and the Government of the United States, itself, have at one time or another made loans to a great many countries; and prior to 1931 the United States pursued such a policy toward Japan. As soon as Japan gives practical evidences of its intention to pursue peaceful policies, there will surely exist ample opportunity for the two countries to explore the possibility of mutually profitable cooperation in many ways.

As to the nature of the terms of a treaty which might be appropriate as a basis for future relations between Japan and China, we feel that so long as the provisions of such a treaty do not adversely affect the rights and interests of third countries, it should be for the Chinese Government and not for third countries to say whether the provisions offered are satisfactory. If such proposals as Japan may offer China are so precise as to their terms as to define clearly the rights and obligations of each party then it would seem to us that China could at least consider the terms on their merits.

We appreciate very much the interest in improving American-Japanese relations which has prompted you to devote so much effort to studying the question and to take the trouble to come to the United States in behalf of this cause. It goes without saying that this is a subject which is engaging our constant thought. We are not unmindful of what you have said in regard to the difficulties which would confront the Japanese Government in bringing about an alteration of its policies, but it is our firm conviction that if Japan is to exercise a moral leadership in East Asia of a character that will gain general respect, it would best serve such a purpose if the Japanese Government should find some means of overcoming the difficulties under reference and itself take the initiative along lines looking to a change in Japan’s policy and procedures.

If and as Japan should change its course of policy and action along the lines which have been suggested the difficulties which have arisen in the relations between Japan and the United States will tend automatically to disappear. This is because these difficulties have been created by Japan’s policies and actions. The United States throughout has been and is on the defensive, asking only that law be observed, treaty pledges be kept and rights be respected. It must, of course, be understood that measures taken by this country in connection with its national defense cannot be relaxed in the present world situation; such measures must therefore be excepted from the field of action in which it would be possible for this country to contribute to a removal of the difficulties mentioned. It is apparent, however, that the situation [Page 36] which has impelled this country to strengthen its defense is not of our making, but has been brought about by the actions of other countries; when those countries cease to threaten world peace and our own security we can reduce our national defense preparations accordingly.

In conclusion, we wish to express the hope that when you return to Japan, you will tell your associates that the people of the United States entertain only the most friendly feelings toward the Japanese people; that we believe that pursuit by Japan of policies such as we recommend for universal application will best ensure enjoyment by Japan of conditions of peace, prosperity and stability and best enable Japan to contribute to the culture and welfare of mankind; and that we earnestly look forward to the advent of a new era of peace and progress in East Asia based upon mutual confidence and respect among nations.

  1. Notation on February 14; “Mr. Ballantine orally communicated to Mr. Hashimoto the contents” of this statement.
  2. Department of State Bulletin, January 4, 1941, p. 12.
  3. Latter signed at Washington, December 13, 1921, between the United States, British Empire, France, and Japan, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 33.
  4. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 820.
  5. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 325.
  6. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 927.