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793.94/1831: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Wilson), at



WASHINGTON, September 23, 1931—4 p. m. 123. Consulate's 120, September 22, 4 p. m., and 123, September 22, 6 p. m.; your 156, September 22, 11 p. m.

Responding to inquiries which have been formally and informally made concerning the American attitude in this matter, you may first deliver to the President of the League Council the following note:


"I have received from the American Minister at Berne the copy of the resolution of the Council of the League of Nations which you transmitted to him.54

I have noted the two parts of this resolution and the fact that they have been embodied in a note which you have addressed to the Governments of Japan and China.

I assure you that the Government of the United States is in wholehearted sympathy with the attitude of the League of Nations as expressed in the Council's resolution and will dispatch to Japan and China notes along similar lines.

I have already urged cessation of hostilities and a withdrawal from the present situation of danger and will continue earnestly to work for the restoration of peace.'

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For the reasons I gave in my telephone conversation with you, I am much troubled in regard to the proposition of an inquiry committee insofar as I understand it (see your 156 and Consulate's 126). In my opinion, the proposition of creating from the outside an investigation committee for the China-Japan situation will not conduce to Japanese acceptance of our efforts on behalf of a peaceful solution of the situation. I very much fear, on the contrary, that the proposition, by inflaming Japan's nationalistic spirit behind the men leading the militaristic movement in Manchuria, will make more difficult Baron Shidehara's efforts and those of the other members of the Japanese Government who are peacefully disposed toward restoring peace and withdrawing from the existing untenable position. As proposed, the inquiry committee differs widely and radically from an impartial commission which is chosen by both parties in a controversy in accordance with methods already adopted in numerous well-known conciliation treaties. This latter type of inquiry was suggested by me in 1929 in the case of the Soviet Union and China, but this, while much less offensive than the present suggestion to national pride,

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"See telegram No. 123, September 22, 6 p. m., from the Consul at Geneva, p. 29.

even was opposed by Japan and failed of adoption by Russia and China.

This Government has every desire in its efforts to solve this difficulty to work along lines in harmony with those the League of Nations is following. There is no difference with your view of the facts insofar as such have been communicated to the Department, but it is felt here that the Japanese Foreign Minister, probably together with his Government's civilian members, is earnestly working toward accomplishing a peaceful solution, and this Government is anxious lest their task be made more difficult through the arousing of false national pride. This Government thoroughly appreciates the invitation to sit on the League Council and on the special committee, but thinks that American assistance in the solution probably will be more effective if the United States works along the line to which it has already committed itself, namely, of independent conversations. Beginning Sunday morning, the 20th, the Department has repeatedly had conversations with both the Japanese Ambassador and the Chinese Chargé. As there may be a divergence of views concerning methods, for example such as respecting an investigating committee, it is my feeling that I should retain for this Government a degree of independence of action. In summary, the policy which, in my view, will be most effective for the United States Government under the difficult conditions involved in this case is, first, to urge, by diplomatic means and acting according to any similar methods used by the League of Nations, that Japan and China themselves effect a settlement through direct negotiation; second, in the event this method proves ineffective, making outside action necessary, to favor China and Japan's submitting to machinery set up in the League of Nations Covenant, to which they both are parties and to which China already has appealed and which has already begun action; and, finally, should it develop for any reason that this line is impracticable, to consider the machinery of article 7 of the Washington Nine-Power Treaty of February 6, 1922, or action such as may be practicable under the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact.



Memorandum of Trans-Atlantic Telephone Conversation 55

WILSON: Hello-Mr. Secretary. I told Drummond of my conversation with you. As a result, the public session of the Council this afternoon was called off and a private session was held: In

Between Mr. Stimson in Washington and Mr. Hugh R. Wilson in Geneva, September 23, 1931, 4 p. m.

that session it came to light that no Japanese reply has been received to the telegram sent yesterday regarding the investigation committee. SECRETARY: Have they telegraphed to Japan about an investigation committee?

WILSON: A telegram was sent to Japan yesterday suggesting an investigation committee. The Japanese Delegate said that the Japanese Government will refuse all responsibility for this. Lord Cecil then suggested another form of commission-the Japanese to appoint two neutral members, the Chinese to appoint two neutral members, and the Council to appoint three neutral members. The Japanese Delegate will send a telegram suggesting this to his government. SECRETARY: Is the Japanese Delegate in favor of it?

WILSON: He did not express any opinion concerning it. Drummond adds that the Council very earnestly hopes for our participation in the work of the special committee. A resolution along the following lines will be presented to the Council at tomorrow's session. The members of the special committee will have authority to seek the collaboration that may be helpful in their deliberation. Drummond says that the special committee will be glad to invite the United States in any form that may be agreeable to us. If you would like to have the invitation based on our interest as signatories either of the Nine Power Treaty or the Kellogg Pact or on the basis of general world interest it would be all right. The only other thing I have to add is this. The latest reports here from a Chinese source are that Japanese forces have gone south of the Great Wall.

I have made no press statement of any kind.

SECRETARY: In the first place, Japan I do not believe will ever accept any investigating committee.

WILSON: Do you think they may accept in the form of Cecil's suggestion?

SECRETARY: No, I do not. I think that is chimerical. I do not think that is open to question and I do not believe in imposing a committee from the outside on Japan for I think that would play right into the hands of the enemies of peace. I have sent you a telegram today." It is on the wires now and I want to give you the sense of it. In it I am sending an answer to the action of the Council yesterday in their resolution about a note to China and Japan, in which I say I am in hearty sympathy with their action and that we will send a similar note, not an identical note, but a similar note to both parties urging a cessation of the hostilities and a withdrawal from the dangerous position in which they are. The rest of my telegram explains my attitude on the rest of the matters about which you have asked me. In general, my feeling is that the surest road to peace is by diplomatic methods in which we will try to back up any action taken by the 67 Supra

League in such matters, to urge a settlement by the Chinese and Japanese themselves through direct negotiation between them. The first road to peace is to urge them to settle it by direct negotiation between China and Japan. In doing that, we will urge that method and cooperate with the League if they are urging it. Then if that method is not effective and if outside action becomes necessary why I think that in view of the fact that the League has the appropriate machinery under Article 11 and that it has already been invoked by China, the League ought to go ahead and that we will lend it all moral support that we can. We cannot participate, of course, in League action but we will make clear that it has our moral support. Then, and only in case that should prove ineffective for any reason, we would come to the other two treaties-the Nine Power Treaty or the Kellogg Pact. In other words, if the action of outside parties is necessary, I think it should be done by the League which is in session and acting now and it has our earnest sympathy and support. But I have made clear in this telegram the reasons for my fear for this outside committee of investigation. That is a word to the wise. I know something about the attitude of mind of those peoples. I have lived among them, and I believe (I want this thoroughly understood) that the Japanese Government, the civilian government, probably-of course we are all embarrassed by lack of evidence-is sincerely trying to settle this matter. I believe they ought to have a chance to do so and I believe that outside action by a lot of attachés or a commission appointed by anybody else would make trouble. I think that ought to be a last resort. Of course if any one of the parties should prove intractable to settlement, then under the machinery of the League the League will have to go its own way in opposition to that party, but as long as there is any chance of the parties settling the matter between themselves I think outside interference will make it more difficult.

WILSON: You understood about the Cecil resolution?

SECRETARY: Yes. But they would prefer negotiation. That is the method of Oriental people. They are not accustomed to judicial inquiry and I would not use that until you were sure you were going to get their opposition anyhow.

WILSON: As long as they are in the state of mind where they will negotiate you want to give them all the opportunities possible and if that fails then the League can go ahead with its own machinery and you will give it moral support.

SECRETARY: Precisely. But I think they should be given every opportunity to do it by direct settlement first. That is for your knowledge. I am making public here the note which I am sending in answer to the President of the Council. I am giving it out this afternoon here, because the President's resolution has already been made public. The cable has gone to you already.

WILSON: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY: That is the situation. I am really afraid of the resolution of inquiry. I wish they would kill it for the present and not mention it.

WILSON: Maybe the Japanese will kill it themselves.

SECRETARY: I think they will, but it will make them feel badly to kill it. You can use your own discretion about telling confidentially the way I feel about this, but I do not want it made public because I think it is subject to misrepresentation. That is the best of my thought on the situation and I think that is the best way out of a very difficult position. Of course, do not have any misunderstanding; if either party proves recalcitrant and takes a position which is clearly in violation of the covenant of either of the two treaties to which America is a party we shall not flinch in our duty. But I very much hope that they will not do that.

WILSON: Thank you very much. That is clear.


Memorandum by the Secretary of State

[WASHINGTON,] September 23, 1931.

I sent for the Japanese Ambassador and told him that I had received from the Council of the League of Nations, through the American Minister, a copy of the resolution which the Council had adopted in regard to Japan and China yesterday.58 I told him that I was sending a reply to this resolution and I handed him a copy of it in the form annexed.59 I said I had just sent it to Geneva and he then read it carefully and thanked me for giving him such prompt notice of it.


793.94/1855: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

GENEVA, September 23, 1931-8 p. m. [Received 10: 13 p. m.]

133. Consulate's 131, September 23, 2 p. m. At the very last moment the decision was taken to hold in private the Council meeting this evening.

The following is the text of a letter addressed this afternoon by the Japanese representative on the Council to the Secretary General in

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p. 48.

See telegram No. 123, September 22, 6 p. m., from the Consul at Geneva, p. 29. See telegram No. 123, September 23, 4 p. m., to the Minister in Switzerland,

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