Memorandum by the Secretary of State Regarding a Conversation With the Japanese Ambassador (Debuchi)

[WASHINGTON,] January 5, 1933.

The Japanese Ambassador came in with the remark that he regretted that his presence seemed to coincide with a new outbreak of war. He said that he was without instructions from his Government but that from the information he received this affair at Shanhaikwan was a local incident, provoked by a minor outbreak of Chinese against the Japanese there, and that when the Japanese who had sought permission to bring troops in to stabilize the situation approached the Gate of the City they were shot at and a Lieutenant and several soldiers killed. He said that the news he got from Ambassador Muto, [11] who is also General, indicated that some troops of the Japanese had now been withdrawn and there was reason to be hoped that unless there was further provocation in Jehol by Chang Hsueh-liang the matter would be controlled. He said that in any event Japan had no territorial ambition south of the Great Wall. I reminded the Ambassador that a year ago he had told me Japan had no territorial ambitions in Manchuria. He became flustered and said that that was so but the situation had changed greatly. At any rate, he could now assure me that they had no such ambitions in North China. He said further that in Japan he thought that matters were progressing; that Saito was getting better control, and he regarded this incident at Shanhaikwan as a test incident as to whether the military elements still remained in control or whether the civil government had regained its position.

I reminded the Ambassador that just before he went away he told me that the Japanese Government was in the control of a group of younger officers, none of them of a higher rank than a LieutenantColonel, and I said to him that he must recognize that as long as that situation lasted I could not regard Japan as a normal Government and must make my own conclusions as to information coming from her. He said he remembered that situation but he found that when he got back to Japan it had somewhat changed and that Saito was getting into better control and that, as he expressed it, this incident at Shanhaikwan he regarded as a test of whether that was so. But he said he must in all frankness tell me that no Japanese Cabinet which advocated a compromise of the "Manchukuo" question could survive in Japan; that must be regarded as a closed incident. I told the Ambassador that in that case I could see, on my part, no other course than for Japan to get out of the League of Nations and the Kellogg Pact. I went over the situation of the basic policy of this Government and the rest of the world and Europe, arising out of the Great War which had brought us to the conclusion that another war might destroy our civilization and which had made us determined to support the peace machinery which would render such a recurrence impossible. We recognized that Japan had a right to live her own way, provided she did not break treaties which she had made, and that if she was determined to lead a life differently from what we were determined to do I saw no other way but for her to withdraw from the associations and treaties which we proposed to abide by.


[11] Nobuyuki Muto, Japanese Ambassador in "Manchukuo"

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 174-175.

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