The Imperial Japanese Mission to the United States, 1917
THE LANSING-ISHII EXCHANGE OF NOTES, 1917
As a culmination of the labors of the Imperial Japanese Mission to the United States, under the leadership of Viscount Ishii, in its conversations with the American Department of State under Secretary of State Robert Lansing, an agreement was reached on November 2, 1917. This important state paper setting forth this agreement has been hailed in Japan and the United States alike as of happiest augury for the peace of the world, as defining permanently the relations of Japan and the United States in regard to China, and as assuring definitely the status of China before the nations. The Lansing-Ishii agreement is the crown of the high achievements of the Imperial Mission. It will take its place in living history beside the celebrated Root-Takahira agreement, and will long share renown with the John Hay correspondence originally proclaiming the "open door" in China.
The agreement follows, and with it are included the illuminating comments of Secretary of State Lansing and Viscount Ishii.
Following is the State Department's announcement:
On Friday. November 2, 1917. the Secretary of State and Viscount Ishii, the special Japanese Ambassador, exchanged at the Department of State the following notes dealing with the policy of the United States and Japan in regard to China:
Note from the Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, NOV. 2, 1917.
I have the honor to communicate herein my understanding of the agreement reached by us in our recent conversations touching the questions of mutual interest to our governments relating to the republic of China.
In order to silence mischievous reports that have from time to time been circulated it is believed by us that a public announcement once more of the desires and intentions shared by our two governments with regard to China is advisable.
The governments of the United States and Japan recognize that territorial propinquity creates special relations between countries, and, consequently, the government of the United. States recognizes that Japan has special interests in China, particularly in the part to which her possessions are contiguous.
The territorial sovereignty of China, nevertheless, remains unimpaired, and the government of the United States has every confidence in the repeated assurances of the Imperial Japanese government that while geographical position gives Japan such special interests they have no desire to discriminate against the trade of other nations or to disregard the commercial rights heretofore granted by China in treaties with other powers.
The governments of the United States and Japan deny that they have any purpose to infringe in any way the independence or territorial integrity of China, and they declare, furthermore, that they always adhere to the principle of the so-called "open door" or equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China.
Moreover, they mutually declare that they are opposed to the acquisition by any government of any special rights or privileges that would affect the independence or territorial integrity of China or that would deny to the subjects or citizens of any country the full enjoyment of equal opportunity in the commerce and industry of China.
I shall be glad to have Your Excellency confirm this understanding of the agreement reached by us.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.
(Signed) ROBERT LANSING.
His EXCELLENCY, VISCOUNT KIKUJIRO ISHII,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
of Japan, on Special Mission.
Note from the Japanese Ambassador to the Secretary of State
THE SPECIAL MISSION OF JAPAN,
Washington, Nov. 2, 1917
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note today, communicating to me your understanding of the agreement reached by us in our recent conversations touching the questions of mutual interests to our governments relating to the republic of China.
I am happy to be able to confirm to you, under authorization of my government, the understanding in question set forth in the following terms:
[Here the special Ambassador repeats the language of the agreement as given in Secretary Lansing's note].
(Signed) K. ISHII,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
of Japan on Special Mission.
HONORABLE ROBERT LANSING.,
SECRETARY OF STATE.
Secretary of State Lansing's Statement.
In his statement accompanying the announcement Secretary Lansing said:
Viscount Ishii and the other Japanese Commissioners who are now on their way back to their country have performed a service to the United States as well as to Japan which is of the highest value.
There had unquestionably been growing up between the peoples of the two countries a feeling of suspicion as to the motives inducing the activities of the other in the Far East---a feeling which, if unchecked, promised to develop a serious situation. Rumors and reports of improper intentions were increasing and were more and more believed. Legitimate commercial and industrial enterprises without ulterior motive were presumed to have political significance, with the result that opposition to those enterprises was aroused in the other country.
The attitude of constraint and doubt thus created was fostered and encouraged by the campaign of falsehood, which for a long time had been adroitly and secretly carried on by Germans, whose government as a part of its foreign policy desired especially to so alienate this country and Japan, that it would be at the chosen time no difficult task to cause a rupture of their good relations. Unfortunately there were people in both countries, many of whom were entirely honest in their beliefs, who accepted every false rumor as true, and aided the German propaganda by declaring that their own government should prepare for the conflict, which they asserted was inevitable, that the interests of the two nations in the Far East were hostile, and that every. activity of the other country in the Pacific had a sinister purpose.
Fortunately this distrust was not so general in either the United States or Japan as to affect the friendly relations of the two governments, but there is no doubt that the feeling of suspicion was increasing and the untrue reports were receiving more and more credence in spite of the earnest efforts which were made on both sides of the Pacific to counteract a movement which would jeopardize the ancient friendship of the two nations.
The visit of Viscount Ishii and his colleagues has accomplished a great change of opinion in this country. By frankly denouncing the evil influences which have been at work, by openly proclaiming that the policy of Japan is not one of aggression, and by declaring that there is no intention to take advantage, commercially or industrially, of the special relations to China created by geographical position, the representatives of Japan have cleared the diplomatic atmosphere of the suspicions which had been so carefully spread by our enemies and by misguided or overzealous people in both countries. In a few days the propaganda of years has been undone, and both nations are now able to see bow near they came to being led into the trap which had been skilfully set for them.
Throughout the conferences which have taken place Viscount Ishii has shown a sincerity and candor which dispelled every doubt as to his purpose and brought the two governments into an attitude of confidence toward each other which made it possible to discuss every question with frankness and cordiality. Approaching the subjects in such a spirit and with the mutual desire to remove every possible cause of controversy the negotiations were marked by a sincerity and good will which from the first insured their success.
The principal result of the negotiations was the mutual understanding which was reached as to the principles governing the policies of the two governments in relation to China. This understanding is formally set forth in the notes exchanged, and now made public. The statements in the notes require no explanation. They not only contain a reaffirmation of the open door policy, but introduce a principle of non-interference with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, which, generally applied, is essential to perpetual international peace, as clearly declared by President Wilson, and which is the very foundation also of Pan Americanism as interpreted by this government.
The removal of doubts and suspicions and the mutual declaration of the new doctrine as to the Far East would be enough to make the visit of the Japanese Commission to the United States historic and memorable, but it accomplished a further purpose, which is of special interest to the world at this time, in expressing Japan's earnest desire to cooperate with this country in waging war against the German government. The discussions, which covered the military, naval and economic activities to be employed with due regard to relative resources and ability, showed the same spirit of sincerity and candor which characterized the negotiations resulting in the exchange of notes.
At the present time, it is inexpedient to make public the details of these conversations, but it may be said that this government has been gratified by the assertions of Viscount Ishii and his colleagues that their government desired to do their part in the suppression of Prussian militarism and were eager to cooperate in every practical way to that end. It might be added, however, that complete and satisfactory understandings upon the matter of naval cooperation in the Pacific for the purpose of attaining the common object against Germany and her allies have been reached between the representative of the Imperial Japanese navy who is attached to the Special Mission of Japan and the representative of the United States navy.
It is only just to say that success which has attended the intercourse of the Japanese Commission with American officials and with private persons as well is due in large measure to the personality of Viscount Ishii, the head of the Mission. The natural reserve and hesitation which are not unusual in negotiations of a delicate nature disappeared under the influence of his open friendliness, while his frankness won the confidence and good will of all. It is doubtful if a representative of a different temper could in so short a time have done as much as Viscount Ishii to place on a better and firmer basis the relations between the United States and Japan. Through him the American people have gained a new and higher conception of the reality of Japan's friendship for the United States, which will be mutually beneficial in the future.
Viscount Ishii will be remembered in this country as a statesman of high attainments, as a diplomat with a true vision of international affairs and as a genuine and outspoken friend of America.
Viscount Ishii's Statement
The following statement by Viscount Ishii, head of the Japanese Special Mission, was given out by the Japanese Embassy:
My final departure from Washington affords a fit occasion for me to express once more to the American people my deep sense of gratitude for the cordial reception and hospitality accorded to the Special Mission of Japan. The spontaneous and enthusiastic manifestations of friendship and good will toward us on all hands have profoundly impressed not only the members of the Mission, but the whole Japanese people. The kindly feeling and fraternal spirit always existing between the two nations have never been more emphatically testified to.
Believing, as I do, in frank talking, I have tried as best I could in my public utterances in this country to tell the truth and the facts about my country, the aspirations and motives which spur my nation. For to my mind it is misrepresentation and the lack of information that allow discordance and distrust to creep in in the relationship between nations. I am happy to think that at a time when the true unity and cooperation between the Allied nations are dire necessities it has been given me to contribute in my small way to a better understanding and appreciation among the Americans with regard to Japan.
The new understanding in regard to the line of policy to be followed by Japan and America respecting the republic of China augurs well for the undisturbed maintenance of the harmonious accord and good neighborliness between our two countries. It certainly will do away with all doubts that have now and then shadowed the Japanese-American relationship. It can not fail to defeat for all time the pernicious efforts of German agents, to whom every new situation developing in China always furnished so, fruitful a field for black machinations. For the rest, this new understanding of ours substantiates the solidity of comradeship, which is daily gaining strength among the honorable and worthy nations of the civilized world.
It is a great pleasure for me to add that this declaration has been reached as an outcome of free exchange of frank views between the two governments. I can not pay too high a tribute to the sincerity and farsightedness of Secretary Lansing, with whom it was my privilege to associate in so pleasurable a way. It is my firm belief that so long as the two governments maintain a perfectly appreciative attitude toward each other, so long as there is no lack of statesmanship to guide public opinion, the reign of peace and tranquillity in our part of the world will remain unchallenged.
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