The Imperial Japanese Mission to the United States, 1917



Viscount Ishii's Address to the National Press Club at Washington
on Germany's Insidious Endeavors to Embroil the United States and Japan

The return to Washington was hastened by an engagement made earlier to attend and address a reception of, the National Press Club on the evening of Friday, September 21. The frank quality of the Envoy's talks at many gatherings had the effect of crowding the rooms with eager newspaper men. After the many presentations and greetings, and after the hospitality of that live organization had been duly honored, the president of the club called on Viscount Ishii to address the company, and it may be said that seldom has the attention of auditors been more intense, and more direct the response of applause to obvious. bits in the course of the address. The Envoy said:

Mr. President and gentlemen of the National Press Club:

An invitation to address the representatives of the newspaper press of this country is an honor I appreciate very much indeed, as well as the very great responsibility I accepted with your courteous invitation. But to have evaded the opportunity would have been to shirk a call to duty.

I will not waste the opportunity or your time and mine with idle words. I am well aware how narrow is the boundary line between too much and too little talk to the keen witted, wise and able journalist who, I believe, always seeks the truth and sometimes finds it. Indeed, my friends have warned me that as the choice of two evils lies before me I would be wise to choose the third and not to talk at all. Let me assure you at the outset that I do not propose here to be foolish enough to weave a web for your untangling.

I welcome this opportunity to talk to you as my friends under your own rooftree. I welcome it because I have never before had a chance to talk to. such a gathering, and I welcome it because I believe you can help me if I help you. I have had the very distinguished honor of meeting the owners. and the representatives of many of your leading newspapers in Europe, in America and in my own country, and let me say that I not only have the. most profound respect for the noble calling you follow, but many warm and close friendships among you.

As you will realize, better perhaps than most people, it would not be proper for me to enter into a discussion here of the diplomatic exchanges. between myself and the representatives of your government, except to say to you that we are not here as mercenaries to barter or to trade assistance for concession, or to secure special privileges to the exclusion of others. It should not be necessary for me to make reply to a suggestion of motive unworthy of our nation. Surely it would be unbecoming of me to protest the honesty of our intentions or to suggest a lack of intelligence on the part of those with whom I come to confer.

I am, however, justified in saying before this body of men who talk to the soul and the brains of America that we come as honest, sensible men to confer with honest, sensible men, and we realize that any invasion or attempt of the one to take advantage of the other would be idle waste of time. Japan and America are allies in this war---we are partners. As allies, we will win; as partners, we of Japan do not propose to sleep, nor do we propose to violate the ethics which must control a successful partnership.

As I have said before and since my arrival in this country, there is no question which can not be solved by partners in counsel together. No small or selfish motive should find a chance to live in the atmosphere around us, or affect the policy we must pursue in common; namely, mutual forbearance, mutual trust, complete national independence, and the greatest good to the greatest numbers.

Gentlemen, you constitute one of the greatest forces in civilization. The newspaper is one of modernity's latest and greatest developments. I am not sure that the common expression which says that the newspaper is the greatest influence in the world is correct; but certainly you are the only means we have of arriving at what the world is doing, what the world is saying, and, generally, what the world is thinking. Your influence must continue so long as the majority of newspaper editors, correspondents and reporters seek always and only for the truth. But today in all countries fraud, deception, treachery and all the forces of evil are wearing disguises most difficult to penetrate.

I deeply regret to say that owing to this difficulty the newspapers in both countries, inadvertently I believe, have delayed the inevitable full understanding between America and Japan. I am quite confident that some day (and I sincerely trust the day is not far distant) the eyes of all men who honestly endeavor to present the truth will be opened, and that the truth about Japan and about America will be revealed to all the world. When that day comes you and all men will know how cleverly the work of deception has been carried on and how long we have listened to lies about the ambitions and the ideals of the East and the West.

In my addresses delivered here and elsewhere since my arrival in this country, I have made most pointed allusions to the influences which have kept our two countries apart. For more than ten years a propaganda has been carried on in this country, in Japan, and, in fact, throughout the world, for the one and sole purpose of keeping nations of Far East and Far West as far apart as possible; to break up existing treaties and understanding; to create distrust, suspicion and unkindly feeling between neighbors in the East and in the West, and all in order that Germany might secure advantages in the confusion. I do not think that you, gentlemen, in your busy lives here during the last ten years, have given more than passing attention to developments in the Far East. The well equipped agent of your enemy and mine has taken advantage of your preoccupation or of your kindly credulity. For many years, his work was easy. The world was flooded with tales of Japan's military aspirations and Japan's duplicity. Have these been borne out by history? Even now the German publicity agent whispers first in your ear and then in mine. His story is specious and is told in the dim light which falls upon sympathetic pictures cleverly painted by himself and presented to you and to me in the past. To the accompaniment of appeals to the human heart, he tells to me other stories of your duplicity, and to you of mine.

For twelve years, gentlemen, up to the present time those agents have worked among us and elsewhere persistently and cleverly. They have been supplied with unlimited resources. No wonder we have been deceived. A short time ago a bad blunder gave us a clue. The Zimmerman note to Mexico involving Japan was a blunder. It made such a noise that we were disturbed in our slumbers, and so were you. This gave a check for a time, but since then the agents have been hard at work. They were at work yesterday and they are at work today. Every prejudice, every sympathy, every available argument has been appealed to and used to show to your people and to ours what a low, cunning enemy we have each in the other, and how much dependent we are upon the future friendship, support and good will of Germany.

Now, gentlemen, you might expect me to say something about the object of my mission, in reply to suggestions made continually in the newspapers who get the truth from the "high authorities on the Far East," or "close friends of the administration." One might inquire from what fountainhead these intimate informations come. I have not told anyone what I have said in the pleasant conversations I have had with the officials in Washington. and I do not believe for a moment that the high officials have told anyone either. Yet these informants have the whole story and tell you just what we are after. The myths of "The Closed Door"; "Oppression and Robbery in China"; "Control of the Far East"; "An Asiatic Monroe Doctrine"; "Political and Military Control of all the Resources and Territory of China"---these are old, old stories. And now we are told that we have come to Washington when the whole world is at war, when all the world is in need of disinterested friendships, when all civilization is menaced, when our fathers cry to us and yours to you from their resting places to join hands and fight for name and honor and for flag. In such an hour, at such a time, you are told that we come here to trade; that we come as mercenaries, to ask a price for our assistance in this war.

Gentlemen, is this a charge you want me to answer? Answer it yourselves, out of your own honest men's hearts.

Let me tell you a tittle piece of secret history. When it became known to us that the American and British governments were alike desirous of entering into a general treaty of arbitration, but that they found the making of such a treaty was precluded by the terms of the British alliance with Japan as they then stood, it was not with the consent of Japan, but it was because of Japan's spontaneous offer that the stipulations of the alliance were revised so that no obstacle might be put in the way of the proposed treaty. As you know, Article 4 of the new Anglo-Japanese Treaty now in effect, excludes the United States from its operation. This is a true account of the genesis of that clause. It was Japan's own idea, her own contribution to the cause of universal peace.

Now if Japan had the remotest intention of appealing to arms against America, how could she thus voluntarily have renounced the all important cooperation of Great Britain? It would have been wildly quixotic. Treaties are not "scraps of paper" to Great Britain. Japan knew she could rely on Great Britain religiously to carry out her promise. It was my good fortune to be in the Foreign Office at Tokio at the time of the revision of the Treaty of Alliance with Great Britain, and, modest as was the part I took therein, I can give you the personal and emphatic assurance that there was at that time no one in the government or among the public of Japan opposed to the terms of that revision.

There is, one may surely be safe in saying, only one way to interpret this attitude of Japan. It is the most signal proof----if, indeed, any proof is needed---that to the Japanese government and nation anything like armed conflict with America is simply unthinkable.

Gentlemen, in such a spirit we are here now. In such a spirit I am convinced that you, gentlemen, have bidden me here as your guest. In such spirit of cooperation, mutual defense and offense against evil and the menace of wrong, let us help one another and move onward together to the end in good understanding and peace.

Progress of the Diplomatic Conversations

Succeeding days in Washington were largely devoted by the Imperial Mission to its special business. No glint of the nature or scope of the conversations was given to the public, however. On September 24 the Washington correspondent of the New York Times telegraphed to his paper that Secretary of State Lansing, in response to inquiries as to the conferences between Viscount Ishii and himself, said:

The conversations with Viscount Ishii have been of a most satisfactory character, and I think that his visit to this country has been most helpful in benefiting the relations between the two countries and in strengthening the bonds of friendship.

The new American Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Morris, called on Viscount Ishii in the course of the day. Mr. M. Nagai, of the Japanese Foreign Office, and Colonel Tanikawa, both attached to the Mission, left on the same evening for Pittsburgh, where, as representatives of Viscount Ishii, they placed a wreath on the tomb of the late American Ambassador Guthrie.

On Wednesday, September 26, Viscount Ishii called on President Wilson at the White House and enjoyed a fairly long visit. It was the Viscount's first call since he was formally received on his arrival in the capital, and it was really his good-by visit to the President. It was exceedingly cordial on both sides.

The Imperial Mission was just then busy with preparations for its trip to New York.

IX. New York---I

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