Will Ukraine Wind Up Making Territorial Concessions to Russia?
Foreign Affairs Asks the Experts
DETAILS of the events that occurred in the Far East last autumn are not always clear, because the accounts given by the two parties to the conflict do not always agree. Nevertheless, in their main outlines they are sufficiently plain for an understanding of their character and significance.
The war between China and Japan was brought to a close by the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895. China acknowledged the independence of Korea, which Japan rapidly brought under her domination and fifteen years later annexed. By the treaty China further ceded Formosa, the Pescadores, and the southern part of the Manchurian peninsula of Liaotung; but a collective intervention of France, Germany and Russia forced Japan to restore this last. Smarting from her defeat, and anxious for protection, China in 1896 made a defensive alliance with Russia and authorized the building and use by that Power of the Chinese Eastern Railway. Two years later she gave to Russia a lease for twenty-five years of the Liaotung peninsula, and the right to build a railway thereto through southern Manchuria. At about the same time, Germany obtained a ninety-nine year lease of Kiaochow, and Great Britain one of Weihaiwei so long as Russia held Port Arthur at the southern end of the Liaotung peninsula.
After the Boxer troubles in 1900, Japan believed that Russia regarded herself as having acquired complete ownership in the Manchurian territory leased to her, a belief that led to the Russo-Japanese War and Russia's signal defeat. By the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the war in 1905, Russia ceded to Japan her lease of the peninsula and her railway rights south of Changchun. The treaty also ceded to Japan rights in territorial waters, harbor works, mines, and other property; but except as thus stated, the treaty recognized the sovereignty of China and her right to develop Manchuria. Now the provisions affecting China were subject to her consent, which she gave by the Treaty of Peking on December 22, 1905, with a provision that Japan was to conform to the agreements made with Russia about leases and railway construction "so far as circumstances permit." There were various supplementary provisions about opening cities for international residence, and, on the part of Japan, of withdrawing her railway guards -- if Russia did the same on the Chinese Eastern Railway -- when China should be able to afford full protection to the lives and property of foreigners; and there were agreements about the regulation of sundry affairs of mutual interest.
So the matter stood for ten years, when Japan made her famous twenty-one demands on China, which, under pressure from the United States, were somewhat modified, but took shape in the treaties of May 1915. These recognized Japan's position in Manchuria as naturally predominant, and extended the lease of the Liaotung peninsula to 1997, that of the South Manchuria Railway to 2002, and of the Antung-Mukden Railway to 2007; besides revising and enlarging the agreements about loans, mines and land leases. The validity of these treaties China has always contested, on the ground that they were obtained by duress. But this was not all. Japan claimed that by a secret protocol to the Treaty of Peking in 1905 the Chinese engaged, in order to avoid competition, not to build railways parallel to the South Manchuria lines. At the time of this writing no official texts of the protocols have been published (nor any text until 1930), and the Chinese deny that, if ever made, they have any force whatever.
After Japan had acquired the foregoing rights in Manchuria there was a good deal of talk about its being a region into which her people might immigrate and thereby relieve her overflowing population. That has not proved true, probably because of the cold in winter; and the result is that, including the Koreans who are the most numerous there, the whole number of Japanese subjects in Manchuria little exceeds one million, whereas the country has rapidly filled with Chinese who now number about thirty millions. Thus, so far as race is concerned, the people of the country are Chinese and the Japanese foreigners. On the other hand, the Japanese investments are very large; and, what is of more permanent significance, Manchuria supplies coal, iron and food, which to Japan, overcrowded and lacking in minerals, are of the highest importance. Indeed, in case of war with any considerable maritime nation, these supplies would be almost essential. Therefore the Japanese deem Manchuria vital to themselves, and, since the war with Russia, have been striving to enlarge their interests and control there; while the Chinese, on the other hand, feeling that Manchuria is a part of their country, inhabited overwhelmingly by their people, in which the Japanese have unjustly got a foothold, have been trying to develop the country outside, and in competition with, the railway zone. For this purpose they have built lines, rivals to the South Manchuria, which are said to have reduced its traffic forty percent in the year before the recent outbreak. If the secret protocol is valid, the Chinese have certainly violated it. If the treaty rights claimed by Japan have no validity, then she has been pursuing a course of action that has no justification. Whatever the rights may be, it is obvious that the aims of the two countries were wholly incompatible, and therefore sure to cause friction; and, if their differences could not be settled by peaceful means, a resort to force would become inevitable.
In case of an armed conflict between the two countries in Manchuria the chances were highly favorable to Japan. Her troops were equipped and trained with all the latest efficiency, and she had a powerful navy; while China had no fleet at all, and although the number of her soldiers purported to be enormous, and even in Manchuria many times larger than any force Japan was likely to put there, they were clearly ineffective against Japanese troops. Moreover, the only road between China and Manchuria over which troops could pass, or their lines of communication be maintained, lay within the range of the Japanese warships at Shanhaikwan between the mountains and the sea. It may be added that the control of the Chinese Republic over the government of Manchuria has always been very uncertain, and last year even the local strength of the government at Nanking was precarious. To complete the picture, we must remember that both Japan and China were members of the League of Nations and represented on the Council; that Japan was a party to the Nine Power Treaty for preserving the integrity of China, and of the Briand-Kellogg Pact for the prevention of war; but that last September all nations were unusually straitened and hampered by the world-wide economic depression.
Such was the situation when on June 27 last a Japanese captain, Nakamura, was murdered in Manchuria. This was by no means a solitary instance of race hostility, but it was the kind that often sets a match to the powder magazine. The explosion came on September 18. According to the Japanese account, about half past ten that evening Chinese soldiers and brigands destroyed a part of the track of the South Manchuria Railway and fired upon the guards. The injury could not have been very great, for the trains were soon running again; but the Japanese acted quickly and systematically. By about six o'clock the next morning their troops attacked Mukden, and, there being no serious resistance, soon occupied the city. In twenty-four hours they had occupied every important place within the region where their chief interests lay, a country roughly as large as New York or Pennsylvania; turned out the local governments, and began quickly to replace them by Chinese under Japanese supervision. It was a very effective piece of work, amazingly so if unpremeditated.
It so happened that the League of Nations was in session, and immediately on the receipt in Europe of the news, on the afternoon of September 19, Mr. Yoshizawa, the Japanese member, informed the Council that a collision had occurred between the Japanese and Chinese troops near Mukden. There were known as yet, he said, few details, but the Japanese Government had taken measures to prevent this local incident from leading to undesirable complications. He added that he had asked his government for information. Mr. Sze, the Chinese representative, was greatly disturbed, and feared very serious consequences. The President of the Council (M. Lerroux, of Spain) said that it had heard with satisfaction that the Japanese Government would take measures to deal with the situation.
At the next meeting, on September 22, Mr. Sze gave a full account of the affair and said that it might be necessary to apply other Articles of the Covenant beyond No. XI. Mr. Yoshizawa replied that the trouble had arisen from the destruction by Chinese soldiers of part of the railway, and the small body of Japanese troops had to occupy important points to prevent further incidents and protect the railway and the lives of Japanese citizens. He stated that the Japanese Government had no intention of aggravating the situation or of making war on China, and that it was ready to enter into direct negotiations with the government of China. Mr. Sze said that his government could not enter into direct negotiations with a nation in military occupation of part of its territory, and demanded a return to the status quo ante. After further discussion, in which Lord Cecil said that any troops on Chinese territory ought to be withdrawn without delay, the President of the Council asked time to draft a resolution. At the meeting on the afternoon of the same day Mr. Sze asked that the Council order the immediate withdrawal of the Japanese troops outside the railway zone, and that it appoint a commission of inquiry; while the President asked the Council to authorize him, first, to appeal to both countries to refrain from action that might aggravate the situation; second, to endeavor to find means of enabling them to withdraw their troops immediately without danger to the lives and property of their nationals; and, third, to inform the United States. All this the Council unanimously did.
For the last few days Mr. Yoshizawa had been waiting for information from his government. It arrived and was presented to the Council at the meeting on September 25. The telegram stated that Japan had withdrawn the greater part of her forces within the railway zone where they were now concentrated, leaving outside only a few troops as a precautionary measure at Mukden and Kirin and a small number at other points, which did not constitute any military occupation. The forces, it said, were being withdrawn to the fullest extent allowed by the safety of Japanese citizens and the protection of the railway. Mr. Yoshizawa went on to state that Japan intended to withdraw her troops into the railway zone as fast as the situation improved, and he was confident that the Council would trust to her sincerity. The Chinese, on the other hand, declared, as they constantly did, their readiness to assume protection of the Japanese citizens in any areas evacuated by the Japanese troops. The President said that in view of these statements the Council might hope for a satisfactory settlement, and again appealed to Japan to withdraw her troops as rapidly as possible.
The subject came up again on September 28, when Mr. Yoshizawa declared that Japan was determined to continue to withdraw her forces as and when possible without danger to her nationals, but he did not rely upon China's offer to protect them because she had not always been able to make her voice heard in the provinces. At the same time Mr. Sze asked for information about alleged attacks by aëroplanes.
On September 30 the President said the Council had singled out one object as of immediate and paramount importance, that of the withdrawal of the troops into the railway zone, but that a certain time had clearly to be allowed in order to insure safety of life and property. Both parties, he said, recognized the importance of such withdrawal and both had taken steps to that end. Under these conditions he thought there was no use in continuing discussions at the present time. He then read a draft resolution which -- after stating that the Japanese Government had no territorial designs in Manchuria, that the withdrawal of its troops, which had already begun, would be continued as rapidly as safety of life and property would permit, that the Chinese would assume responsibility for Japanese lives and property outside the zone -- expressed the conviction that both parties were anxious to avoid any action which might disturb peace and good understanding, requested both parties to hasten the restoration of normal relations and the execution of these undertakings, and concluded by an adjournment to October 14.
This resolution, which was adopted unanimously, is constantly referred to later as an agreement, and so it may well be regarded; but whether all the parties to it had the same ideas in mind is a very different question. The neutral members of the Council, or at least M. Lerroux, its President, seemed to think that the withdrawal of the Japanese troops within the railroad zone and the restoration of Chinese authority in the rest of Manchuria would be peaceably accomplished before long, perhaps wholly before the meeting of the Council a fortnight later. Mr. Sze evidently had grave doubts whether Japan was really withdrawing her military forces, or intended to do so; while the Japanese, as shown by their subsequent description of conditions, saw no security for their nationals beyond the striking power of their arms. They had already stated, and continued to assert, that China could not maintain order in the country; and hence an intention to withdraw when security should be provided signified to them no immediate change of position. Meanwhile, it was clear that the Council was highly unlikely to be specially summoned to meet within the next two weeks, and did not appear disposed to take vigorous action in this matter at any time; so that Japan had no reason to fear active interference, nor did the identical note to both countries from the United States expressing "its hope that they will cause their military forces to refrain from any further hostilities," seem alarming.
The resolution of September 30 had also requested both countries to furnish the Council with information, and this they certainly did not fail to do. Telegrams came from them at the rate of three a day for circulation among the members of the Council. From China came accounts of movements of Japanese troops, of military occupation of towns and railways, seizures of public property, incitements to independence, and dropping of bombs from airplanes; from Japan came statements about raids by bandits and disbanded soldiers and expeditions to repel them, explanations of how airplanes had been sent to reconnoiter and had dropped bombs only when fired upon, and complaints of the anti-Japanese agitation in China proper, directed, they said, by the Chinese Nationalist Party with the connivance of the government.
During this period M. Lerroux felt conditions to be so serious that he reminded both countries of their engagements to refrain from aggravating the situation, and at China's request summoned the Council a day before the date set. On October 13 he was unable to be present himself, and M. Briand was called to the chair, which he occupied until the end of our story. On the opening day, Mr. Sze appealed earnestly to the League for protection, especially in relation to the dropping of bombs on Chinchow. Mr. Yoshizawa, in reply, gave a history of Japan's claims in Manchuria and the causes for her action on September 18. The President closed the discussion by remarking that he did not believe a dispute of this kind would lead to an irremediable situation.
At this point there was an interlude in the drama. From the outset of the discussion everyone had agreed to coöperation with the United States; and on October 16 a further step was taken by the proposal to ask her delegate to sit with the Council, although of course without a vote. Japan objected that this was substantially a change in the constitution of the Council and required a unanimous vote; but in answer it was urged that whether communications with our government should be made orally or in writing was merely a matter of procedure and could be decided by a majority. A motion by Japan to refer this question to a committee of experts was lost by 12 votes to 2; and then the motion to send the invitation was carried by 13 votes to 1, Japan alone in the negative. The United States accepted the invitation "to consider with the Council the relationship between the provisions of the Pact of Paris and the present unfortunate situation in Manchuria;" nothing being said about the Nine Power Treaty for the preservation of the integrity of China.
On October 17 six of the governments represented on the Council sent an identical note to China and Japan, calling their attention to the Pact of Paris, and on the 20th the United States sent one of similar tenor. At the meeting on October 22 M. Briand said it was now certain that the dispute was, and would remain to the end, circumscribed within its present limits. He referred again to the fact that Japan was prepared to evacuate the occupied territory as soon as guaranties were received of the safety of her nationals and their property, and that China was prepared to give those guaranties. He then offered a resolution which referred to that of September 30, recalled the undertaking therein of Japan to continue as rapidly as possible her withdrawal of troops in proportion as the safety of her citizens was secured, and that of China to assume responsibility therefor. It called upon the Japanese Government to withdraw its troops into the railway zone "so that the total withdrawal may be effected before the date fixed for the next meeting of the Council," which it was proposed should adjourn until November 16. In face of a statement so definite as the one thus proposed, Japan must either agree to withdraw speedily or give more definite reasons for delay. Mr. Yoshizawa, therefore, after protesting that Japan was determined to withdraw her troops into the railway zone, stated that a definite time could not be fixed because the safety of the Japanese residents could not be secured until there was a change in the state of mind existing in Manchuria and an atmosphere created in which useful coöperation would be possible. There were, he said, several fundamental points on which an understanding was indispensable before such an atmosphere could be restored, and he asked that China enter into negotiations on the matter. The existence of such fundamental points had been suggested before, but never so clearly as now.
The next day Mr. Sze complained that five weeks of effort by the League and the United States had not sufficed to free the territory of one member of the League, and a signatory of the Pact of Paris, from an unlawful invasion by an army of another. The time, he said, until the next meeting of the Council seemed long; nevertheless China was ready to accept the resolution. He went on to say that she would not discuss any subject with any Power under the pressure of military occupation of her territory. Mr. Yoshizawa, on the other hand, now submitted a counter proposal, saying that Japan would withdraw her troops as the present atmosphere cleared by the achievement of an understanding on the fundamental principles governing normal relations, and recommending the two governments to confer on such an understanding. The Japanese Government, he said, had determined on a number of fundamental points upon which normal relations should be based. He was keenly pressed to explain what he meant by these points, but said that he had no authority to do so. The President, referring to the Pact of Paris, then said that public opinion would not readily admit that a military occupation under these circumstances could be regarded as coming under the heading of pacific means. He urged Mr. Yoshizawa to accept the draft resolution, but he refused. This was on October 24. The counter resolution of Mr. Yoshizawa was then put to a vote and lost 13 to 1; and the draft resolution was adopted by the same vote. The President regretted that they had not attained unanimity, but took credit that they had been able to circumscribe the conflict within its present limits. He hoped the dispute would be ended when they next met, on November 16; and after Mr. Sze had expressed his fear that there was little hope of an improvement in the situation in Manchuria, the Council adjourned.
After the adjournment the Japanese Government made known its fundamental points, which included (as had been surmised) respect for the treaty rights of Japan. Meanwhile, China did not abate the tale of her grievances. She complained that the Japanese were reorganizing the local governments in Chinese hands but under their own control, thus converting their military occupation into a political and economic strangle-hold upon the country. She asserted, also, that Japanese military officers had seized the salt revenues. About this last M. Briand felt obliged to remonstrate, observing that such acts were not related to the safety of Japanese nationals. Japan replied that the balance of the salt revenue not required by Nanking for payments of foreign debts had hitherto been used by the Manchurian Government for its military expenditures; that the Chinese committee on the maintenance of order at Mukden had asked for it, that the salt revenue office at Newchwang sent it to them, and that the military did not seize it. Now this committee was acting in concert with the Japanese authorities, and later it was virtually admitted that the military had obtained the revenues by force.
Meanwhile, the fates were brewing trouble far to the north. Japan reported to the Council that a bridge over the Nonni River, carrying a railway tributary to the South Manchuria, had been blown up by the Chinese, who had, moreover, opened fire on Japanese sent to repair it. The message added that the guards protecting the workmen would be withdrawn when the repairs were done. Evidently the condition was critical, and on November 6 M. Briand called on both sides to avoid sanguinary action; but, as usual in such cases, each side said the other fired first. A few days later Japan reported that troops were concentrating in front of the Nonni Bridge, and again on November 11 M. Briand reminded both nations of their agreement to avoid aggravating the situation. There followed contradictory reports of what was said and done; but just as the Council of the League was assembling, a battle was fought at Angangchi. The troops of the Chinese General Ma were routed and the Japanese occupied Tsitsihar, the capital of the northern province of Manchuria, with the loss of 31 killed, 104 wounded, and 13 missing.
The League had adjourned to November 16, and on that day it met, this time at Paris. The President informed the Council that immediately after the late adjournment he had received a letter from Mr. Sze saying that China would undertake to settle all disputes with Japan as to the interpretation of treaties by arbitration or judicial settlement; to which Japan had replied that China had raised doubts about the very validity of the treaties, a suggestion which the Japanese could in no case accept. Believing that more could be accomplished by personal conferences than by formal discussion, the Council did not meet again for several days, and, indeed, the only other meetings it held were on November 21 and December 9 and 10. Since the negotiations were carried on in this way, Mr. Dawes could keep in constant communication with the members of the Council without sitting at their table.
On November 21 Mr. Yoshizawa made a rather startling proposal of a commission of inquiry on behalf of the League to examine the situation in both Manchuria and China but without power to intervene in the negotiations between the two countries or to supervise the movements of the troops. Again there came a period, and a much longer one, of private discussion in the attempt to reach a common understanding.
On December 9 the Council held another formal session, at which the President read a draft resolution embodying Mr. Yoshizawa's proposal. The most important points were, first, a reaffirmation of the Resolution of September 30 (by which the two parties had declared that they were solemnly bound) and a demand by the Council that the withdrawal to the railway zone should be effected as speedily as possible. In the second place, the Council, in view of the serious nature of the events, noted that the two parties undertook to adopt all measures necessary to avoid further aggravation of the situation. Third, it invited them to keep the Council informed; and, fourth, the other members to do the same. By the fifth point, the most important of all, the Council was to appoint a commission of five to study the question on the spot and report on anything that threatened to disturb the peace, with a proviso that it should not be concerned with negotiations between the parties or interfere with the military arrangements of either. Finally, the President was to follow the subject and summon the Council if necessary.
The next day Mr. Yoshizawa accepted this resolution on the understanding that it did not prevent Japan from taking measures for security against bandits; while Mr. Sze said that much of the lawlessness in Manchuria was due to the invasion by the Japanese troops, adding that China would regard any attempt to affect her administrative integrity, or to promote movements for independence, as aggravating the situation. The resolution was then adopted unanimously. In his concluding remarks M. Briand said that the Council had averted war, and was entitled to be confident that there would be no further hostilities. In the same spirit Mr. Stimson expressed at this time his gratification at the result, although not with unqualified confidence.
Whether or not the Council had really had any significant influence on the course of affairs it evidently felt that it had accomplished all it could, for it was not summoned to meet again. But the course of events did not stop. Even while the Council was sitting, China reported preparations for an attack on Chinchow, the last important town in Manchuria, which the Chinese were in no condition to defend. These reports Japan denied; but the rumors continued, and although any such advance was understood to be halted, and there was talk of creating a neutral zone between the town and the Japanese troops, the proposal came to nothing.
At this time changes took place in both governments, which brought the conflict to a new phase. How much truth there may have been in the impression of a dissension in Japan between the civil cabinet and the army which it was unable to control, there can be little doubt that the Japanese public favored energetic measures; and within two days after the Council of the League adjourned, the Minseito ministry resigned by reason of internal differences on other matters and was replaced by a cabinet under Mr. Inukai, composed of members of the Seiyukai, the party that had in the past stood for a vigorous attitude in Manchuria. Three days later the rising tide of feeling in China caused the resignation of Chiang Kai-shek and the formation of a more strongly nationalist government there.
Whether the new Japanese ministry adopted a different policy, or was in fact carrying out a plan already formed, a systematic advance towards Chinchow was evidently being prepared. Naturally the prospect of such a stroke did not pass without comment by the nations that had sought to avert it. Mr. Stimson on December 22 expressed to the Japanese Foreign Office the concern of our Government at the reports of movements contemplated in the direction of Chinchow, but indicated no further consequences; and similar action was taken by Great Britain and France. Nevertheless the advance began, and continued until Chinchow was abandoned by the Chinese and entered by the Japanese troops early in January. From there they pushed forward to Shanhaikwan, the gate of the Great Wall, thus completing their military occupation of all southern Manchuria.
In making any comment upon this story one must remember the extreme difficulties in which the Council was placed from the uncertainty of rights and facts, both of which were in dispute. Almost every claim was contested, every act impugned, and every statement of fact denied. Moreover, had the rights and facts been agreed, they presented a very unusual situation.
Japan had a right by treaty to maintain soldiers in the railway zone, that is in Chinese territory, and hence there was no definite frontier between the two countries, such that for troops to cross it would clearly be a hostile invasion to be at once condemned. It was a case of exceeding the limits granted by treaty -- which might be justified by a breach of the treaty on the part of the other country. The position involved a difference a little like that between a willful trespass on another man's land, and traversing that land beyond the limits of an easement that he has obstructed.
Then the Chinese central government did not have actual control of Manchuria, whose ruler was in fact largely autonomous. The region was an easy prey for roving bands of brigands and disbanded soldiers whose raids the authorities at Nanking could not restrain, and for whom it could not assume responsibility. Expeditions, therefore, by Japanese troops to suppress marauders could hardly be treated like invasions of a foreign territory; and the line between these and military occupation was not easy to draw.
In such a confused situation the Council of the League proceeded cautiously. The full meaning of the first advance by Japanese troops was not clear to its members, and perhaps not to the government at Tokio; although Mr. Sze quickly saw that it portended an attempt to wrest from China the control of Manchurian territory. If this were the object, and it had been perceived by the Council, a case would have been presented where the members of the League were bound by the Covenant to apply the sanctions of Article XVI, since the use of military force for such a purpose is obviously war. That the Japanese government had, as it constantly asserted, no intention of annexing any part of Manchuria, one need not doubt; but surely to occupy in arms a neighbor's country in order to control its administration is enough to constitute an act of war. Nor is it essential that a state of war should be formally declared. Both nations avoided this; both kept up diplomatic relations throughout; China because to declare it might have impaired her position as an injured suppliant to the League, and would have opened all her ports to attack; Japan because her plea before the Council was that she had begun no war, and since she could obtain what she wanted by the use of her troops in Manchuria there was no military reason for operations beyond the wall.
One can, however, see a misunderstanding running all through the discussions. Whatever the Japanese Government may at first have thought would result from the seizure of Mukden, it must soon have recognized that it was no passing incident, and the Resolution of September 30 can hardly have had the same meaning for all the members of the Council. To China and to the neutral representatives an agreement for the speedy withdrawal of the troops into the railway zone meant a withdrawal as soon as the immediate object of the advance was accomplished -- perhaps in a few days, probably in the fortnight before the Council met again. But to Japan it meant -- as appeared more clearly later -- a withdrawal after the country had been sufficiently reduced to order to render life and property safe for her nationals. This she knew could not be done by China, but only by herself, and would take much more time than the Council supposed. She could not say how much, and therefore constantly refused to fix a date.
Neither the Council nor the United States undertook to examine the substance of Japan's rights in Manchuria, the only question considered under the Covenant or the Pact of Paris being whether her method of proceeding was a resort to war, seeking the solution of a dispute except by pacific means. It is from this angle that we must regard the action of the League and of our own government. From the whole transaction three things appear:
First, that vigorous measures, if not taken early, become more and more difficult to adopt, even though the evidence becomes stronger.
Second, that the public opinion of the world, on which so much reliance has been placed, has little effect on a nation that, believing itself in the right, has no material interference to dread; and a nation is highly unlikely to conduct important military operations unless there is a predominant belief among its people that it is very decidedly in the right. In this case the twelve neutral members of the Council were wholly in accord; and public opinion was as nearly unanimous, and as much aroused, as it is ever likely to be.
The third inference to be drawn from the transaction is that -- at least in times of economic stress -- the Great Powers, on whom the chief burden falls, are not certain to regard as imperative the sanctions of the Covenant. This the Japanese shrewdly ascertained in observing the progress of the negotiations.
Whatever may have been the earlier belief of the countries belonging to the League, it is hard not to consider the final advance on Chinchow as a resort to war within the meaning of Article XVI of the Covenant; and yet no action was taken, nor was even a further meeting of the Council called. For the future of the League this attitude is the most significant aspect of the matter. Mistakes in particular cases may be made, the true nature of events may be misunderstood, and the future may not be prejudiced, for the like may not happen again; but if world opinion is ineffective against a determined nation, and the members of the League cannot be relied upon to carry out its sanctions, the prospect of preventing wars by means of the League is much reduced. It will continue to be a beneficent organ for mutual understanding, an agency for doing things that would otherwise be more difficult; but as a force for removing the scourge of war, and giving the world a sense of security, it will achieve less than its founders hoped.
The position of the United States was different from that of the other nations. Not being a member of the League, it had assumed none of the obligations of the Covenant; and therefore, whether its representative sat at the table of the Council or stayed away, he could not consult with them as a responsible colleague. He was of necessity an outsider, and the common solidarity was thereby lamed.
On the other hand, this country is a party to the Nine Power Treaty to maintain the territorial and administrative integrity of China and the principle of the Open Door there. It is a party also to the Pact of Paris never to seek the settlement or solution of any disputes or conflicts except by pacific means. But the obligations of both these engagements are negative -- that is, to abstain from the acts described -- and involve no undertaking to restrain any other signatory that should violate them. Although the Nine Power Treaty was certainly made to protect China, the interests of the parties to it are also involved. It is strictly a treaty, and a breach of its conditions by any party to it entitles any other to the redress open in the case of treaties. The note of our government to Japan on January 7 states that "With the recent military operations about Chinchow, the last remaining administrative authority of the Government of the Chinese Republic in South Manchuria, as it existed prior to September 18, 1931, has been destroyed." To this Japan has replied on January 16: that "the present unsettled and distracted state of China is not what was in the contemplation" of the parties at the time of the treaty and that "they must necessarily be applied with reference to the state of facts as they exist;" that "any replacement which occurred in the personnel of the administration of Manchuria has been the necessary act of the local population" who are not "destitute of the power of self-determination and of organizing themselves in order to secure civilized conditions when deserted by the existing officials." This appears to mean, first, that the condition of China has virtually abrogated the provision for her administrative integrity; and, second, that the changes of administration in Manchuria were due to a spontaneous revolutionary movement there, not the result of Japanese military action.
The Pact of Paris, commonly called the Briand-Kellogg Treaty, raises different questions. Is it strictly a treaty, or is it a common declaration of policy and intention; and if a treaty, what rights does it confer, and what action may any signatory take in case of breach? Clearly no obligation is imposed to take any action, nor is there any suggestion of the action proper to take. Our government has assumed on more than one occasion that it was entitled, without giving offense, to call upon any other signatory to refrain from the use of force, and so much seems to be admitted. Conversely, if we were again to send marines to Nicaragua or troops to Haiti and some other signatory were to remonstrate with us, we should feel that it was within its rights, and that we ought to explain courteously why our action was not contrary to the Pact. Suppose, further, that a nation with which we have made one of our recent arbitration treaties should claim that the Pact, being a treaty, gave it a right to demand that we should comply with its terms; and asked to arbitrate the question whether such a landing of forces in another country was or was not seeking a settlement of a dispute by other than pacific means what should we reply? The arbitration treaties except, no doubt, the Monroe Doctrine; but no one would claim that if the action supposed is a violation of the Pact of Paris it is authorized by that doctrine, and hence not subject to arbitration. If the Pact of Paris is strictly a treaty, it is hard to see why it does not confer on the other parties thereto a right capable of arbitration under a treaty made for the purpose of arbitrating treaty rights. If, on the other hand, the Pact does not confer an arbitrable right, it is hard to see in what sense it is really a treaty.
In his note of January 7 to Japan Secretary Stimson not only calls the Pact of Paris a treaty, but uses an expression that seems to imply that it confers tangible rights. The last sentence reads "it (the American Government) does not intend to recognize any situation, treaty or agreement which may be brought about by means contrary to the covenants and obligations of the Pact of Paris of August 27, 1928, to which Treaty both China and Japan, as well as the United States, are parties." In the reply of January 16 Japan sweeps it aside by the remark that, although this might be the subject of an academic doubt, "as Japan has no intention of adopting improper means, that question does not practically arise."
However this may be, Secretary Stimson's statement is an interesting one. It seems to mean that if the present trouble should end by an agreement whereby China should cede to Japan any rights in Manchuria, the United States, Russia or any other signatory would have a right under the Pact to disregard them, if in its opinion they were acquired by other than pacific means. If this means that a signatory may intervene when the cession is made, and insist that it be modified, that has been done in the past and does not require the Pact of Paris. It was done by the Congress of Berlin in 1878. It has been done twice with Japan, first when she was made to yield the Liaotung peninsula in 1895, and again when the United States caused her to reduce her twenty-one demands in 1915. But if it means that any signatory of the Pact has a right at any future time to refuse to recognize the provisions of a treaty so made, the question is much more serious. Of course, to do so would be a certain cause of friction, highly likely to produce an extremely dangerous situation. Suppose, for example, as is not improbable, that China should feel compelled to cede, not the sovereignty, but the control and administration of all Southern Manchuria, and that our merchants, supported by our government, should pay no attention to Japanese officials and customs duties, how long would peace last? Yet if we do not do this we are recognizing a condition brought about by means which Mr. Stimson's note implies would, in the event supposed, be contrary to the covenants and obligations of the Pact of Paris.
Of course the Pact is not retroactive. If it were, our title to California, part of Arizona and New Mexico, to the Philippines and Porto Rico would be without international recognition. But for the future, unless wars are to cease entirely or are to be followed by no changes of territory, the Pact of Paris, with an interpretation whereby the signatories are under no obligation to prevent war, yet are at liberty to disregard its results, might well create more causes of strife than it would allay. It would signify that any nation could repudiate its treaties, and disregard those made by others, on the ground of duress. Now the object of international law is to make the rights of nations certain, not to unsettle them; if a wrong has been done to correct it at once, not to leave it as a festering sore for any nation to probe thereafter, or as an excuse for action that would otherwise be without justification. One of the worst international evils is the existence of indefinite claims that can be used on convenient occasions. Our government will not go to war, and unless under great provocation will not suspend commercial intercourse, as Japan knows full well; but while using whatever pacific pressure it can to obtain a fair settlement, it must ultimately recognize the situation that develops; and, if so, is it not wise to make clear that we do not claim an interpretation of the Pact that, if generally accepted, might make the relation of states more uncertain, more full of danger than if the Pact had been unsigned?