GAIKO YOROKU. By VISCOUNT ISHII. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1930, 526 pp.

IN THE spring of 1917 the Japanese Government announced that Viscount Ishii would be the chief of a Special Japanese Mission to the United States. The announcement caused considerable surprise in Washington because, although Ishii had already made a brilliant name for himself in the Japanese diplomatic service, he had not been closely associated with American affairs. As Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Paris for many years, as Director of the Bureau of Commercial Affairs in the Foreign Office, and as Japanese Ambassador to France from 1912 to 1915, his outlook had been distinctly European rather than American.

There are four general groups in the Japanese Foreign Service, depending largely upon where its members have been educated and what languages they command. There is the American group, composed of those who as young men have studied in the United States, graduated from American universities and acquired a vocabulary rich in American slang; there is the British group, the product of a strictly English education; there is the continental European group, whose language is French; and, most important of all, there is the group composed of those scholars in the Service who have directed their efforts toward a better understanding of the Chinese language and of Chinese literature and psychology. It is not difficult to decide in which of these four general groups to place Viscount Ishii. He was distinctly the Japanese diplomat with a continental European outlook; and it was natural -- inevitable almost -- that he should be called home from Paris to guide Japanese foreign policy during the critical years of 1915 and 1916 and to show the way through the bewildering clash of forces let loose in Europe by the Great War.

When the United States declared war on Germany, Viscount Ishii was among the first Japanese to appreciate the full significance of that act and the necessity it would impose on Japan to undertake a radical readjustment of its war policy. It was as a means to this end that the Special Mission to the United States was created and Viscount Ishii was chosen as its chief. Ten years before he had paid a hurried visit to the United States to investigate the anti-Japanese movement in San Francisco, but except on that one occasion he had had almost no contact with American life. His success was all the more remarkable. To those of us who first met him in that hectic summer of 1917, it was apparent that he was a cultivated gentleman of rare personal charm, whose mental processes seemed more European than oriental. His approach to diplomatic problems was realistic and rigidly logical, suggestive of the French rather than the English tradition. The results of his extended conferences with President Wilson and Secretary Lansing were embodied in an Exchange of Notes (commonly referred to as the Lansing-Ishii Agreement) which recognized Japan's "special interests" in China, due to "territorial propinquity." This informal agreement, indicating a more generous attitude of the American Government toward Japanese aims and ambitions in China, was received by the Japanese people as a distinct diplomatic victory, giving Japan a relative freedom of action in further developing her special interests in Southern Manchuria.

Viscount Ishii returned home to receive the enthusiastic congratulations of his colleagues in the Foreign Office and the most prized of all honors, a word of appreciation from the Emperor for substantial services to his country. In addition, as a recognition of the singularly favorable effect which his personality had made in America, he was promptly returned as Japanese Ambassador to the United States. His term of service in this new capacity, which offered so much hope for a better understanding between America and Japan, was abruptly terminated by an unfortunate incident, not significant in itself, but which so touched his very delicate sense of fitness that he felt impelled to tender his resignation and once more return home.

Viscount Ishii was too valuable a public servant, however, to remain long inactive. He went back to Paris as Ambassador, and from that vantage point, strengthened by his close official connection with the League of Nations, he guided the course of Japanese diplomacy in Europe for almost a decade. Then, true to the traditions of his race, while still not an old man as we westerners view age, he retired from active public life to the quiet of his library and the peaceful beauty of his garden where he might undisturbed rearrange in his mind the vivid experiences of forty years and properly evaluate the tremendously significant events in which he had played no minor part. Had he been completely oriental, our study of Viscount Ishii might have ended here. The noiseless closing of the shoji which barred the outer world might have remained the symbol of the unbroken quiet of his meditations. But something of the articulate and expansive spirit of western civilization seems to have entered deep into his soul, and in spite of his inherited reserve he was inspired to share with his fellow-countrymen the memories of his life and the considered conclusions of his thinking. These he has gathered together in a volume entitled "Gaiko Yoroku" -- "Diplomatic Recollections." The volume as a whole has not yet been translated, but certain portions dealing with Japan's special interests in China and the negotiations of the Lansing-Ishii Agreement have seemed to deserve special translation, disclosing as they do to us of the western world the views of a cultivated, high-minded and absolutely sincere Japanese statesman. There is no suggestion in these pages of propaganda designed for western consumption, but rather a realistic discussion of one of the most difficult problems in the entire field of Far Eastern affairs. Anyone who wishes to glimpse the reactions of the really thoughtful men of Japan to the challenge of changing China can do it here. That is why the following brief summary is submitted to the readers of FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

Viscount Ishii points out that the first mention in an international public document of Japan's special interests in China was in the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of January 30, 1902. In other words, the first foreign Power which openly recognized Japan's special interests in China was Great Britain. The process was carried further through the conclusion of the Franco-Japanese Treaty (June 10, 1907) and the Russo-Japanese Treaty (July 30, 1907), which recognized Japan's special interests in China either in writing or by suggestion. Thus of the Great Powers which have important interests in the Far East only Germany and the United States remained. The World War intervened before there had been any chance for negotiation with Germany. But an opportunity to negotiate with the United States seemed at last to be offered in connection with the dispatch of the Japanese Special Mission in 1917. Viscount Ishii states the purpose of the Mission as follows: "My immediate mission was, like that of Lord Balfour of Great Britain and M. Viviani of France, to express appreciation and congratulations for the entrance of the United States into the World War on the side of the Allies. In the case of the British and French War Missions, their ends were attained when they had presented greetings to the United States Government, visited Washington's tomb at Mount Vernon, and gone on a tour of cities, delivering encouraging speeches. But the Japanese Government desired to take this occasion to attempt an exchange of frank opinions between American and Japanese responsible persons regarding the Chinese situation and to make some headway toward understanding."

But even so modest a program as "some headway" was rather difficult to launch. "In the meanwhile, as I met the President, various government officials, Senators and Representatives, and other notables, I discovered that, while the Secretaries of War and Navy were exceedingly busy, President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing were not so preoccupied, and I felt encouraged as to the possibilities of exchanging views." A casual conversation with President Wilson unexpectedly opened the way. The report of this conversation is most interesting. "First of all, as I met the President and casually touched upon the Chinese question, President Wilson declared that the United States had no other desire as long as the principle of the Open Door and equal opportunity was faithfully carried out in China. The fact that the Powers maintain their position in China by establishing so-called spheres of influence in various quarters of China is a menace to that principle and is regrettable. I thought that, if the President's attitude was no more than that, there was a possibility of further conversation and replied mildly: 'Your views are quite reasonable, yet the spheres of influence, as your honor knows, were first advocated by Russia and Germany in Manchuria and Shantung; and since they have expressed their agreement to the principle of the Open Door and equal opportunity, as proposed by the Secretary of State of your country, they will not dare to close the door or to nullify equal opportunity in earnest so far as trade and industry are concerned. If they were to take such steps it would be an obvious inconsistency, and it goes without saying that Japan, although she acquired a foothold in Manchuria as a result of the Russo-Japanese War, as your honor knows, does not hesitate to defend the principle of the Open Door and equal opportunity.' I felt that this general conversation was interesting; perhaps the President also found that there was unexpected flexibility in Japan's viewpoint. The President expressed the hope that I would discuss the matter at length with Secretary Lansing, and we parted. The beginning was thus made for the American-Japanese negotiations concerning China."

Viscount Ishii recounts in great detail the course of his negotiations with Secretary Lansing. Commenting upon them he makes this illuminating statement: "As Mr. Lansing was pro-Chinese, due to his family connections, it is true that I felt some inconvenience and difficulty in discussing Chinese questions with him. As we mutually disclosed our thoughts a wide gap appeared between him and myself. From the beginning we had agreed to carry on our conversations frankly; the result was that argument often became heated, and many a time the likelihood of adjustment in the negotiations appeared dim. But then when I met him at the next meeting, after he had reported the day's conversation to the President, it was not unusual for me to find him miraculously softened and conceding. My supposition is that Mr. Wilson compared and studied the points of view put forward by Mr. Lansing and myself; and where he found that my contentions were reasonable, he, true to his character, must have accepted them without hesitation and made Mr. Lansing accept them. Therefore I always felt as if I were negotiating with President Wilson."

After much discussion and considerable delay the two governments reached an agreement and joined in the following declaration:

The Governments of Japan and the United States 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 Japan and the United States 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.

The significance of this declaration of policy centers on the phrase "special interests." Viscount Ishii has told us how these words originally appeared in Article I of the treaty providing for the First Anglo-Japanese Alliance. But even then the Japanese Government deemed them inadequate as a description of the peculiar relation which it felt then, and still feels, should be recognized as governing its policy in China. In the Washington negotiations of 1917 Viscount Ishii wished to make the phrase more definite and more accurate. He tells us with singular frankness about the diplomatic struggle over the finding of an acceptable wording.

He writes: "I returned to Washington after a week's visit to New York, and found when I called upon the President that his attitude had become more friendly. He complimented me by saying that my speeches in New York had served in no small degree to remove misunderstanding between the American and Japanese peoples. As I expected, Mr. Lansing's previous evasive attitude had somewhat changed, and he said that he felt as if he had reached an idea as a result of studying my daring proposition. He then asked me what phrase I proposed for a treaty text to describe my previous statement that Japan possesses interests superior to other Powers in China as a whole, especially in neighboring regions. When I replied that 'paramount interest' best describes Japan's interests in China, he immediately declared that the phrase had an extremely strong meaning; that any country which recognized that Japan had such interests would thereafter have blindly to accept Japan's activities in China, no matter what they might be; and that the United States Government could not possibly recognize such a phrase. In reply, I stated that I did not believe that there is such a strong meaning in the phrase 'paramount interest;' that it had been first used years ago by Secretary of State Seward, and that I thought Mr. Frelinghuysen had used it in describing American interests in Mexico. After explaining that I purposely used that language because my country's interests in China were not different from the interests of Mr. Lansing's country in Mexico, I added that even if his country possessed 'paramount interest' in Mexico it nevertheless was unthinkable that the principle of the Open Door in Mexico would be violated; and I reminded him of the fact that the foreign trade of other Powers in Mexico is actually carried on harmoniously under most-favored-nation treaties. The Secretary of State made no reply to this, but restated the impossibility of accepting this phrase because the President also entertained strong objections to it. Thereupon I stated that I was not insistent upon the phrase 'paramount interest' and that any other appropriate phrase would be acceptable. After prolonged negotiations I suggested substituting 'special interest and influence' for the words 'paramount interest;' but Secretary Lansing still found some difficulty with that, and finally we arrived at the compromise of adopting 'special interests,' leaving out the words 'and influence.' While the phrase 'paramount interest' is of American origin, I assume that the United States authorities suspected some dangerous element in it because Article III of the Treaty for the Second Anglo-Japanese Alliance contained an expression 'Japan having paramount political, military and economic interests in Korea,' and because later Korea was annexed to Japan. If such a suspicion existed the determined nature of Mr. Lansing's objection is understandable. That the apprehension is imaginary there is no denying, but it is not unreasonable. Also, the phrase 'special interests' was used in Article I of the Treaty for the First Anglo-Japanese Alliance to describe both Great Britain's and Japan's interests in China, hence there was no reason for our country to oppose it. In short, it can be said that we reached the destined conclusion."

The phrase was agreed upon. One is constrained to ask what it actually means to thoughtful leaders in Japan. Viscount Ishii faces the question with commendable realism and answers it simply and definitely. His answer deserves to be quoted in full:

"If then anyone asks me what is the nature of what I call special interests, and why Japan possesses such interests in China, I shall reply as follows, with a slight addition to what I had personally laid before Mr. Lansing in the course of the negotiations for the American-Japanese Joint Declaration:

"Imagine an occasion when there is danger to the lives and property of natives and foreigners as a result of natural catastrophies in China --

"Imagine an occasion when the lives of natives and foreigners are in peril as a result of the prevalence of epidemics in China --

"Imagine an occasion when there arises in China a civil war which cannot be quelled --

"Imagine an occasion when China is flooded with dangerous propaganda (kiken shiso) and there is fear of its spreading abroad --

"On an occasion like one of the foregoing, how will the governments and peoples of various European and American countries handle the situation? And what must Japanese residents in China and the Japanese Government itself do to meet them?

"If we can set aside as a separate question the humanitarian need of relieving a calamity which has befallen a friendly nation, it may be thought enough that in circumstances such as I have described European and American residents, if no other way is open, shall sell their properties and flee from China. But the Japanese Government and Japanese residents in China alone of all those concerned cannot be satisfied with such a simple procedure. When natural catastrophes destroy the soil of China, when epidemics prevail in China and the roadsides are littered with victims, when China becomes absorbed in a semi-permanent state of civil war, or when China becomes the nest of Bolshevism, European and American countries do not have to fear that any danger directly threatens their existence. Japan, on the other hand, cannot exist without China, and the Japanese people cannot maintain themselves without the Chinese people. Civil disturbances arising in China or epidemics and heresies prevalent in China will readily pass over to Japan and will not stop until they afflict and victimize Japan along with China. This is the foundation of the special interests which Japan possesses in China; it is what I call inseparably mutual intimacy of relationship. It is a providential relationship (tenbu no kankei) resulting from geographical conditions, and it is an immovable fact from which Japan cannot escape no matter how she tries and which Europe or America cannot possibly attempt to destroy or to change.

"Let us examine the natural consequences of this providential fact. We at once note that in preparing to cope with natural catastrophes in China by instituting public works and controlling water power, in preventing the outbreak of epidemics there by improving public health, in suppressing popular unrest by wisely advising the government, and in guarding against the intrusion of heresies into China by upbuilding culture, the countries of Europe and America can give aid to China from the standpoint of, or within the limit of, the general interest of world civilization. But Japan, and Japan alone, finds herself in a position which makes it necessary for her to offer every sort of aid, not only from the standpoint of the general interest, but also from the point of view of self-defense. The more intimate and the deeper are Japan's interests toward China in comparison with those of Europe and America, the heavier must be Japan's responsibility concerning China's problems and consequently the broader and greater her right to speak. These we call Japan's special interests in China."

Unfortunately, as the Viscount points out, agreement on the phrase did not carry in this instance agreement on the content -- such are the pitfalls of language! Having told us what "special interests" meant to him, he then refers to Secretary Lansing's testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations when the Secretary explained how he interpreted the same phrase. He describes it as follows:

"In answering questions at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 1, 1919, Secretary of State Lansing gave, in substance, the following explanation. He said that the nature of Japan's 'special interests' in China as the term is used in the Ishii Agreement is not political.[i] He said that Count Ishii also understood that the phrase 'special interests' alone did not embrace political meaning, as may be seen from the fact that Count Ishii first suggested the phrase 'paramount interest' and that, when that was refused, he suggested the phrase 'special interests and influence.'[ii]

"What a most surprising explanation! Before examining the truth or falsity of this explanation, it is necessary to bear in mind that Mr. Lansing's above explanation was made in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in answer to mocking (choro-teki) questions of Mr. Borah and other Republican members about why the Democratic Administration had conceded the recognition of special interests to the Japanese Government, and about Viscount Ishii's possible inveiglement (roraku) of the Secretary of State -- in short, under circumstances which compelled Mr. Lansing to adopt an interpretation which gave as insignificant a meaning as possible to the special interests supposed to have been conceded by the United States Government."

To Viscount Ishii the abolition of the American-Japanese Joint Declaration, on April 14, 1923, came as a severe blow. As so often happens, what had appeared to him as a complete meeting of minds on a vital question of policy in the Far East turned out merely to accentuate a difference of view, and an agreement on words only served for the moment to conceal a wide disagreement in substance. But our Japanese realist firmly stands his ground. Agreements or no agreements, facts remain.

Let us close this survey with the Viscount's own vigorous -- almost passionate -- conclusion: "In the American-Japanese Joint Declaration are stated: first, Japan's special interests in China; second, China's territorial integrity; and third, the principle of the Open Door and equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China. It is improbable that the abrogation of the Agreement also means the abolition of the above three things. From the standpoint of the United States, the second and third declarations were originally proposed by Secretary of State Hay, under a Republican Administration, in 1899. Since that time they have become the axis around which has revolved that country's diplomatic relations with China. From Japan's standpoint, also, as she had agreed upon them not only with the United States but also with the Governments of Great Britain, France and Russia, it is not possible that they should be subject to abolition by the United States and Japan alone. Moreover, by their own nature they must not be abolished. In sum, then, the abrogation must mean the abolition of only the first declaration, namely, Japan's special interests in China as recognized by the United States Government. But the phrase Japan's special interests in China, as I have repeatedly stated above, merely described the actual conditions resulting from natural topography: those interests were not the gift of the United States. Mr. Lansing and I merely filled, so to say, the rôles of photographers. Even if we destroy the positive print because the finished photograph does not suit the taste of present-day Americans, the negative still remains. If we destroy even the negative, what can we do when the material object still remains? I say again: Japan's special interests in China from the beginning did not require the recognition of other countries. But an unnecessary recognition is at times advantageous. The recognition of our special interests by the United States belongs precisely to that category. It is foolish to count the ages of dead children, but the special interests which Japan possesses in China are not dead children. Even if the Lansing-Ishii Agreement is abolished, Japan's special interests in China remain there unshaken. The special interests which Japan possesses in China neither were created by an international agreement nor can they become the object of abolition."

We must hope that the example which Viscount Ishii has set in writing his diplomatic recollections will be widely followed by others of his generation in Japan, and by their successors. We can know national thought and aspiration only as it finds expression in the creative act of the individuals who compose and direct the nation. It is the mind that creates objectives and inspires men to action. We often forget that words are but symbols and that it is necessary to peer beyond the symbol to the reality. Viscount Ishii has afforded a glimpse of the mind of Japan as it ponders on the problem of its future relationship to that historic civilization which is China. If we in America can understand, we are on the right way to help.

[i] U. S. Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Proceedings, VII, p. 223.

[ii]Ibid, p. 233.

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  • ROLAND S. MORRIS, American Ambassador to Japan, 1917-21; Professor of International Law in the University of Pennsylvania
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