Courtesy Reuters

Prince Ito's Confidential Papers


SINCE the World War many diplomatic papers long concealed in the inner sanctums of chancelleries have been coming to light. Soviet Russia was among the first to publish such documents, though unfortunately some of them seem to have been "doctored" beforehand. In Germany and England the greater part of the documents bearing upon the events which led up to the World War have been made available to the public. And that delightful habit of writing memoirs which is indulged in by American and European diplomats has added to our knowledge gleaned from the official documents released from the archives of the past.

Japan has in general remained impervious to this world tendency towards publicity. The Japanese Foreign Office has published few of the important documents which were wisely considered confidential thirty or forty years ago, even though they might now be disclosed without embarrassment to any government or statesman. I only express what is common knowledge among us when I say that facts generally known and even published in newspapers are very often contained in Foreign Office documents stamped "strictly confidential." This characteristic secretiveness of the Gaimusho (as we call our Foreign Office) is both an advantage and a disadvantage, both laudable and deplorable. Confide to it any diplomatic secret, and the confidence will never be betrayed. As a result, I think I am right in saying that the Gaimusho has long enjoyed the trust of the foreign governments with which it has had diplomatic dealings. And yet this admirable characteristic has often been a cause of unnecessary and easily avoidable misunderstandings and suspicions on the part of foreign critics of Japanese diplomacy. A concrete example will serve to illustrate this point.

In December 1905 there was signed at Peiping a Sino-Japanese treaty by which the Chinese Government confirmed and consented to the provisions of the Portsmouth Treaty of Peace between Russia and Japan. Annexed to it were minutes wherein were recorded

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