Japan, Germany, and the United States
An Interview With The Japanese Ambassador To The United States
By Chauncey M. Gady
[The Outlook, February 10, 1915]
The author of this article has had extensive experience in educational and mission work both in China and Japan. From 1884 to 1889 he was engaged in helping to organize and develop the Department of the English Language and Literature in the Doshisha at Kyoto, Japan, and for several years thereafter he was a teacher of English in the Third Government College at Kyoto. See in connection with this article that entitled "What Will Japan do with Kiaochau?" which follows. THE EDITORS.
When Japan sent its ultimatum to Germany, statements appeared in various papers in the United States which suggested a suspicion that Japan did not mean what she said except so far as the ultimatum was a notice to Germany to leave the Orient to other Powers not at war with Japan's ally, England.
It must be confessed that when the Minister of Foreign Affairs is reported to say anything before the Diet of Japan that can in any way be made to seem to declare that Japan had made no promises in regard to Kiaochau, such a statement lends color to the oft-repeated assertion made by "yellow journals," and even by those "semi-yellow," and perchance the "blue" ones, that Japan is now going back on the assurances given more than once by her great statesman Count Okuma, that Japan has no intention of territorial possession in China nor in the South Seas.
Recognizing the very great danger lurking in this apparent following of Germany's famous declaration that all promises made between nations when the pinch comes are only "scraps of paper," I sought and obtained a conference with Viscount Chinda, the able Ambassador from Japan to the United States.
In my meeting with Viscount Chinda I was greeted with the same cordiality that I have always experienced, and with the same frankness of statement compatible with his official position, of course. I told him frankly that the reported denial of the Foreign Minister before the Diet had an ugly look and was sure to be very injurious in its influence unless it could be in some way either contradicted or explained. The Ambassador replied: "Baron Kato's statement in the Diet should not be construed as a declaration of intention on the part of the Japanese Government to retain Kiaochau. It was not an announcement of any future policy, but simply a statement of fact made in reply to a direct question on the subject. The whole question of the ultimate disposition of the captured territory will not, and from the nature of the case cannot, be decided upon before the restoration of general peace. It would be absolutely impossible for any one, including the Imperial Government themselves, to give in any wise or manner an assurance as to the final disposition of the captured territory."
Then he remarked that the statement to the effect that the Embassy had contradicted this denial was incorrect—that no one had any authority for making such a counter-statement.
I confess that my spirits went down at this apparent confirmation of what seemed bad faith to some, and I remonstrated that people would not accept that explanation, but would feel either disturbed or confirmed in their suspicion that the Japanese Government was no better than the average tricky tradesman. To this there was no reply except a smile.
If I had not had some experience in the Japanese ways of getting at a thing, I should have considered the interview closed, and have come away with my own confidence a bit shaken up, but not shaken, for I have had too much proof of the absolute fidelity with which public pledges have been kept to be easily shaken out of my confidence in the Japanese Government's integrity. So I waited, and, sure enough, the added remarks came, not exactly as I was looking for them, but so put that in the end they have been entirely satisfactory to me, and I believe fair-minded Americans will rest content in them as I did and do. With great earnestness he said: "But remember that the articles of our alliance with Great Britain stand."
At first I did not fully grasp the significance of this simple reply, for he added: "I cannot say any more than that now, and no Japanese official can say any more." And then it flashed upon me that he had given me the most convincing" reply possible, because, as will be plain to any one conversant with the ultimatum to Germany, with the articles of alliance with Great Britain, with the statements made in connection with these two papers, and with the subsequent statements and assurances given to the United States, the phrase (to make it short), "The alliance stands," or the phrase (as I like to put it), "The ultimatum stands," covers the whole question, for either involves and implies the maintenance of the great fundamental principle of Japan's foreign policy, namely, the peace of the Orient, which includes the integrity of China both territorially and governmentally.
The phrase, "The articles of alliance stand," seemed to Viscount Chinda of such vital, far-reaching significance and import that he took occasion to repeat it once more in a different connection in relation to the going down into the South Seas of Japan to help hunt out and destroy the German war vessels that had escaped in the darkness from the harbor of Tsingtau. Thus the Ambassador has brought us back to that which abides in these times of whiffling winds of suspicion, shifting sands of surmise, and baffling currents of doubt. We should have naught, but thanks and renewed trust in what may be, what ought to be, a sheet anchor to our faith, the protecting shadow of a great rock to our confidence—the terms of alliance between England and Japan.
It is time that Americans take the same attitude toward the Japanese with regard to their promises or statements or professions that we demanded that others should take toward us when we took Cuba and the Philippines. The Japanese have shown us that they have had no suspicion of our good faith under similar circumstances. During all the time of the war with Spain and for thirteen years after I never heard a word of suspicion, much less of doubt, that we did not intend to do as we promised. On the contrary, the attitude of the intelligent, worth-while people in Japan was voiced by Viscount Chinda when he said to me: "We have never had anything but approval in your taking the Philippines. We have never had any objections to it because we knew that you are a people, a government, that did not believe in military aggression. Therefore we felt safe that you would not use the Philippine Islands as a base for military aggrandizement against the Japanese or any other Eastern people."
I submit that we ought to be at least as generous in our trust of Japan as this statement shows that Japan has been in her trust of us.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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