The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Harrison)
WASHINGTON, September 28, 1937—10 p. m.
7. Reference is made to previous instructions. In my telegram No. 2 of September 24, 6 p. m., the subject under immediate consideration was a step at that time in contemplation by the League of Nations (i. e., to set up a subcommittee of the Assembly Advisory Committee), along with the question whether consideration should be given the Sino-Japanese situation as a matter peculiarly of the Far East or of general world interest and concern. Our view was indicated to you, and I asked you to foster with discretion the view that the entire question should be treated from the viewpoint of general world interest and concern and on the broadest possible basis.
I have telegraphed you more than once my opinion that the League of Nations should decide its own course, that the United States is prepared to consider such concrete proposals as the League may present, and that we do not wish to suggest either the limits or the direction of action to be considered and decided upon by the League.
It is desirable, however, inasmuch as the United States Government associates itself with the League's deliberations through authorizing you to sit with the Assembly Advisory Committee and the subcommittee, that you know of and understand the American Government's thought in connection with any possible contributions you may be able to make toward enabling your associates at Geneva to reach decisions which may have some beneficial practical effect regarding objectives which are common to the United States and to the League's members.
When Japan embarked last July upon military activities in China, the United States Government, which took full account of evidence presented at that time and during the past indicative of Japanese political objectives, on July 16 made public a statement of basic principles which it felt should underlie normal and peaceful international relationships.
The United States Government reiterated more specifically on August 23 in a statement, with especial reference to the armed conflict between Japan and China, certain of the principles comprised in the statement of July 16, and the view was emphasized that these principles applied as well to the Pacific area as elsewhere. Attention was called, inter alia, expressly to the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Nine-Power Treaty. Exception was thus definitely taken to the course followed by Japan.
Moreover, several definite steps have been taken in support of the American position: (1) Direct appeals to Japan and China to desist or refrain from hostilities; (2) repeated statements to both sides regarding the availability to them of good offices should they make any suggestions for resort to conciliation processes; (3) repeated protests to the Japanese Government against aerial bombing of noncombatants and publication in one instance of an American note to the Japanese Government in objection to and condemnation of such bombing and in another instance issuance of a statement today on that subject.
The United States has been approached on several occasions by certain other Governments with suggestions for "joint action," and it has regularly been indicated that, while we believe in and wish to practice cooperation, we are not prepared to take part in join
action, though we will consider the possible taking of parallel action. Whenever possible action which has been thought of also by other governments has been regarded as being intrinsically meritorious, action has been taken, several times prior to and sometimes without parallel action by any other government. In general, it is felt that spontaneous separate action on parallel lines, should two or more governments feel moved thereto anywhere, indicates more strongly serious feeling regarding matters under consideration and is more likely effectively to serve to attain the objectives sought than would inspired joint action.
Japan's military operations have increased in intensity and in extent with the unfolding situation. Charges of Japan's violation of treaty provisions and international law have been amplified by the Chinese Government, and a willingness to resort to conciliation processes has been affirmed by the Chinese. The Japanese have announced, however, their intention to destroy the Chinese will and capacity to resist and actually to overthrow the existing Chinese Government. By declining the League Assembly Advisory Committee's invitation, the Japanese have refused even to consult with other governments with a view to adjusting their difficulties with China.
That the Sino-Japanese situation definitely concerns the world as a whole is our feeling. No longer do the questions involved relate merely to specific provisions of particular treaties being violated; they are questions of international law, of principles of humanity, of war and of peace. Naturally it is true that the questions involve violating agreements, particularly the League of Nations Covenant, the Nine-Power Treaty, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. But problems of world economy, world humanity, and world security also are involved. I believe that it is not possible on a basis of realism for these questions to be confined to any one forum's consideration or to be brought within the exclusive focus of any one existing agreement. Further, I believe it inexpedient to attempt stating the possible limit of action to be taken by nations desiring peace for the purpose of expressing themselves against activities now being engaged in, as regards the situation under reference, in jeopardy to the security and rights of all nations and in breach of the peace.
In action taken thus far, we feel that the United States has gone further in making efforts calculated to strengthen general principles of world peace and world security and in indicating toward disregard of them disapprobation and disapproval than any other government or group of nations has gone. Therefore, it is felt that other nations might now well direct their efforts to go as far
as or further than the United States thus far has gone along these lines.
You are instructed to endeavor with discretion to cultivate thinking along these lines within restricted circles which will respect confidence, at the same time making it clear that the United States does not desire to incite the League of Nations to action and declines to chart a course for its members, whether individually or collectively.