Speech of Viscount Motono, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Diet, January 23, 1917

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > Speech of Viscount Motono, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Diet, January 23, 1917

Speech of Viscount Motono, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Diet, January 23, 19171

     The great war which has been ravaging Europe for two years and a
half is an event without precedent in the history of humanity. With-
out doubt it will have incalculable effect upon the destiny of nations
in the future; on the issue of this war will hang the liberty of na-
tions. The question is whether the small and the great nations oi
Europe will be subjugated by Germany or not.
     You all know the origin of the present war. The impossible de-
mands of Austria-Hungary upon Serbia were apparently the cause
of the taking up of arms by European nations, but the real cause was
Germany's ambition for world domination for which preparations
were being made for many years past. Germany cherishing great
ambitions for the distant future, had seized upon Tsingtau in 1898
with the view of gobbling up the whole of China in time. That
this has bpen so nobody will contend to-day. The great pan-Germanist
propaganda, the elaborate and marvelous military preparations, these
are no longer a secret.
     In the summer of 1914 Germany thought that the time had come
for imposing upon the world a powerful German domination; she
thought that in a couple of months there would be an end of her
enemies' resistance. All calculations were baffled and now at the end
of two years and a half she finds herself forced to pursue the strug-
gle anew.
     Japan, at the first appeal from Great Britain, did not hesitate for
a moment in coming to her aid; she has loyally accomplished her
duty by her ally, our army and navy succeeded in a few months in
bringing to naught the German resistance in our part of the world.
In destroying the bases of German activity in China, Japan has se-
cured the order and tranquillity of the extreme East. In cooperating
with Great Britain in the destroying of the German fleet in the Pacific
and the Indian Oceans Japan has greatly contributed to the assuring
of the safety of mercantile trade in these seas not only for Japan and
Great Britain but for all nations, allied and neutral. At a time when
our enemies do not recoil from the most horrible means of destroy-
ing the trade by sea of the nations, the Pacific and the Indian oceans
are free from German brigandage. I am persuaded that the civilized
world will do us justice for the services rendered by Japan to the
cause of humanity at large.
     In declaring war on Germany and in acceding to the Declaration
of London of the 5th of September, 1914, Japan has made her posi-
tion clear in the formidable struggle. We have taken part in this war
not merely for the defence of our particular interests but also for the
defence of those of our allies, as well as the interests of humanity in
     It is necessary that righteousness and justice should emerge vic-
torious out of this merciless struggle ; it is necessary that the world
should be given to live in all tranquillity after this cataclysm. In
order to attain this noble end there must be before everything a
victory complete and definitive for our allied powers. Without a com-
plete victory it need scarcely be remarked that the peace of the Far
East for which we have made all manner of sacrifices will remain in
real danger. And for obtaining this victory a sacred union not only
of all the governments but also of the peoples ranged on our side in
defence of the inseparable rights of humanity, is an essential condi-
     In consenting to take part in this war, Japan was under the obliga-
tion, in view of her particular position in Asia, of limiting from the
beginning her sphere of military action; but after having faithfully
accomplished the task incumbent upon her she has made and will ever
make every effort toward the attainment of the final victory by her
allies. The struggle between the allies and the common enemies is
not one simply of military and naval forces, but it is a struggle ex-
tending over all spheres of human activities. It is the reason why
we should march forward in every direction in an accord as com-
plete as possible. Hence it is that we have adhered to the resolutions
of the Economic Conference of Paris. It is for that reason again
that the Imperial Government have taken some administrative meas-
ures with a view to safeguarding our common interests in the mat-
ter of postal and telegraphic communications. It is also with that
end in view that the Government are contemplating to take other and
different measures in consequence of the Economic Conference. It
was further for the purpose of keeping in more complete accord
with our allies that the Imperial Government gave a prompt assent
to the project of the response, proposed by the French Government
in the name of the allies, to the German and American notes. The rea-
sons that caused our refusal toward the German proposal have been
clearly stated in the identic note. The Imperial Government con-
sider with the allied governments that the pretensions of the hostile
governments are inadmissible and that the time has not yet come for
entering upon peace negotiations. With your permission I will next
say a few words in regard to our reply to the American note. While
highly approving the elevated sentiments which inspired this de-
marche of the American Government, the allied governments did not
feel bound to accede to the desire of peace expressed by that govern-
ment. The reasons for this decision on their part were set forth in
the note forwarded in Paris to the American Ambassador by the
French Government in the name of the allied powers. In the reply
to the American Government, the allied powers state a certain num-
ber of conditions which they consider it indispensable to impose on
the hostile governments on the occasion of the conclusion of peace.
The absence of all reference to the future disposition of the German
colonies has justly attracted the attention of the Japanese public,
neither has it escaped the notice of the Imperial Government. The
reply to the American note by no means contains all the conditions
of peace. The allied powers have reserved the right to present the
conditions in detail at the time of the peace negotiations. This last
point is indicated in the note to America. The Imperial Government,
when they adhered to the project of the response to the American
note, knew that the allied powers had not neglected to take into
proper consideration the just claims which Japan would present at
the peace negotiations. Nevertheless to clear away all misunder-
standing on this point, we took the necessary measures, in sending.
our reply of adhesion to the French Government, for safeguarding
our rights, and I am happy to be able to assure you that a most
satisfactory understanding exists on this subject among all the allies
at a moment when the allied powers have taken the decision of con-
tinuing the war until the victor}^ of justice and righteousness as' well
as true peace of the world has been realized. I would most eagerly
express our sentiments of the most sincere appreciation for the ef-
forts displayed by Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Belgium, Ser-
bia, Montenegro and Roumania. At the same time I would express
our most profound admiration for their brave armies and navies. I
also wish to testify to our hearty sympathy for the inhabitants of the
regions fouled by the foot of the cruel and barbarous invaders and
I am firmly persuaded that a future more glorious is in store for these
unfortunate peoples.
     It is needless for me to state that our alliance with Great Britain
is the basis of our foreign policy. The present war has demonstrated
the solidity as well as the benefits of this alliance. The Japanese and
the British people have realized in the most evident manner the neces-
sity of this alliance for the protection of the rights and interests of the
two empires. It is at the same time an essential guaranty for the
maintenance of the order and peace of the extreme Orient.
     We must also felicitate ourselves upon the understanding signed
between Japan and Russia in July, 1916. All the succeeding cabinets
of Japan since the end of the Russian war have pursued the policy of
rapprochement with that nation. The two governments of Japan and
Russia saw the necessity of this policy immediately after the conclu-
sion of peace. Inaugurated by our first entente in 1907, this policy
has been uniformly pursued and enhanced by the successive ententes
which finally led to the Convention of 1916, concluded amidst events
destined to produce incalculable consequences upon Russia. This
convention has had the effect of enlightening the public opinion of
Russia to the perception of the sincerity of the Japanese sentiments.
I do not hesitate to state to you that the government and people of
Russia testify a profound sense of gratitude to Japan for the great
services rendered to Russia in our furnishing her with ammunitions
which facilitated her military operations. Having been a personal
observer for more than two years of the evolution of the Russian
mentality, I believe I am able to affirm to you that the Russian nation
entertain the most sincere and frank amity toward Japan. Japan and
Russia have great interests in common to be safeguarded in the Far
East. This intimate accord between the two nations, no less than
the Anglo- Japanese alliance, constitutes an indispensable guaranty for
peace in our part of the world in spite of the troubled times amidst
which we find ourselves.
     I am happy to be able to state to you that our relations with the
neutral powers are more than ever cordial. I am persuaded that all
the neutral nations will do us full justice for the immense service
done by our navy for their foreign commerce. If we had not, in
concert with the British navy, destroyed the German fleet in the
Pacific, where would the maritime commerce of the neutral countries
be, especially of countries such as America, Australia and China,
which border upon the Pacific? I am firmly convinced that all the
neutral powers that have profited by the security of the seas assured
by the two navies, will recognize the justice of what I have just stated
to you.
     You are aware that Japan has always preserved the most sincerely
amicable relations with the government and the people of America,
though from time to time there have been light clouds which have
cast a shadow upon our relations though ever so little. These clouds
have generally been dissipated by the common good-will of the two
governments. There certainly have been questions about which the
two governments could not come to a complete accord, but that will
be the case between even the best of allies. However, when one faces
the most thorny questions in a friendly and frank spirit, with the will of
solving them in an amicable and conciliatory manner, there will surely
be found a way to an understanding. It is this end that the two gov-
ernments have always pursued to the great satisfaction of our two
countries. It affords me great pleasure to state that there have been
symptoms of more real sympathy manifested of late between the
countries. As one instance we have been approached by the Ameri-
can capitalists for cooperation in financial affairs in China. The Im-
perial Government are watching with lively interest the further devel-
opment of the economic rapprochement between the two countries.
I would not speak of all the events that have come to pass in China
in recent years, which must be still fresh in your memory. We must
recognize that as the result of these events there has been created a
certain atmosphere which is not altogether desirable. It is for the
good of our two countries that this state of things should absolutely
disappear. In view of the great political and economic interests which
Japan possesses in China, it has always been the sincere desire of this
country to see her neighbor developed along the paths of modern
civilization and we have spared no efforts for that purpose. It was
for that purpose also that we sent to China a number of civil and
military advisors, and that we concurred with other countries in fur-
nishing China with the financial means of accomplishing reforms of
every kind and also that we undertook the education and instruction
of the young Chinese students who are coming to Japan by thousands.
Nobody would contradict me when I say that China certainly is in-
debted much to Japan in her work of reorganization pursued for
several years. Why is it that in spite of all our well-meant efforts,
China seems often to regard us with mistrust and even animosity?
There may be many causes for that, but the chief reason, to my mind, is
the tendency on the part of the Japanese towards interference in
China's internal quarrels since the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty
and the establishment of the republican régime. There have since
been formed in China a number of political parties, for one or another
of which parties there have been some Japanese who have expressed
sympathy. These persons have developed marked tendency towards
a desire to help these political parties to obtain power according as
their own political opinions or personal sympathy dictate. I am per-
suaded that all these persons are perfectly sincere in their desire of
helping our neighboring friends, but the results were deplorable.
To what did our attitude at the moment of the formation of the
Republic lead, and to what did all the movements inimical to the
President lead? You are aware of it so well that I need not dwell
upon it. But what I have to state is that in the wake of all these
facts we have had no other results than to invite, on the one hand, the
animosity of our neighbors and, on the other, to cause other nations'
misunderstanding of the real intentions of Japan. I do not hesitate
to state that the present Cabinet absolutely repudiate this mode of
action. We desire to maintain the most cordial relations with China.
We desire nothing more than the gradual accomplishment by China
of all her schemes of reform, and we shall leave nothing undone in
order to help her in the task, if she so desires. Endeavors shall not
be wanting on our part to make China comprehend the sincerity of
our sentiments toward her, though it must always remain with China
whether she should have faith in us or not. We have not the least
intention, I formally declare hereby, of favoring this or that political
party in China; all we desire is the maintenance of cordial relations
of amity with China herself and not with any political party. It is
essential that China should develop herself smoothly along the path
of progress and we dread nothing more than the possible disintegra-
tion of China through her continued troubles. We must put forth
every effort to prevent that sad possibility, for nothing is more indis-
pensable than that China should maintain her independence and ter-
ritorial integrity. The other point to which the government must
call your attention is the special position occupied by Japan in certain
portions of China. I am speaking especially of South Manchuria and
East Inner Mongolia. Our special situation in these parts has been
acquired at the cost of immense sacrifice and immeasurable efforts
on our part and on the strength of this circumstance our rights and
interests in these parts have been consecrated by treaties and arrange-
ments. It is therefore the most elementary duty of the Imperial Gov-
ernment toward the nation to safeguard these rights and interests.
In the same way it is necessary that China should comprehend that it
is not only a matter of compliance with international duty that China
should respect these rights and interests of Japan, but it would be
nothing more than the realization of the good understanding between
our two countries.
If China would continue, as we sincerely desire she would, rela-
tions of the greatest confidence and amity with Japan, it is necessary
that she should follow the same lines of conduct as those we intend
to follow with her. It is on this condition alone that anything like a
firm understanding can exist between us. The Imperial Government
have the strongest conviction that if the Chinese Government under-
stood the pure and clear intentions of Japan, China would not have
any objection to Japan's sincere policy of good understanding in the
relations between Japan and China. Nobody certainly would dispute
the fact that Japan occupies a peculiar position in China as well on
account of her geographic position as her political and economic in-
terests; but we must not any more ignore the fact that other powers
have likewise immense interests in China. We must, therefore, while
safeguarding our own interests there, take care to respect those of
other nations. We must before everything try to move in accord
with powers with which we are under the pledge of special arrange-
ments and in a general way endeavor to reconcile our interests with
those of others. We are firmly convinced that such is the line of
conduct best suited to the common interests of all powers concerned.
Japan has not any intention to follow an egoistic policy in China. It
is her sincere desire to keep in complete accord with the countries
concerned, and the Imperial Government firmly believe that with
good-will on both sides we shall be able to arrive at a complete under-
standing which will be for the best interests both of China and all
other countries.

1Furnished by the Imperial Japanese Embassy at Washington.