No. 12 NAI DFA 27/18A
Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
Geneva, 18 March 1932
China – The Committee of Nineteen
The Committee of Nineteen, appointed by the Assembly to deal with the Sino-Japanese dispute, held two meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, Mr. Hyman1
2 in the Chair. I noted that the presence of Mr. Beneš2 and Mr. Motta3 made a distinct change in the atmosphere of the Committee. Count Apponyi4 is quite good but has not got the history of the dispute at his finger ends and occasionally 'falls down' on an intervention.
We held a public meeting on the afternoon of the 17th instant – China and Japan were in attendance by invitation – when the terms of the agenda for the Armistice meeting at Shanghai were considered, and you will have seen one or two very interesting questions of principle were cleared up. The Committee was quite firm that there should be no political condition of any kind imposed by Japan on the Chinese negotiators with regard to armistice and withdrawal of troops. The minutes of this Committee are or will be available.
Subsequently, a private meeting was held to consider a Chinese memorandum (Document A.(Extr.) 62.1932.VII) of which I enclose a copy. The first and last parts of this memorandum had been dealt with in public. Considerable discussion took place regarding § 2 concerning the fulfilment of the Council resolutions of September 30th and December 9th. The essence of these was the withdrawal of Japanese troops in Manchuria. Beneš
In the course of the discussion I intervened to say that in my opinion Manchuria and not Shanghai would prove the real test and would give the most trouble to the Assembly. For that reason, I would be against any indication by the Committee that it was afraid of tackling the Manchurian question. That could only render more difficult the task of the Committee at a later stage. I realised that nothing should be done at that time to prevent the Shanghai negotiations proceeding smoothly. It would, however, have been bad policy to appear to be shirking responsibility on that account. I agreed with Mr. Madariaga’s sentiments but I could not follow him in regard to his specific proposal. I would myself be satisfied if the Committee accepted the Chinese suggestion that the parties be asked to supply information on what steps they have already taken or proposed to execute their obligations under the two Council resolutions. This proved to be the sentiments of every member of the Committee who subsequently spoke, and Mr. Madariaga withdrew his proposition.
Today I met two or three people who remarked that my intervention had been very timely. Two of these, Professor Rappard6 and Mr. Cummings (Secretariat) told me confidentially that after the meeting Mr. Paul Boncour met the French Press and told them that the Committee had decided by a majority not to intervene in the Manchurian affairs at present. If this is true, it is an outrageous perversion of what happened. Several of the local papers carry statements similar to that attributed to Mr. Paul Boncour.
The Committee adjourned for the Easter recess, on the understanding that the President will keep in constant touch with matters and that, should any serious situation arise, the Committee will immediately be summoned.