No. 585 NAI DFA 27/18

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S.7/11/16) (Secret)

Geneva, 26 October 1931

China and Japan

The Council adjourned on Saturday night until the 16th of November. For the first time, as far as I can discover, there was a vote by roll call at a public meeting of the Council on a draft resolution. The Japanese draft received only one vote and the President then proceeded to a roll call on the Council's draft. Japan voted against and, consequently, the unanimity required under Art. 11 was not achieved and the parties are not, in consequence, bound by the resolution. I have already recommended the perusal of the full minutes of the Saturday's meetings, when for the first time the moral force of the Council was openly brought to bear on Japan. William Martin, in the Journal De Génève, regrets that only Lord Cecil and Mr. Madariaga besides the President took part in the discussion, and that other countries greatly concerned with the question of security did not participate. I presume he refers particularly to Germany and Italy.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister spoke for the first time on the vote of thanks to the President, but this was instigated principally by the desire to retrieve the tactical blunder he had made in not welcoming the American, and I am not sure that, in expressing the hope that the American would continue at the next meeting of the Council to cooperate, he was not possibly committing another mistake. I formed the impression that, in spite of Norway's reputation, Mr. Braadland will never be a factor of any importance in the Council.

The resolution of the Council of September 30th of course still stands, and Japan has suffered a heavy moral defeat which may lead to some improvements in the situation before 16th of November. If the evacuation has not been completed by that date, it is quite clear that further steps will have to be taken by the Council if its authority is to be maintained. It is too early yet to foresee the full effects of this incident on the future of the League; that will partly depend upon the events of the next three weeks. In having prevented war; in having compelled a first-class Power to answer, however unsatisfactorily, before the Council, the League may be said to have already achieved a substantial success.

If Manchuria is evacuated without the invocation of Art. 15, that success will be solidified and the prestige and power of the League will have been tremendously enhanced.

Partly owing to the operation of the 'Committee of Five', and partly to caution in the absence of a closer contact with the Minister's views, I did not attempt to do very much at the Council with regard to the dispute. It would have been easy to have taken a stronger line at any time, and particularly towards the end when the Japanese obstinacy seemed quite settled. At the same time, I have intervened on two or three occasions at secret meetings. As far as those meetings were concerned, that intervention was not much less than Italy and Germany, and certainly more than any of the non-permanent powers, except Spain. It was, however, a very small contribution.

On the other hand, the intervention on the question of the 'Committee of Five' may, I think, be regarded by the Minister as having been an unqualified success.

[signed] Seán Lester

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO