No. 600 NAI DFA 27/18

Letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Seán Lester (Paris)
(Secret) (Copy)

Dublin, 20 November 1931

With reference to your minute of the 16th instant,1 I am directed by the Minister to state that it was not suggested in this Department's minute of the 14th instant (27/18)2 that the issue in the present dispute was 'between upholding the League against Japan and opening the Far East to Bolshevism' nor that Bolshevism would be 'stemmed by the aggrandisement of Japan at China's expense'. What was suggested was that, in addition to the obviously predominant consideration, namely the authority and prestige of the League (which were challenged by the obduracy of Japan), there was another consideration of considerable importance to be also kept in view, namely, that Japan is at present the mainstay of order in the East and that the conditions of order which have hitherto prevailed in Manchuria, in contrast with other parts of China, are almost wholly due to her stability and influence.

In the opinion of the Minister, the supreme task of the Council in dealing with the present affair is to reconcile as best it can two different factors: the influence and prestige of the League and the influence and prestige of Japan as the mainstay of peace and order in the Far East. No doubt, in view of Japan's actions and her attitude towards the League, these two factors appear at present almost irreconcilable. On the other hand, the Minister has been led, by the references in your reports to economic sanctions, naval demonstrations, etc. - (suggestions regarding which would come ill from a country like ours which could take so little part in them) - to fear that the second of the two factors mentioned was being lost sight of, and that over-anxiety for the maintenance of the League's influence and prestige might prematurely commit the Council, and with it the Irish Government, to measures which should be adopted only as a very last resort and which would certainly not be justified as long as the Council had not exhausted every effort of constructive statesmanship to bring about a pacific settlement. It is an easy course to pillory one of the parties, especially when that party has placed itself so obviously in the wrong; but the Minister considers that the rôle of the Irish representative, in connection with this or any other dispute that might come before the Council, should be to further, to the utmost extent in his power, the conciliatory and pacific efforts of the Council as long as ever that course is possible, rather than to promote proposals, especially when they are premature, the logical result of which would be a resort to measures of a punitive nature. Moreover, the Minister takes the view that the action of the Council and the League as a whole is much more likely to prove efficacious if it is directed towards bringing about peaceful settlements, than if it is directed to organizing the states of the world for the application of coercive measures against a recalcitrant, especially a recalcitrant Great Power; and therefore he considers that, if the Council succeeds in settling this dispute without recourse to punitive measures, not only will the two objects which he considers so important have been safeguarded, but the authority and prestige of the League will be greater than if it had had recourse to forcible methods.

The Minister thinks that, notwithstanding the evident extension of military operations in Manchuria, the Council is doing well in getting down to bedrock in regard to the dispute, and in seeking to ascertain what 'principles' exactly the Japanese have in mind, the acceptance of which by the Chinese would result in the speedy evacuation of the invaded territory. Complete knowledge of these 'principles' would help to clarify the situation, and would enable the Members of the League to understand what exactly the dispute is about before they commit themselves to any action in respect of it. In this connection, I am to add that any suggestion which you think might assist in the elucidation of the root causes of the dispute will be welcomed by the Minister.

As already intimated, the Minister fully approves of the alignment of the Irish Free State with the majority of the other Members of the Council in favour of the draft resolution put forward, for acceptance by all the Members, on the 24th October.

[stamped] (Signed) J.P. Walshe

1 See No. 598.

2 See No. 596.

3 Handwritten initials.

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