No. 628 NAI DFA 27/18A

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Geneva, 28 January 1932


There was another secret meeting of the Committee of Twelve yesterday which lasted until late at night. The President reported on his conversations with the Japanese and Chinese delegates when he had emphasised the views of the Council regarding the danger of any further incidents at Shanghai or of any Japanese action there. With regard to the suggestion that the Japanese delegate should repeat and perhaps add to the declaration made regarding the Japanese Government and the Manchurian treaties, the Covenant in the open door, etc., it was reported that Mr. Sato showed some hesitation but was to communicate with his Government. The Chinese delegate felt himself in some difficulty owing to the resignation of the Chinese Foreign Minister, and emphasised again the necessity that the Commission of Inquiry should reach Manchuria as quickly as possible in order to assuage the Chinese public opinion.

It was then decided that the Council's action this time should take the form of a presidential declaration on behalf of the twelve members not party to the dispute and a small committee was set up to draft this so that we could discuss it at our meeting today. This declaration will not be submitted to either the Chinese or Japanese.

I reported the selection by the President of the Permanent members of the Council to assist him in his interviews with the two delegates; the protest by Norway and Spain against the suggestion that it was necessary (as the President had said) to have with him the representatives of the Countries which were represented on the Commission of Inquiry. The suggestion took the non permanent members of the Council completely by surprise and there was a general feeling that this was a complete resurrection of the policy which we had defeated on my initiative in October.1 I thought it well therefore not to let the policy develop again and asked the President if it were clearly understood that the mandate of the Delegation which had interviewed the Chinese and Japanese had now expired, and that if he required further consultations the selection might be re-considered. I said he probably had not been informed of what had happened in October, but that the continuance of a Committee constituted only of the permanent members affected a principle which we had already discussed and on which we had reached a decision. I added that the German delegate's concession in relinquishing his place on the Delegation had made things a little easier but that there was danger of the objectionable principle being re-established in another form. Mr. Paul Boncour2 gave me his assurance that the mandate of the Committee had now terminated and in that case the question would not arise. No one else spoke and I did not get, therefore, any impression of the reaction amongst other members of the Council.

A little later, when the question of the sub-committee to draft the President's declaration was considered, the President asked what about the nominations, and, the Yugoslavian delegate, ignoring my intervention, or having secured the acceptance of the principle and wishing to make a gesture, said the same committee would do, but Sir Eric Drummond hastily suggested the Norwegian, Spanish and British delegates instead.

At the President's dinner last night, Mr. Colban, of Norway, came over to me and said: 'Your action has, I think definitely killed the inner circle of the Council'. He seemed to take the matter very seriously and said that if it had not been for that, the old system would have been quietly re-established. Mr. Madariaga, the Spanish Ambassador in Paris, said something to me in a similar vein at a later stage. We were discussing the Yugoslavian Foreign Minister's declaration at the first meeting of the Committee of Twelve which was entirely contrary to the line taken by Fotitch at Paris. Mr. Marinkowitch is a man of strong individual opinion and it may only have been an expression of that individuality. He pointed out that he had almost a similar position in the southern part of his country where Bulgarian bands had frequently raided the Yugoslavian territory. Lord Cecil who had been very restrained was even driven to say to him that while no one could say the Chinese were blameless, the Yugoslav delegate seemed to have almost decided the Japanese were blameless. In the course of this conversation, Madariaga expressed his disappointment with Colban who wanted to side with both the small States and with the Imperialist powers. In response to something I said he urged me to reflect upon the national as well as the personal position of Mr. Colban.

At present I am not able to add anything to his words.

[signed] Seán Lester

1 See Nos 576, 580, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586 and 587.

2 Joseph Paul Boncour (1873-1972), French Premier (December 1932-January 1933), Permanent Delegate to the League of Nations (1932-36), French Foreign Minister (1932-34 and 1938).

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