Primary Documents - Japan's Reaction to the Zimmermann Telegram, March 1917

Japanese troops in action near Kiaochow. Reproduced below is the reaction of the Japanese government - given by Prime Minister Terauchi - to suggestions of Japanese complicity in the Zimmermann Telegram affair (click here to read background information and the text of the telegram).

In his statement Count Terauchi refuted any suggestion that Japan was in any way sympathetic to German efforts to bring about antipathy between Japan and the U.S.  He further stated that no discussions had taken place, either formally or informally, to those ends between the German and Japanese governments.

Click here to read the speech given by the German Foreign Minister Dr Arthur Zimmermann in which he confirmed the authenticity of the telegram.  Click here to read a 1921 commentary upon the consequences of the Zimmermann Telegram.

Japanese Prime Minister Count Terauchi on the Zimmermann Telegram

The revelation of Germany's latest plot, looking to a combination between Japan and Mexico against the United States, is interesting in many ways.

We are surprised not so much by the persistent efforts of the Germans to cause an estrangement between Japan and the United States as by their complete failure of appreciating the aims and ideals of other nations.

Nothing is more repugnant to our sense of honour and to the lasting welfare of this country than to betray our allies and friends in time of trial and to become a party to a combination directed against the United States, to whom we are bound not only by the sentiments of true friendship, but also by the material interests of vast and far-reaching importance.

The proposal which is now reported to have been planned by the German Foreign Office has not been communicated to the Japanese Government up to this moment, either directly or indirectly, officially or unofficially, but should it ever cone to hand I can conceive no other form of reply than that of indignant and categorical refusal.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A Runner was a soldier who carried messages by hand.

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Primary Docs