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In response to the growing crisis between Japan and China in Manchuria in late 1931, the United States was invited to sit as a non-voting observer with the Council of the League of Nations. Prentiss B. Gilbert attended the sessions in Geneva, which began a period of closer cooperation with the international organization. Isolationist forces in the U.S. were not pleased by this new direction.

On December 10, 1931, the League sought additional information about the Far Eastern situation and established a commission to study the matter first-hand. V.A.G.R. Bulwer-Lytton, the second Earl of Lytton and son of a noted British diplomat, headed the group. Other members were not named until after the first of the new year; they included General Frank R. McCoy who represented the United States. The commission did not arrive at its destination until April.

The Lytton Report was issued in October and reported the following:

  • Japan was identified as the aggressor in Manchuria, but the commission took pains to note that Japan had special interests of long standing in the area;
  • China also bore some responsibility for the crisis because it had inflamed anti-Japanese feeling among the populace and failed to participate in negotiations;
  • the creation of an autonomous Manchurian state was endorsed, one in which Chinese sovereignty would be retained, but the area would be physically controlled by Japan.
Before the report became available, the situation had changed dramatically. In February, the new state of Manchukuo (Manzhouguo) had been established in Manchuria, which was headed by a puppet regime loyal to Japanese commercial and military leaders.

Japan was clearly displeased with the Lytton Report and announced on May 27, 1933, that it was providing the required two-year notice for withdrawal from the League of Nations.


See other foreign affairs issues during the Hoover administration.

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