Situation in Manchuria: Report of the Lytton Commission of Inquiry


On the night of September 18, 1931, anti-Japanese activists set off explosions on the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railroad in Manchuria, northeastern China. The Japanese army used the incident as a pretext to invade Manchuria, and quickly occupied key Manchurian cities. China appealed to the world’s powers for help. The Council of the League of Nations, supported by the United States, sought to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict. In early 1932, the Council dispatched an inquiry commission to China under the leadership of the British diplomat, the Earl of Lytton. By the time the so-called Lytton Commission arrived in China in April 1932, the Japanese army had already established the Manchurian puppet state of Manchukuo. The Lytton Commission issued its report in September 1932. On the advice of the report, the League of Nations refused to recognize Manchukuo as a legitimate state and proposed measures to reestablish the status quo. China accepted the League of Nations recommendations for restoring peace in the area; Japan did not and withdrew from the League in 1935. The report discusses recent events, issues between Japan and China, the situation in Shanghai and Manchukuo, economic interests, and the conditions for a settlement, and it offers recommendations to the Council. A number of maps illustrate the political organization of Manchuria, its railroads, the military situation at various dates from September 1931 to August 1932, and the routes taken in China by the Lytton Commission. The report is in the archives of the League, which were transferred to the United Nations in 1946 and are housed at the UN office in Geneva. They were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Last updated: August 5, 2016