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The Manchurian Incident and the League of Nations

China and Japan (Source: League of Nations (ed.): Appeal by the Chinese Government. Report of the Commission of Enquiry. Appendix, Map No. 1, Geneva: League of Nations, 1932)

On September 18, 1931, an explosion of dynamite destroyed a railway line of the South Manchurian Railway Company (S.M.R, 南満洲鉄道株式会社) outside the city of Mukden. This so-called Manchurian Incident (also Mukden Incident) paved the way to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and laid the foundations for the Second World War in Asia. Founded to watch over international lawfulness and security, the League of Nations soon became a key arena for debates and negotiations in the Sino-Japanese conflict of 1931/32. In early 1932, the League’s international Commission of Enquiry, the so-called Lytton Commission, began its investigations. The Commission travelled to Japan, China and Manchuria and, during parts of their journey, were accompanied by a Japanese film team.

This section provides a short introduction to the complex situation in Manchuria in 1931-32 and the involvement of the League of Nations in the conflict, followed by a basic chronology which documents the process of international diplomatic negotiations.