Mr. Griscom to Mr. Hay.

Sir: Referring to my dispatch of the 15th instant, transmitting a paper received from the foreign office in regard to the capture of the Russian destroyer Ryeshitelni at Chefoo, I have now the honor to inclose a copy of a letter received from Baron Komura on the 18th instant, together with a statement of the position taken by his Government in that case.

I have, etc.,

Lloyd C. Griscom.
[Page 425]

Baron Komura to Mr. Griscom.

Dear Mr. Griscom: The statement which I inclose for your information has been telegraphed to Mr. Takahira for communication to the United States Government. It explains the position taken by the Japanese Government regarding the Chefoo incident.

Yours, very sincerely,

Jutaro Komura.

Statement of Japan’s position regarding the capture of the “Ryeshitelni” at Chefoo.

The Imperial Government sustain the action of the Japanese destroyers Asashiwo and Kasumi in capturing the Russian destroyer Ryeshitelni in the harbor of Chefoo on the morning of the 12th August, upon the following grounds:

That the neutrality of China, territorially speaking, is incomplete and extends only to those places which are not for the time being occupied by the armed forces of either belligerent.
That, independently of the question of the effect of the presence of the Ryeshitelni in the harbor upon the neutrality of China, Russia had, prior to the capture, violated the neutrality of Chefoo.
That the Ryeshitelni first began the struggle which resulted in her capture.

As to the first ground:

The Imperial Government at the beginning of the war declared that they would respect the neutrality of China outside the regions occupied by Russia so long as Russia did the same. All military operations are now being carried on within the territorial limits of China. So long as the armed forces of the belligerents remain within the limits of Manchuria, so long will that region continue to be the only portion of the Chinese Empire outside the neutrality of China. But, in the opinion of the Imperial Government, a Russian vessel of war escaping from Port Arthur and seeking in the harbor of Chefoo an asylum which her home port no longer affords her, is guilty of a violation of the neutrality of China which, so far as that incident is concerned, fully justifies the Japanese Government in taking such measures of self-protection as they may consider necessary.

As to the second ground:

It is the contention of the Imperial Government that the Ryeshitelni, by taking refuge in Chefoo under the circumstances, violated the neutrality of that port. It is not only in this case that Russia has openly disregarded the neutrality of Chefoo. Shortly after, the investment and isolation of Port Arthur a system of wireless telegraphy was installed between the beleaguered fortress and the Russian consulate at Chefoo. That system has been maintained ever since, notwithstanding the repeated protests of the Imperial Government. In these circumstances neither Russia, which had already disregarded China’s neutrality, nor China, which had utterly failed to enforce her neutrality, is in position to complain of the action of Japan.

As to the third ground:

The Ryeshitelni, by being the aggressor in the struggle which resulted in the capture, instead of relying for protection upon the authorities of the port, has deprived Russia of the right of complaint which she might have possessed if the lawfulness of the capture were otherwise in doubt.

The Imperial Government are still fully resolved to respect the neutrality of China so long as Russia does the same, but they can not consent that their enemy’s ships of war, in defiance of China’s neutrality laws, shall be permitted to find in the harbors of China an asylum which, by reason of the military operations of Japan, is no longer offered them by their own ports.

The case under consideration is in itself of trifling moment, but the principle involved is of the highest importance; for if the harbor of Chefoo could under circumstances be said to afford an asylum for the Ryeshitelni, it would equally give to the big ships of the Russian navy a safe refuge against attack, to the constant menace of Japan. It can not be expected that the Imperial Government would give their consent to such a condition of things.