Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 6, 1904
Mr. Griscom to Mr. Hay.
Tokyo, Japan, August 26, 1904.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith copy of a letter from the minister for foreign affairs elated yesterday, with which he sent me a statement of the position of the Japanese Government and of their negotiations with China regarding the Russian warships Askold and Grosovoi remaining at Shanghai.
I have, etc.,
Baron Komura to Mr. Griscom.
Dear Mr. Griscom: The inclosed statement has been telegraphed to-day to Mr. Takahira for communication to your Government There is, however, a prospect of an amicable settlement of the question, as it appears from the latest telegram from Shanghai that the Russian authorities at the port have been instructed to proceed at once to disarm the two war ships in question.
Yours, very sincerely,
The Russian cruiser Askold and destroyer Grosovoi, escaping from Port Arthur, entered Shanghai on the 13th instant, having arrived at Woosung on the previous day. Twenty-four hours, prescribed by China’s neutrality regulations, passed, but the Russian ships showed no sign of taking departure. Consequently the Japanese consul-general at Shanghai, acting under instructions of the Imperial Government, addressed a communication to the Taotai of Shanghai, pointing out that as the two vessels had already remained in Shanghai for more than twenty-four hours they should be called upon to take their departure at once, and, in case of refusal, they should be disarmed and detained at Shanghai until the end of the war without being permitted to repair. The consul-general added that the Imperial Government reserved to themselves the right, in case neither of the above alternatives was enforced, to take such action as they might deem proper, and that the responsibility for the consequences would rest with China. The Taotai acceded to the demand, but he proved quite powerless before the Russian consul, who, notwithstanding the former’s repeated pressure, categorically refused to effect either of the two alternatives and persistently adhered to his equivocal declaration that the vessels would be prepared to leave the port only upon completion of the repairs which were under contemplation. It then transpired that those repairs were of a very extensive nature, almost tantamount to the restoration of fighting power of the vessels, requiring, in case of Askold, four weeks for their completion. To permit such repairs would be evidently incompatible with the neutral obligation of China. Accordingly the Japanese consul-general at Shanghai was again instructed to call the most serious attention of the Taotai to the matter and to demand that the repairs to be permitted to the Russian war ships should be of such nature as were required to make them seaworthy, and that the period therefor should be limited to two days. He had further to warn the Chinese authorities that in case China’s acquiescence in the restoration of the fighting power of the Russian ships by allowing the repairs as planned by them Japan would be compelled to take such measures as might seem proper to them. It was after a great deal of hesitation and repeated pressure of our consul-general that the Taotai at last notified the Russian consul, on the 9th instant, in the sense desired by us. But this again met peremptory refusal on the part of the latter, who in reply declined on behalf of the two vessels to submit to any limitations or conditions. In the meantime the Imperial Government instructed on the 19th instant their minister at Peking to formally notify the Chinese Government to the following effect:[Page 427]
“That the Russian war ships should be called upon to take immediate departure from Shanghai. If they are really unable to so leave on account of their damages, two days’ repairs should be permitted to them just to make them seaworthy. In case, however, they are unwilling from the beginning to leave Shanghai, they should be disarmed without making any repairs and detained in the port until the conclusion of the present war.
“In the event of China’s failure to enforce either of the three alternatives above set forth the Japanese Government would take such measures of self-protection as they may deem necessary, and responsibility for the consequences will rest solely with China.”
In view, however, of the difficult position under which the Chinese Government were laboring, the Japanese Government consented to fix the 21st of August, noon, as the time upon which two days’ period above alluded to to commence, and the Chinese Government assured the Japanese minister to at once take the necessary steps vis-a-vis the Russian minister in China and the Taotai of Shanghai in the sense desired by Japan. It was with great surprise that the Japanese Government learned, through their minister in Peking, that, notwithstanding the assurances given, as above stated, the Chinese Government granted on the 23d instant further extension of time for the completion of repairs and departure of the ship until noon of the 28th instant. Against such extension the Japanese Government have protested and declared that they would be compelled to have recourse to such action as they consider proper and that the responsibility for the consequences would rest entirely with China.
The foregoing are the most important facts of the case. Beyond question they constitute a grave infraction of the neutrality of China to the serious prejudice of the belligerent rights of Japan. Having in view, however, the special interests of the powers in the port of Shanghai, the Imperial Government have exercised in the present instance, as they did in the case of the Mandjur, a degree of forbearance and restraint under great provocation, which is, they believe, sufficient proof of their earnest desire not to disturb the orderly state of affairs at that place. But it is not to be expected that the Imperial Government will consent to an indefinite continuation of a condition of things which constitutes a grave menace to their warlike operations as well as to their commerce. But having regard to interests of the powers involved in the maintenance of the orderly state of things in the port of Shanghai, the Imperial Government think it right to bring the actual state of things to their attention before the exigencies of the situation will compel them to take final action.