File No. 761.94/108
Consul General Heintzleman to the Secretary of State
Mukden , July 11, 1916 .
Sir: I have the honor to report that, according to recent Tokyo telegrams appearing in the semiofficial Manchuria Daily News, the Russo-Japanese negotiations, which had been long known to be [Page 433]proceeding in Petrograd on questions growing out of the conflict of interests in Manchuria and Eastern Siberia, and which had received a stimulus from the visit in January last of the Grand Duke George Michaelovitch to Tokyo, have resulted in a convention which was signed in the Russian capital on the 3d instant. Aside from the secret provisions, the text of the convention, as announced in the local press, is as follows:
For the maintenance of the general peace in the Far East, Japan and Russia have agreed upon the following provisions:
- Article I. Russia and Japan shall neither conclude any political convention nor join in any arrangement of a political nature directed against the interests of either contracting party.
- Article II. In the event of the territorial rights of the special interests of either contracting party in the Far East being menaced, Russia and Japan shall consult each other regarding the measures to be taken to the end of protecting and defending such territorial rights and special interests.
The Japanese journal above referred to points out that Japan’s “special interests” comprise, among others, the administration of the Kiaochow leasehold, the declaration concerning the non-alienation of Fukien Province, and the preferential rights in South Manchuria and Eastern Inner Mongolia, as acquired by virtue of the Sino-Japanese treaty of 1915.
Other provisions of the convention, as given in the press, are more specific than those contained in the text formally handed out for publication, and may perhaps contain the purport of the so-called secret clauses of the convention. In the local Japanese press they are made to read as follows:
The contracting parties shall take concerted action for the protection of their special interests in China and Siberia in the event of a third power infringing upon those interests.
The subjects of both contracting parties shall be entitled to freedom of residence and trade in Siberia and also in the Russian and Japanese spheres of influence in Manchuria and Mongolia.
- Navigation on the Sungari River shall be opened to the participation of Japanese subjects.
- Japan shall continue to supply munitions to Russia.
- Transfer to Japan of the section of the Chinese Eastern Railway between the Sungari River and Kwanchengtzu.
Japan’s claim to participation in the navigation of the Sungari River, which has hitherto been exclusively enjoyed by Russian subjects, shows Japan’s intention to push her commerce and communications to the Amur River by way of its Manchurian tributaries. Japan’s colonization in North Manchuria and in the Primorsk has become a political question of considerable acuteness.
The portion of railway to be transferred to Japan is the southern half of the Harbin-Kwanchengtzu section. It is about 70 miles in length and has nine stations, the northernmost being Laoshaokou, situated about 4 miles south of the Sungari River. Both Kwanchengtzu and Yaomen have extensive station areas. This section of railway serves the richest bean producing belt in Manchuria, and it was this fact that made its transfer so desirable to Japan. I have already in despatches to the Department described the freight competition [Page 434]which, has for years been waged between the Chinese Eastern and South Manchuria railways in order to attract produce to their respective outlets, Vladivostok and Dairen. The Sungari River, which now marks the junction of the two railways, runs approximately midway between the two ports and the Japanese believe there can be no longer an unnatural and harmful rate war.
According to a high official of the Japanese Government railways, as reported in the press, the price to be paid for the section in question is roubles 10,000,000, or at the prevailing rate of exchange about $3,000,000 gold. The gauge will have to be altered. In order to avoid any suspension of traffic, a new single line of rails inside the track will adapt it to the operation of the standard gauge rolling stock. Terminal stations will have to be erected on the southern bank of the Sungari River and arrangements effected to facilitate the transfer of passengers and freight. The funds required for these alterations and improvements are put at about $1,000,000 gold.
It is not known when the transfer will take place. There are indications, however, pointing to the lapse of about a year before the conveyance is effected. In the meantime, the Japanese Government will make preparations therefor. The South Manchuria Railway Company will most likely assume the management of the section, and upon doing so will draw up plans for the operation of the new acquisition and set about converting the track to the same standard as the other lines under its management. There is in Japan a supply of only about 40 miles of rails to spare, so that stock for the remaining 30 miles will have to be purchased. Also, for the proper working of the new section at least 150 additional freight cars and six or seven more locomotives will be required. As showing the intense activity of this company in railway matters alone, not mentioning its increasing interest in varied allied enterprises in South Manchuria, it may be added that the South Manchuria Railway Company has under way the construction of the Ssupingkai-Chengchiatun railway in addition to the intended improvement of the Kirin-Changchun line.
As to the terms of the secret agreement between Japan and Russia, which, according to the press, embodies the most important features of the convention, only so much has leaked out that it is to contain the fundamental outlines, according to which the intricate working of an offensive and defensive alliance shall be conducted. It is stated that it relates only to questions concerning China. The whole convention is concluded for a period of ten years, subject to renewal, but in case one of the contracting parties is at war at the date fixed for its termination, it is to continue until peace is restored.
This convention cannot create any surprise. It only discloses the weakened position of Russia in the Far East. That this is a diplomatic victory for Japan, who has not conceded anything on her part, is to be seen from the following inevitable result: The extension and strengthening of the political and strategic lines of the Japanese sphere of interests; on the other side the restricting of Russia’s liberty of action in her sphere of interests and even in her territorial possessions in Eastern Asia, which may be taken as an unconditional surrender of her rights in the face of an ever increasing Japanese lust of conquest. The enormous economic advantages which in this manner are gained by Japan cannot thus early be comprehended [Page 435]in their far-reaching consequences. The special announcement in the Tokyo telegrams that Japan in no way obligates herself to send troops to Europe only proves how completely Japan has imposed her will on a defeated opponent.
The interpretation of the secret convention is left to the speculation of the uninformed, but one will not fail by assuming that the Japanese statesmen have considered some concession on their part necessary, and, to avert later counterpressure, have most probably guaranteed support to Russia in her future advance toward “warm-water”, but in a direction which would redound still further to Japan’s advantage.* * *
Whether Japan, on the basis of this convention, will really gain Russia’s friendship and support is more than doubtful. There are several conditions making against it—the existence of inner feelings of suspicion and distrust on the part of the one toward the other, and the absence of a real mutual understanding. It is hardly to be seen how a convention, which is dictated under pressure, can inspire a friendly spirit. The totally different circumstances in which the two powers are situated at present should not be overlooked—while Russia is fighting and spending her energy in Europe, Japan’s political and economic conditions are flourishing. But it would be well to point out that the Japanese have no illusions as to the misunderstandings and friction which will occur in the operation of the terms of this convention; at the same time China will also, as a result of this new rapprochement of her powerful neighbors, probably have to change her attitude toward the contracting parties.
This new convention, so far as its terms are known, seems to supplement and broaden in scope the Russo-Japanese Convention of July 30, 1907,2 and the Agreement of July 4, 1910.3 All these compacts relate primarily to Manchuria. In fact the real explanation of Japan’s place on the continent of Asia is to be found in the history of the question of Manchuria, a term in which all discussion of Russo-Japanese affairs ends. It is regrettable that Japan and Russia in this new international instrument have not seen fit to reiterate their recognition of the independence and territorial integrity of China and of the principle of equality of opportunity for all nations in that country.* * *
I have [etc.]