File No. 861.00/1285
The Counselor for the Department of State (Polk) to the Secretary of State
My Dear Mr. Secretary: The attached memorandum1 was delivered by you to me on March 1, with instructions to show it to the British, French, and Italians. I showed it to the French Ambassador, and Barclay, of the British Embassy, on March 1. They read it and Barclay took a copy. The French Ambassador said that we need not wait to hear any further, but could send the telegram attached2 at once, as his Government had practically made the request and was only waiting to confirm it in order to hear that we were satisfied. I told him we would wait until we heard from him and the British. On Saturday, March 2, I showed the message to the Italian Ambassador and let him take a copy. He then told me that the Italian Government had made three conditions in their discussion of this matter:
- That anything done in Siberia should be satisfactory to this Government;
- Action should be not by Japan alone;
- Guaranties should be given by Japan that they do not intend to hold territory.
The Japanese Chargé came in on the 2d and asked if we had anything to say against their position. I told him we wished to be perfectly frank with him, and I would let him know in a few days. He wanted to know whether we were waiting for further facts, and I told him I, would let him know, and took good care not to commit myself as to whether we had made up our mind, or as to our attitude.
On Sunday, March 3, I saw the President and discussed the situation. He instructed me to communicate with the Japanese in order to be perfectly frank with them. On March 4, I was called up and told to wait before communicating with the Japanese for further instructions. On March 5, I saw the President and went over the statement as to our position on the Siberian question. Certain changes were made, and I was instructed to send it at once to Tokyo and communicate it here.
I saw Barclay, of the British Embassy, in the absence of the Ambassador, and gave him a copy. I also gave Laboulaye, of the French Embassy, a copy, as his Ambassador was away. Barclay read me an [Page 69] instruction that the British had sent to Tokyo based on the draft of the first telegram which I had shown him on March 1. This instruction to Tokyo from the British Government practically requested the Japanese Government to go ahead, but laid stress on the necessity for a frank declaration on the part of Japan that its motive was disinterested. I saw the Italian Ambassador at his house, and he also made a copy. The Italian Ambassador seemed to agree with our position.
On Wednesday, March 6, I sent for the Japanese Chargé and read him the telegram to Tokyo, which I told him had been sent. I talked to him a long time and tried to impress him with the fact that we were merely giving our views as to what was the wise course for the Allies and ourselves to take in this matter; it was not a question of Japan, we would have felt the same whether any other nation had been involved. I said it was just as though we were advising in regard to French action in Greece. We had been asked for our views and frankly stated them. I also reminded him that the Japanese Ambassadors in Paris and London, when this matter had been discussed at the Supreme War Council in December, agreed with Colonel House that it would be a mistake for the Japanese to go in.
He expressed himself as quite satisfied with the way the Department had put it and intimated that he was not looking for any hidden motive. He wanted to know whether we had taken this position because we felt we had not sufficient information, and wanted to know whether we might not change our position if we had further information indicating the necessity for such action. I told him that the information we had all indicated it would be a mistake for any foreign power to enter Siberia, but of course if we had the case differently presented, why we would consider the new facts as they arose, and it might be desirable for us to change our position—if, for instance, after the Germans had been in control of Russia some time, the Russian people should ask for intervention.
The day before, March 5, the Chinese Minister called, and for his information I told him the position of the Government, although he was noncommittal.