File No. 861.77/465
The Chargé in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 8, 5 p.m.]
A satisfactory reading having been worked out of so much of your [cable] to Tokyo as relates to the actual proposal of our Government I last evening presented the matter orally to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in accordance with your August 31, 4 p.m., in order that he might submit for consideration the next Cabinet meeting.
Although your instructions made no mention of the rights of this Government in respect to the Chinese Eastern Railway, I felt justified in assuring the Minister that the Stevens commission would exercise its functions as a trust of America with due regard for the rights of all parties in interest, including China. I beg to request that I be authorized, in my discretion, to give a formal assurance to that effect in your name.
In reply to his inquiry I stated that while I only knew positively that the American proposal was thoroughly discussed with Japan, I [Page 244]presumed that it was likewise being discussed with all other Allied Governments concerned in the expedition in aid of the Czechs. It would be an assistance to me in urging our proposals if I were informed of the progress of negotiations with the other Allies.
To his inquiry whether the Russo-Asiatic Bank, which is the holder of the railway company, were being consulted, I replied that I had no information but was inclined to think that our Government looked only to the known fact that this nominally private railway enterprise had always in reality been an institution of the Russian Ministry of Finance and that under the existing military necessity the claims of the concessionaires would doubtless be left for subsequent adjustment. I venture to suggest that in order to forestall the opposition of this influential Franco-Russian banking organization it might be advisable to convey through the French and Russian Ambassadors in Washington some such assurance as would allay any apprehensions that its property rights would be prejudiced by our proposal.
Minister for Foreign Affairs inquired whether the Civil Governor of Kirin Province, who is acting Chinese president of railway under the terms of concession contract of 1896, would be acceptable (as one?) of the Chinese members of the commission under Stevens. I remarked that the American commissioners were all technical railway experts and that it was to be hoped that China would be able to offer for service on the commission some of the most capable Chinese railway agents but that the acceptability of any particular person would be a matter for subsequent decision in consultation with Stevens. In view of the legal relationship of the Chinese Government to the railway and considering the political embarrassment which might be involved in its having to withdraw too [complete]ly from its present nominal participation in the control of the railway, I beg to suggest that our proposal [would] appear much more favorably to it, if I were authorized to state that the governor operate [exercising?] political functions designated by this Government would be welcomed as a member of the commission, perhaps with some title such as Special Commissioner for the Chinese Eastern Railway.
Minister of Foreign Affairs appeared to be very favorably impressed by your proposals and promised to urge upon the Cabinet as presenting a solution advantageous alike to China and to the Allies. It is, however, to be feared that the decision of this Government will be much influenced by the Minister of Communication, Tsao, who for reasons known to the Department is likely to adopt whatever attitude is indicated to him as most consonant with the policy of the Japanese Government. The following telegram is repeated from Harris, Irkutsk: [Page 245]
33, September 4. Kindly advise me who is to have control of the Siberian Railway during the time the Allies are operating in Siberia and Russia. I have sounded government officials and people in every part of Siberia and all are in favor of placing the control and management in the hands of America. Czech commanders insist upon doing this, claiming that it is a military necessity that Americans take over control of the railroad. An attempt to favor Japan in this respect would be immediately resented by both Siberians and Czechs and it would be a bad diplomatic move. I strongly urge that the railway be placed in charge of the Stevens railway commission which must be in the position to assume active management at once.
Please bring my views to the attention of Department and the Stevens railway commission and I urge that all measures permissible be taken to block any ulterior motives which Japan may have on the railway as being inimical to Allied interests in Siberia. Russian people will oppose it by all means in their (possession?).
This telegram has been sent to Tokyo.