861.77/1164: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Davis )

425. Second Secretary of British Embassy called April 20th at Division of Far Eastern Affairs and read telegraphic report of recent conflict between Japanese and Chinese on the line of Chinese Eastern Railway. He stated that he was instructed to inquire informally the views of this Government as to the possibility of preserving status of that railway and preventing extension of Japanese control over it. He was advised that this Government has formulated no policy with respect to contingency indicated. He was reminded however that the Inter-Allied Railway Agreement of January 191940 was predicated upon the understanding that any temporary administration of the Chinese Eastern as of the Trans-Siberian Railway would be with a view to their ultimate return to those in interest without the impairment of any existing rights; and that the Allies in operating in Siberia have been acting as trustees for the Russian people, and in the Russian Railway zone in North Manchuria as trustees both for the Russians who have a primary interest in the Chinese Eastern Railway and for the Chinese who have both a present incidental interest and a reversionary interest therein. The French are understood to have a certain indirect interest by virtue of stock ownership in the Russo-Asiatic Bank. It was tentatively suggested that upon the discontinuance of the present Inter-Allied control of Russian Railway in Manchuria it might be possible and advisable to reiterate the principle of trusteeship and to arrange that China as next in interest to Russia would undertake administration of the trust, perhaps with the assistance of foreign technical experts. This tentative suggestion does not represent an official view of this Government but [Page 686] is communicated to you simply in order that you may seek the views of the British Government in reference thereto.

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The implied solicitude on the part of the British Government as to the possibility of Japanese encroachment upon Russian interests in North Manchuria is in contrast with the views entertained by Sir Charles Eliot40 in regard to Siberia as indicated in Tokyo telegram of April 14th41 repeated to you April 20th, 5 p.m.

You will endeavor discreetly to ascertain whether Eliot’s views are representative of the attitude of the British Government and if so whether it is to be understood that the British Government is more apprehensive regarding Russian interests in Manchuria than regarding such interests in Siberia itself.

  1. See Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. iii, pp. 301 ff.
  2. British Ambassador to Japan; formerly High Commissioner and Consul General in Siberia.
  3. Not printed.