The Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador (Shidehara)

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant, accompanied by a memorandum which contains an announcement in the following order of certain decisions of the Japanese Government in reference to:—

The occupation of certain points in the Province of Sakhalien;
The withdrawal of Japanese forces from the Trans-Baikalia region;
The maintenance of Japanese forces in the vicinity of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, the latter being a position in the line of communication with the Province of Sakhalien.

Passing for the moment the decision above mentioned, numbered 1, and referring to the second of the above stated decisions, I beg to advise you that it is with much gratification that this Government [Page 518]learns that the Japanese Government now finds it possible to proceed to the withdrawal of its forces from the region of Trans-Baikalia, in accordance with the declarations previously made by the Japanese Government and in pursuance of the common policy which prompted the dispatch of Japanese and other troops to the lines of the Siberian Railroad System (including the Chinese Eastern Railway) in the summer of 1918.

As to the third of the above-mentioned decisions which contemplates the maintenance of Japanese forces in the neighborhood of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, this Government is not yet in possession of sufficient facts to enable it to form a judgment as to the military necessity of such action and therefore reserves an expression of its opinion on this point until it is more fully advised.

Reverting to the first of the above-mentioned decisions, namely, the decision of the Japanese Government to seize and occupy certain points in the Province of Sakhalien, pending the establishment of a legal government in Russia and satisfactory adjustments demanded by events which occurred at Nikolaievsk between March 12th and the end of May last, I must in frankness advise you that this Government, while deploring the excesses which appear to have been committed by irregular and outlaw bands against the Japanese troops and residents at that place, nevertheless fails to see the relevancy of these tragic occurrences to the decision now announced by the Japanese Government. The memorandum which you transmit refers to these events as occurring “at Nikolaievsk in the Province of Sakhalien”. Such information as this Department possesses would indicate that Nikolaievsk is in the Primorskaya or Maritime Province, on the mainland of Siberia, whereas Sakhalien Province includes only the northern portion of the island of that name. From the memorandum it does not appear that the Japanese subjects within the territory comprised in Sakhalien have sustained any injuries; nor does it appear that the authorities in that Province were in any way involved in the atrocities at Nikolaievsk or chargeable with responsibility therefor; nor does the memorandum suggest any reason for assuming that the seizure and occupation of territory in Sakhalien would operate as a protection to the lives and property of Japanese subjects resident on the Siberian mainland.

In view of the mutual understanding between Japan and the United States to the effect that their joint military action in Siberia two years ago was for the purpose of stabilizing a situation created by the disintegration of all lawful authority, and in view of subsequent cooperation between the two Governments on the basis of a recognition of the right of the Russian people to work out their national destiny, I should be lacking in candor if I were to conceal [Page 519]from you the concern with which this Government learns of a decision so entirely at variance with the trust which we jointly assumed and have sought to discharge in behalf of the distracted and oppressed people of Siberia.

I hardly need advert to the fact that despite provocations and injuries, very similar to those of which your country justly complains, other nations have refrained from the adoption of any course that involves encroachment upon Russian territory in the time of Russia’s helplessness. And I need not emphasize, I am sure, the disappointment with which the people of this country would realize that such an impairment of Russia’s territorial status, as your memorandum indicates, was an outcome of the mutual undertaking with Japan, upon which they entered in July, 1918,48 in the hope of relieving the distress to which their associate, Russia, had been brought by the war.

In the friendly candor that marks the relations between our peoples, I am compelled to advise you that this Government cannot participate in the announced decision of your Government with regard to Sakhalien, nor can it recognize the occupation of said territory by any non-Russian authority.

In communicating to your Government the position on this subject which the Government of the United States feels compelled to adopt, I sincerely hope you will make clear the reasons which actuate it and the great regret with which it finds itself unable to assent to the views and purpose of the Japanese Government as announced in the memorandum herein referred to.

I am [etc.]

Bainbridge Colby