The Japanese Embassy to the Department of State


The Japanese Government are happy to note that the United States Government, through the note of the Secretary of State dated July 10th [16th], giving frank expression to its views upon the declaration made by the Japanese Government on July 3rd respecting (1) occupation of certain points in the Province of Sakhalin (2) withdrawal of Japanese forces from Trans-Baikalia region and (3) maintenance of the Japanese troops around Vladivostok and at Khabarovsk, has expressed much gratification on the decision of the Japanese Government to withdraw their troops from the Trans-Baikalia region. At the same time, the Japanese Government regret that the United States Government fails to see the reasons which compelled the Japanese Government to take the first and third of the above-mentioned decisions.

Passing for the moment the first point, and referring to the third point, the political situation in Vladivostok and its neighborhood is far from being secure, nor is public order there restored as yet owing to the fact that the authority of the Provincial Government in Vladivostok is not yet fully established. The Japanese Government therefore are unable to leave to the Provisional Government there the protection of Japanese subjects in that district numbering about 7,000. Moreover, the lawless Koreans living in the vicinity, evidently under the influence of Russian bolshevism, are not only constantly creating disturbances on the borderland of Korea, but, armed and banded, they often penetrate into the interior of the country and make raid upon the civilian population taking toll of many lives and causing immeasurable damage to their property, a situation which is almost tantamount to a state of war. Confronted with so serious and pressing a danger to the peace and safety of Korea,—danger, moreover, behind which lies the formidable menace of bolshevism,—the Japanese Government, not unnaturally, look upon the situation with grave concern. The maintenance of the Japanese forces in the neighborhood of Vladivostok is thus a measure of self defense absolutely necessary for the protection of the Japanese residents there, as well as for the preservation of order and security in Korean.

As regards Khabarovsk, which is a point of special importance on the line of communication with Nikolaievsk, capital of the province of Sakhalin, it is also indispensable that a certain number of troops should be left there in order to maintain communication with the Nikolaievsk garrison. In this connection it may well be pointed out that the maintenance of the Japanese troops in Vladivostok and [Page 523]Khabarovsk, which is thus necessary for safeguarding the interests of Japan and of the Japanese people in these regions, will also be conducive to the promotion of the general welfare of the Russian population.

To revert now to the first point: the United States Government appears to conclude that the occupation of certain points in the Province of Sakhalin has no relevance to the Nikolaievsk affair, on the assumption that Nikolaievsk is located in Primorskaya or the Maritime Province on the mainland of Siberia, whereas the Sakhalin Province includes only the northern portion of the island of that name. The information in the hands of the Japanese Government indicates that by virtue of the Russian Imperial decree of the 26th of February, 1914, the town of Nikolaievsk and its neighborhood was separated from the Maritime Province and incorporated in the province of Sakhalin together with the northern portion of Sakhalin Island, and Nikolaievsk has since then been the capital of the Province. Thus there being no shadow of doubt as to Nikolaievsk being within the administrative boundary of the Province of Sakhalin, the observation of the United States Government in this respect seems to be not well founded.

The note of the United States Government adds that from the Memorandum transmitted to it by the Japanese Ambassador in Washington, it does not appear that Japanese subjects in the northern portion of Sakhalin Island have sustained any injuries, nor does it appear that the Russian authorities in that Island were in any way involved in the atrocities at Nikolaievsk or chargeable with any responsibility therefor; nor does the Memorandum appear to suggest any reason for assuming that the occupation of the said Island would operate as a protection to the lives and property of the Japanese residents on the Siberian Mainland. The occupation of the northern portion of the Sakhalin Island has been found necessary, at the same time as the occupation of Nikolaievsk, because of the geographic situation in which that port is placed, and is calculated to further a settlement of the present affair.

The occupation of certain points in the Province of Sakhalin is a measure which,—in the absence of any responsible government in Russia to whom representation could usefully be made, with a view to obtaining redress for the wrongs so wantonly committed against the Japanese subjects by an inhumane and lawless band such as the so-called “partisans”,—the Japanese Government were compelled to adopt, pending the establishment of a legitimate government and the satisfactory adjustment of the Nikolaievsk incident. Cases of this kind are not wanting in international law, nor does such a step constitute [Page 524]any violation of the mutual understanding which has been maintained by the Governments of Washington and Tokio since 1918.

It is pointed out in the note under review that despite injuries very similar to those sustained by Japan, other nations have refrained from the adoption of any course which involved encroachment upon Russian territory in the time of Russia’s helplessness. The Japanese Government do not know whether other nations have sustained any such calamity as has now befallen Japan. Apart from that question, however, the occupation of certain points in the Sakhalin Province is a measure, as explained above, unavoidable in the present circumstances where there is no other means for securing redress for the injuries so painfully received, and it would be entirely beside the mark if it were construed as an act of territorial aggression.

The United States Government is believed to be well aware of the enormous sacrifices made by Japan in the past, from a feeling of deep sympathy in the present agony of Russia, and the Japanese Government have not the slightest intention of making any departure from this policy. Yet a disaster such as that which Japan met with at Nikolaievsk being one which has no precedent in the national experience of the country, it cannot be difficult to perceive that the entire nation would on no account have tolerated any measure short of that which has been adopted by the Japanese Government.

The Japanese Government feel persuaded that in full appreciation of the circumstances above set forth the United States Government will not be unwilling to take a sympathetic view of the decision of the Japanese Government as announced in the declaration above referred to.