The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Great Britain ( Wright )
241. Your 133, February 21, 4 p.m.93
On February 24, the British Ambassador informed Secretary of State Colby and Under Secretary Davis that his Government was willing to cooperate but was unable to put up any money; that the United States must take the lead and that the British would follow. He also stated that with minor amendments the plan proposed in the Department’s No. 51 January 20, 6 p.m.94 would be satisfactory and that he would be glad to take up the matter in the near future. The Ambassador was reminded that this Government had already taken the initiative and that a frank understanding was desired before proceeding further. The Ambassador was also informed that any attempt on the part of the British Government to take the role of mediator between the United States and Japan in the case of controversy would not be considered the proper method of dealing with the subject. Nothing further was heard from the Ambassador and on March 24, the Secretary of State addressed a note to him enclosing a memorandum setting forth in detail the revised plan for the supervision of the railway. See Department’s No. 51 January 20, 6 p.m. In submitting this memorandum the Secretary of State stated that he would “welcome any such comments or suggestions as would in your opinion facilitate a full and frank understanding between our two governments as to the course to be pursued by them in reference to the somewhat critical situation in which the Chinese Eastern railway is [now] placed.” On April 12, the Legation at Peking telegraphed that the British Minister had received a transcript of the text of the Department’s No. 51 of January 20, 6 p.m. with instructions to report its views after consultation with the American Minister. The Department instructed Minister Crane to discuss the matter only with the British Legation and to impress [Page 579] upon the Minister the importance that this Government attaches to British cooperation in this project which is of fundamental importance to the development of both Manchuria and Siberia.
The Secretary of State on two occasions has orally inquired of the British Ambassador concerning the proposed plan but has been informed that the matter is still under consideration by the British Government. On April 25, the Secretary of State again addressed a note to the British Ambassador inquiring whether his Government had given any definite indication as to its disposition with respect to the new proposal. The note also stated that “the increasing difficulties encountered in the operation of the railway have now become more than ever critical, and I have felt it necessary to ask Mr. John F. Stevens, who had been brought to this country for consultation as to the plan of reorganization, to return in the near future to Manchuria, to resume in person the task of controlling the operation of the line. It would be of obvious advantage if, before his departure, it should be possible to arrive at such an understanding between our two Governments as would afford a basis for presenting formally to the other interested powers a revised plan of operation which would make him secure in the performance of his duties.”
The above is for your information and you may use it orally as the basis of inquiring from the British Foreign Office whether any definite reply to the proposals can be expected in the near future and in expressing the very earnest hope that the opportunity may not be lost for cooperation between our governments in making effective the international supervision of the operation of this railway which is a matter of fundamental and urgent importance for the stabilization of the situation in the Far East.