The Department of State to the Japanese Embassy5


The Government of the United States has been apprised that the Japanese Government made on March 23rd, through the Ministry of War, a public statement to the effect that the Japanese Command in Russian Saghalin would, in accordance with the declaration of last year (presumably that of July 3, 19206), announcing the temporary military occupation of important districts in Saghalin, station troops in the near future in Nikolaievsk, De Castries, Mago, Sophiesk and other important districts to maintain peace and order [Page 703] in those localities by temporarily establishing a system of civil administration.

In addition this Government has been informed of the statement made by the Japanese War Office to the American Military Attaché, regarding the coup d’état attempted at Vladivostok on the night of March 31st,—only a few days after the announcement above described,—and that Japanese troops would allow no further fighting in the zone occupied by them.7

These declarations bring forward the correspondence which took place between the Governments of the United States and of Japan in July and August last, regarding the action of the Japanese Government in occupying Nikolaievsk and the northern half of the island of Saghalin in reprisal for the affair at Nikolaievsk.8 They also fix attention upon the understanding of 1918, between the Governments of the United States and Japan, (which was for the purpose of assisting the Czech soldiers in Siberia), and the public statement of the Japanese Government of August, 1918,9 reaffirming its avowed purpose to respect the territorial integrity of Russia and to abstain from all interference in her internal affairs, and declaring again that upon the accomplishment of the objects of the undertaking for the aid of the Czechs, all Japanese troops would be withdrawn from Russian territory, leaving wholly unimpaired the sovereignty of Russia in all its phases, whether military or political.

Since this Government is a party to the understanding of 1918 and to the obligations to the people of Russia thereby implied, it feels it should in frankness make clear its views on those developments in Siberia which appear to it to be at variance with the spirit of that joint undertaking.

It will be recalled in this connection that the Government of the United States in January, 1920, issued orders for the complete evacuation of all American troops from Siberia,10 inasmuch as the mission of aiding the Czechs during their stay in Siberia had been practically fulfilled. Before the first of June, 1920, all American troops had been withdrawn, and the evacuation of the Czechs was shortly thereafter accomplished. The Government of the United States expected that the withdrawal of the American troops would be followed by a complete withdrawal of Japanese troops, if not very soon then at least within a reasonable period of time.

Instead, Japanese troops were not withdrawn but additional extensive territory has been occupied by them. A considerable portion of this territory is now being placed under a civil administration [Page 704] functioning under authority of the military occupation, lending to the occupation an appearance of permanence, and indicating a further encroachment upon Russian political and administrative rights.

The Government of the United States would be untrue to the spirit of cooperation which led it, in the summer of 1918, upon an understanding with the Government of Japan, to despatch troops to Siberia, if it neglected to point out that, in its view, continued occupation of the strategic centers in Eastern Siberia,—involving the indefinite possession of the port of Vladivostok, the stationing of troops at Khabarovsk, Nikolaievsk, De Castries, Mago, Sophiesk and other important points, the seizure of the Russian portion of Saghalin, and the establishment of a civil administration which inevitably lends itself to misconception and antagonism,—tends rather to increase than to allay the unrest and disorder in that region.

The military occupation in reprisal for the Nikolaievsk affair is not fundamentally a question of the validity of procedure under the recognized rules of international law, nor of any redistribution of Russian administrative areas such as was referred to in the Japanese Embassy’s memorandum of August 13, 1920,11 which in the case of Nikolaievsk (as this Government is informed) was adopted as a temporary measure for the convenience of the Russian administrator. The issue presented is that of the scrupulous fulfilment of the assurances given-to the Russian people, which were a matter of frank exchanges and of apparently complete understanding between the Governments of the United States and of Japan. These assurances were intended by the Government of the United States to convey to the people of Russia a promise on the part of the two Governments not to use the joint expedition, or any incidents which might arise out of it, as an occasion to occupy territory, even temporarily, or to assume any military or administrative control over the people of Siberia.

In view of its conviction that the course followed by the Government of Japan brings into question the very definite understanding concluded at the time troops were sent to Siberia, the Government of the United States must in candor explain its position and say to the Japanese Government that the Government of the United States can neither now nor hereafter recognize as valid any claims or titles arising out of the present occupation and control, and that it cannot acquiesce in any action taken by the Government of Japan which might impair existing treaty rights, or the political or territorial integrity of Russia.

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The Government of Japan will appreciate that in expressing its views the Government of the United States has no desire to impute to the Government of Japan motives or purposes other than those which have heretofore been so frankly avowed. The purpose of this Government is to inform the Japanese Government of its own conviction that in the present time of disorder in Russia, it is more than ever the duty of those who look forward to the tranquilization of the Russian people and a restoration of normal conditions among them, to avoid all action which might keep alive their antagonism and distrust towards outside political agencies. Now especially it is incumbent upon the friends of Russia to hold aloof from the domestic contentions of the Russian people, to be scrupulous to avoid inflicting what might appear to them a vicarious penalty for sporadic acts of lawlessness, and above all to abstain from even the temporary and conditional impairment by any foreign power of the territorial status which, for them as for other peoples, is a matter of deep and sensitive national feeling transcending perhaps even the issues at stake among themselves.