The Japanese Embassy to the Department of State


The Japanese Government have carefully considered the Memorandum of the State Department dated May 31, 1921, dealing with the situation in Eastern Siberia. Sincerely appreciating the desire of the American Government to avoid all action which might keep alive the antagonism and distrust of the Russian people on the Siberian problem, the Japanese Government feel it due, on their part, to state as fully as possible the position and aims of Japan on the points raised in the Memorandum.

The communication under review apparently makes no distinction between the military expedition to Siberia, originally undertaken as a joint enterprise of Japan and the United States in 1918, and the occupation of the Russian Province of Sakhalin by Japanese troops consequent upon the Nikolaievsk incident of 1920. In the estimation of the Japanese Government, these two questions are wholly unrelated to each other, and call for separate consideration.

The military expedition to Siberia was admittedly based on a mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. In January, 1920, however, the United States ordered the withdrawal of its forces without any previous communication with Japan, and even without awaiting the complete departure of Czecho-Slovak troops. Such an unexpected withdrawal of American forces naturally caused a serious dislocation in the disposition of Japanese troops to whom the duty of guarding several points along the Trans-Siberian Railways had been assigned under inter-Allied arrangements. That situation was frankly pointed out by the Japanese Ambassador in the course of his conversation with the Secretary of State on January 10, 1920, and the Memorandum of the Japanese Embassy dated January 22, 1920,15 contains a record of what then took place between them.

The last column of Czecho-Slovak troops safely embarked from Vladivostock in September, 1920. Ever since that time, Japan has been looking forward to an early opportune moment for the withdrawal of her troops from Siberia. The maintenance of such troops in a foreign land is for her a costly and thankless undertaking, and she will be only too happy to be relieved of such responsibility. In fact, the evacuation of the Trans-Baikal and the Amur Provinces was already completed last year. The only district which now remains [Page 708] to be evacuated is a southern portion of the Maritime Province around Vladivostock and Nikolsk.

It will be appreciated that for Japan the question of the withdrawal of troops from Siberia is not quite as simple as it was for the United States. In the first place, there is a considerable number of Japanese residents who had lawfully and under guarantees of treaty established themselves in Siberia long before the Bolshevik eruption, and were there entirely welcomed. In 1917, prior to the joint American-Japanese military undertaking, the number of such residents was already no less than 9717. In the actual situation prevailing there, those Japanese residents can hardly be expected to look for the protection of their lives and property to any other authorities than Japanese troops. Whatever regions those troops have evacuated in the past, have fallen into disorder, and practically all Japanese residents have had precipitately to withdraw, to seek their personal safety. In so withdrawing, they have been obliged to leave behind large portions of their property, abandoned and unprotected, and their homes and places of business have been destroyed. While the hardships and losses thus caused the Japanese in the Trans-Baikal and the Amur Provinces have been serious enough, more extensive damages are likely to follow from the evacuation of Vladivostock, in which a larger number of Japanese have always been Resident and a greater amount of Japanese capital invested.

There is another difficulty with which Japan is faced in proceeding to the recall of her troops from the Maritime Province. Due to geographical propinquity, the general situation in the districts adjoining Vladivostock and Nikolsk is bound to affect the security of the Korean frontier. In particular, it is known that those districts have long been the base of Korean conspiracies against Japan. Those hostile Koreans, joining hands with lawless elements in Russia, attempted last year to invade Korea through the Chinese territory of Chientao. They set fire to the Japanese Consulate at Hunchun, and committed indiscriminate acts of murder and pillage. At the present moment they are under the effective control of Japanese troops stationed in the Maritime Province, but they will no doubt renew the attempt to penetrate into Korea at the first favorable opportunity that presents itself.

Having regard to the foregoing considerations, the Japanese Government have felt bound to exercise precaution in carrying out the contemplated evacuation of the Maritime Province. Should they take hasty action without adequate provision for the future, they would be delinquent of their duty of affording protection to a large [Page 709] number of their nationals resident in the regions in question and of maintaining order and security in Korea.

It should be made clear that no part of the Maritime Province is under Japan’s military occupation. Japanese troops are still stationed in certain places of that Province but they have not set up any civil or military administration to displace local authorities. Their activity is confined to measures of self protection against the menace to their own safety and to the safety of their country and nationals. They are not in occupation of those districts any more than American troops could be said to have been in occupation of the places in which they were formerly stationed.

The Japanese Government are anxious to see an orderly and stable authority speedily re-established in the Far Eastern possessions of Russia. They have shown readiness to lend their good offices for promoting the reconciliation of various political groups in Eastern Siberia. But they have refrained from supporting one faction against another. It will be recalled, for instance, that they withheld all assistance from General Rozanow against the revolutionary movements which led to his overthrow in January, 1920. They maintained an attitude of strict neutrality, and refused to interfere in those movements, which it would have been quite easy for them to suppress, if they had so desired. They held consistently to the same policy of non-interference in the recent coup d’état at Vladivostock. Political strife among Russians was then entirely left for them to settle, and only the use of arms by any faction threatening the safety of the population in Vladivostock was checked.

The Japanese Government desire to add, for the confidential information of the American Government, that they have now under serious contemplation practical plans which would justify them in effecting at an early date the complete withdrawal of Japanese troops from the Maritime Province, with reasonable precaution for the security of Japanese residents and of the Korean frontier regions.

The occupation of certain points in the Russian Province of Sakhalin is wholly different, in nature and in origin, from the stationing of troops in the Maritime Province. History affords few instances similar to the incident of 1920 at Nikolaievsk, where more than seven hundred Japanese, including women and children, as well as the duly recognized Japanese Consul and his staff, were cruelly tortured and massacred. No nation worthy of respect will possibly remain forbearing under such a strain of provocation. Nor was it possible for the Japanese Government to disregard the just popular indignation aroused in Japan by the incident. Under the actual condition of things, Japan found no alternative but to occupy, [Page 710] as a measure of reprisal, certain points in the Province of Sakhalin in which the outrage was committed, pending establishment in Russia of a responsible authority with whom she can communicate in order to obtain due satisfaction. Her position on this question is explained in the declaration of the Japanese Government of July 3, 1920;16 and it is believed that such measures as Japan has taken have the sanction of international law.

Nothing is further from the thought of the Japanese Government than to take advantage of helpless conditions in Russia for prosecuting selfish designs. Japan believes that she has shown every sympathetic interest in the efforts of patriotic Russians aspiring to the unity and rehabilitation of their country. The military occupation of the Russian Province of Sakhalin will naturally come to an end as soon as a satisfactory settlement of the question shall have been arranged with an orderly Russian Government.