The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Japan (Warren)

No. 41

Sir: You will have received from Peking, before the arrival of this instruction, a copy of the Department’s confidential cablegram [Page 885] No. 22, of February 3, 1922, to the Legation there, on the subject of the Chinese Eastern Railway and the deliberations of the Conference in that connection.

You are already acquainted, through the wireless reports, with the action of the Conference on this question. A copy is enclosed, for your confidential use, of the report of the sub-committee of technical advisers.61

For your further confidential information, you are advised that, in private discussions with officers of the Department, Mr. Hanihara and Mr. Matsudaira, the members of the Japanese Delegation who were especially charged with the question of the Chinese Eastern Railway, frequently urged the desirability of Japan and the United States arriving informally at a preliminary accord on this subject, in analogy to the negotiations which led up to the agreement for the supervision of the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern Railways concluded in January, 1919. On the day before his departure from Washington, February 14, Mr. Matsudaira again spoke of the desirability of proceeding in this manner. He said that he had intended to obtain the authorization of his Government to begin discussions with the Department at Washington, but his early departure had made this impracticable. Immediately upon his return to Tokyo, however, he would consult with his superiors in the Foreign Office and then probably seek an interview with you. The officer of the Department with whom he spoke did not intimate whether or not the United States would consider it advisable to reach a preliminary understanding with Japan before consulting the other Powers further, but said that you would, of course, be glad to receive him at any time and hear anything he had to suggest. The Department would have no intention of attempting to settle this matter with Japan to the exclusion of the other Powers concerned, even if this were possible, but perceives no objection in principle to an informal exchange of views between any two Powers in an entirely preliminary sense.

It is possible that before Mr. Matsudaira’s call on you other diplomatic developments may have occurred along the lines indicated in the Department’s cablegram No. 22, to Peking. You will then, of course, have these in mind, but it is desired in any case that you maintain a merely receptive attitude, ascertaining as definitely as possible what the Japanese Foreign Office has to suggest and reporting this to the Department.

It may be added for your further information and guidance, that during the discussions in the Conference Mr. Hanihara disclosed a strong desire to obtain such an organization of any international [Page 886] body to be maintained at Harbin as would afford Japan “a position of equality.” When it was proposed at one point to do away with the Inter-Allied Committee at Vladivostok and continue the existing Technical Board at Harbin with amended and enlarged powers, Mr. Hanihara objected, manifestly because this would mean the continuance of an American as chairman. Mr. Hanihara frequently reiterated, on the other hand, that Japan would be very willing to proceed on the basis of the report of the sub-committee of technical advisers. This called for a new international organ—a Finance Committee—and it was plainly in Mr. Hanihara’s mind that the organization of this committee would be a matter of adjustment. You will recall that the question of the chairmanship was also mentioned in the Japanese reply of last September [October]62 to the American proposal then made for an amendment of the 1919 agreement.

When Mr. Hanihara brought this point out in the sub-committee of delegates, Mr. Root, on behalf of the United States, asserted very emphatically that he could not assent to any arrangement, such as was then under discussion, by which an end would be put to Mr. Stevens’ chairmanship and yet nothing really effective provided as an alternative means of assuring the continued operation of the railway and the protection of the rights of those in interest. He did not mean to say, Mr. Root added, that the United States would insist uncompromisingly upon Mr. Stevens’ continuance as chairman; it would yield, however, only in consideration of some arrangement which would provide more effectively for the ends in view.

A copy of this instruction is being forwarded to Peking for the confidential information of the Legation. It is desired that the Legation at Peking and the Embassy at Tokyo continue to maintain close contact and cooperation on this subject.

I am [etc.]

Henry P. Fletcher
  1. Conference on the Limitation of Armament, Washington, Nov. 12, 1921–Feb. 6, 1922 (in English and French), p. 1376.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. i, p. 608.