893.00/5485: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Bell) to the Secretary of State

315. After a conference this morning regarding situation at Shanghai, British and Japanese Ministers, French Chargé d’Affaires and myself called on Minister for Foreign Affairs and explained to him that we could not regard with equanimity the situation threatening Shanghai by sea. The whole river from the arsenal to Woosung was practically one vast harbor full of ships of every nationality, and the idea of a naval battle in the greatest harbor of the East was unthinkable and, as far as we were concerned, could not be tolerated. Battle between Woosung forts and Nanking navy would practically result in blockade of Shanghai to say nothing of damage to foreign [Page 364] shipping by misdirected fire and excursion up to [sic] the river of navy to attack arsenal, and Lu’s ships would probably result in injury if not destruction of settlements which we could not contemplate. We desired to be absolutely neutral in this matter and did not wish to interfere with China’s internal wars but simply could not contemplate such situation as the foregoing. We hoped to receive from Koo a declaration of neutrality in respect of the whole river and its mouth, failing which we proposed to enforce same ourselves and we had the ships and men to do it. Koo did not take these representations amiss and promised to consult Minister of the Navy and give us a reply.

Meanwhile I am telegraphing foregoing to Admiral Washington, and consul general at Shanghai so they can concert with British, Japanese and French colleagues.