893.00/10004: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State

399. My 360, May 17, 4 p.m.

Senior commandant at Tientsin presented to Generals Butler and Castner a draft notification to the various Chinese authorities both Northern and Southern extending beyond the agreed defense areas the lines within which the Chinese armed forces would [not?] be allowed. Both Butler and Castner declined to approve of or to join in the notification.
On May 22nd Gauss62 telephoned me that the notification in question had actually been issued by the Japanese commandant acting [Page 233] in behalf of the “commandants of the international forces protecting the foreign concession at Tientsin.” I at once explained the situation to the British and Italian Ministers who happened to be dining with me and who had no knowledge of the action taken by their commandants at Tientsin. I later called on the Japanese consul general [Minister?] and told him of the embarrassment created for us by the action which his commandant had taken. I recalled that we had definitely taken a position against extending the defense lines and that, although the notification issued by General Arai was in behalf of “the commandants of the international forces protecting the foreign concessions at Tientsin”—a phrase which perhaps literally excluded the commandant of the American protocol forces—it was a phrase which would be generally understood as referring to the whole body of protocol forces. The effect of this was to put us in a false position, making it appear that we were parties to an action which we in fact considered unwise and in which we had refused to join. I said that I must reserve in behalf of my Government the right to take any action which it might see fit for the purpose of dissociating ourselves from such action. The Japanese Minister said that he really knew very little about the matter and that a copy of the proclamation had been presented to him a few days before in the light of a routine matter involving nothing new to which he had given consent without particular scrutiny. He said however that the copy of the notification brought to Peking had not yet been delivered and that he would take whatever steps might prove possible to withhold the issuance of the notice until the matter had been thrashed out.
On May 23rd, Gauss again telephoned me to the effect that the notification had not in fact been issued in any way, Japanese Minister had at my instance requested General Arai to hold the measure in abeyance for the time being: but that there was to be a meeting of the commandants the next day at which an effort would be made to have them agree to the issuance of the notification as a matter of military necessity. I requested him to convey to General Castner that our attitude toward an extension of the lines was not merely one of aloofness but one of definite opposition. The French military attaché later intimated to me that his Legation would instruct the French commandant to oppose the suggested extension of the defense lines, and the British Minister also informed me that he would warn his commandant.
At the meeting on May 24th the commandants decided to abandon the proposed notification and to continue to cooperate along the general lines laid down in the existing plan of combined action; and that should it later be thought advisable to issue any notification as [Page 234] to the area to be defended, that should be done only upon consultation with the interested Ministers at Peking.
  1. Telegram in three sections.
  2. Clarence E. Gauss, consul general at Tientsin.