793.94 Shanghai Round Table/2: Telegram

The Chargé in Japan (Neville) to the Acting Secretary of State

125. The Minister for Foreign Affairs asked the Italian, French, and British Ambassadors and myself to visit him this afternoon. He said that the fighting in Shanghai was now, he hoped, finished and he wished to thank the representatives of the friendly powers, particularly the British Minister in Shanghai, for the great part they had taken in arranging the settlement.

The settlement arrived at was a preliminary truce and it would now be necessary to provide for establishment of permanent peace in the Shanghai region. The Japanese desire this because of the entire withdrawal of their troops from Shanghai, which began on the 10th from the front line and would be continued until all of the soldiers were gone. He could not say definitely when the evacuation would be completed because that depended upon conditions of transport and embarkment with which he was not familiar. The 14th Division has [Page 14] already gone to Manchuria. The others will return to Japan and a small force of gendarmes will be the only Japanese force remaining.

In view of this situation the maintenance of peace will not depend on the Japanese Army, and as conditions there concern not only the Japanese but all foreign interests as well it is necessary to make arrangements to remove any menace of a similar incident in the future and to protect the International Settlement and French Concession.

The idea of a round-table conference was taken up in a resolution of the Council of the League of Nations on February 29th.13 Considering the political situation in Shanghai there is no assurance that there will be peace there. Reports, he said, had come to him that the Chinese politicians anticipated another civil war after the Japanese withdrawal. So long as the Japanese remain the Cantonese will not attack Chiang Kai-shek as they may be criticized as not being patriotic, but after the Japanese withdraw it seems that the Canton attitude may change. He said that of course Chinese internal politics were not a matter with which the powers should concern themselves but it is necessary to take some sort of measures for the protection of interests of foreign lives and property. An especial danger is that of the communist movement. The areas of communistic control in Central and South China are growing and conditions in the Province of Fukien are so bad that the Japanese are preparing to evacuate Amoy. Consequently they desire to hasten the assurance of peace and order around Shanghai in consulting with the powers chiefly interested, particularly those who assisted in bringing about the present arrangement.

He said that if we were to talk over this matter at a round-table conference at which the Chinese were present from the outset it would be listless [fruitless?] as the Chinese will be certain to take domestic politics into account and there would be endless delays and discussions. He said that he thought that it would be better to talk the situation over among the five powers and if they reach any agreement in outline they may then ask the Chinese to join and make arrangements for giving effect to any plans that may be worked out. He suggested that the subjects to be considered were the maintenance of peace and order in and around Shanghai and the prohibition of reestablishment of armed positions or military preparations or works in the Shanghai region. The Japanese intend to ask for the confirmation and fulfillment of the terms of the note of the Mayor of Shanghai of January 28. They do not intend to make this last point the sine qua non of a round-table conference though they consider it extremely important. He then [Page 15] asked for expressions of opinion on the subject. I made no comment but the French Ambassador stated that in his judgment it would be difficult to get the Chinese into a meeting at the present time. He said that there had been a great deal of difficulty in Shanghai and concerted action had in the past seemed necessary and perhaps would be necessary again. In reply to a question by the British Ambassador as to the place of meeting for the preliminary discussions the Foreign Minister suggested that it might be easier to talk in Tokyo but he was not prepared to insist on that point although he thought it would be simpler to do so as the Chinese would not take offense nor would so much publicity arise out of international discussions here as would be the case in China. He said that of course the final discussions at which the Chinese were present would have to be in China because the details of settlement and positions could only be worked out on the spot or sufficiently near it to enable the conference to be a success. In reply to a further question by the British Ambassador he said that naturally his own feeling was that the conference should take place as soon as possible and that that would be easy as the Japanese troops were leaving as fast as possible. We all said that we would report the conversation to our Governments and ask for instructions in the premises.

After the conversation the four Ambassadors came to the Embassy. We agreed, that we could not well refuse to accept the Foreign Minister’s proposal but that in view of the attitude which had been adopted by our Governments no conference should take place until after the withdrawal of the Japanese troops. I respectfully request the Department’s instructions.

Repeated to Peiping.

  1. For text of “proposal,” see telegram No. 92, February 29, 7 p.m., from the Consul at Geneva, vol. iii, p. 479.