793.94/5716: Telegram

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

31. 1. The French Minister, the British Chargé, the Secretary in charge of the Italian Legation and I have been considering in the light of the serious situation which has arisen at Shanhaikwan the question of mediation. We have been led to this (in spite of the fact that neither side thus far appears to desire mediation) by the knowledge that the question is made acute because of the movement of Chinese reenforcements to the Tangshan area.

2. There is difficulty on the one hand that Japanese operations are being directed from Chinchow under instructions of General Muto at Changchun. On the other hand Chang Hsueh-liang will probably take no responsibility without sanction of Nanking. We are furthermore alive to the fact that in any mediation that might be undertaken it is impossible for us to undertake any commitments which would involve our forces as police for any neutral zone or of offering any guarantees to either side.

3. Such information as is available to us here indicates that the only settlement which could satisfy [(a)] the Japanese would be the elimination of Chinese military from the Shanhaikwan area and the maintenance of Japanese rights under the Boxer protocol32 (i.e., right to station troops along line of railway) and (b) the Chinese, the reoccupation by them of Shanhaikwan and recognition of their undisputed right to dispose of their forces where they please inside the Wall and probably in Jehol. The objectives are admittedly well-nigh [Page 24] irreconcilable but if extension of operations is to be avoided we feel that in spite thereof some attempt along the lines of the following paragraph offers only chance of possible solution.

4. Our view is that any mediation without full consent of highest authorities on both sides is to be depreciated [deprecated?] and mediation if attempted should be under the auspices of great powers acting in concert, if not of the League itself. Main object should be to bring both parties together with representatives of major powers or powers designated by the League participating as at Shanghai with restricted aim of localizing affair and preventing extension of military operations.

5. We venture, therefore, to suggest to our respective Governments that the offer of our good offices for purposes outlined above be made to the Governments at Tokyo and Nanking.

6. Above-mentioned colleagues are sending messages along above lines to their respective Governments.

Repeated to Tokyo for information.