The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

No. 1667

Sir: With reference to the Embassy’s confidential despatch No. 1472, dated July 14, 1938,5 regarding recent developments in relations between the Soviet Union and the Far East, I have the honor to inform the Department of subsequent developments with regard thereto.


General Relations.

Relations between Japan and the Soviet Union have been featured by the Changkufeng incident, recently settled, involving the most serious fighting that has taken place during the long history of frontier disputes between the two countries, which has been fully reported to the Department in separate despatches and telegrams.6

Oppression” of Japanese Concessionaires in Sakhalin.

Although the importance of the Changkufeng hostilities temporarily overshadowed all the other incidents outstanding between the two Governments, foreign press reports received here indicate that just prior to the outbreak of the fighting between Japanese and Soviet troops the Japanese Government was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the treatment accorded Japanese coal and oil concessionaires in North Sakhalin by Soviet officials and had lodged new protests with regard thereto. Soviet officials, according to the Embassy’s information, were alleged to have pursued such obstructive tactics that half of the short four-months’ working season was consumed in futile attempts to obtain Soviet laborers to work the concessions and in endeavors [Page 294] to obtain the assistance of the foreign section of the Soviet Commissariat for Heavy Industry in settling other pending issues. Since the Changkufeng truce of Aug. 10th the negotiations over the composition and scope of the boundary commission and the approach of the winter season in Sakhalin have temporarily put these problems into the background.

Closure of Two Additional Japanese Consulates in the Soviet Union.

During the period immediately succeeding the truce in the Changkufeng hostilities the Soviet Government forced Japan to close two additional Japanese consulates on Soviet territory, those at Khabarovsk and Blagoveshchensk. The Embassy understands that a strong but unavailing protest was made to the Soviet authorities in this connection. At present, according to a member of the Japanese Embassy here, there remain on Soviet territory only four Japanese consulates,—those at Vladivostok, Alexandrovsk & Okha-on-Sakhalin, and Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka; the latter of which is a seasonal consulate established each summer to render assistance to Japanese fishing interests which operate in Soviet Far Eastern waters in accordance with a series of agreements between the two countries flowing out of the Treaty of Portsmouth.7

Release of Soviet Vessel Seized by Japan.

Since the settlement of the Changkufeng hostilities only one minor incident between the two countries has come to the Embassy’s attention here, that of a Soviet motor boat which drifted to Ushige on the western coast of Sakhalin on June 3, was seized by the Japanese authorities and not permitted to depart for Soviet territory until the 24th of August, after a long series of examinations held by Japanese officials at Toyohara.

Soviet Protest to Japan Regarding the Alleged Torture of Soviet Citizens by Japanese Police.

As reported to the Department,* the Soviet Government presented a protest to the Japanese Government against the alleged torturing by Japanese officials of the captain and certain members of the crew of the Soviet refrigerator ship No. 1, which was seized by the Japanese in La Perouse Strait on May 31, 1938. A full translation of this protest, taken from the Moscow Pravda, is attached hereto8 for the Department’s information.


The new Chinese Ambassador to the Soviet Union, General Yang [Page 295] Chieh, presented his credentials to Mr. Kalinin, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U. S. S. R., on September 4, 1938. In a statement handed to the press at the time of presenting his credentials, General Yang expressed admiration for the successes of the Soviet Union and for what he characterized as the new culture and new life of the Union “under the highly gifted leadership of Lenin and Stalin”. He expressed his conviction that “basing itself on what it has already attained and forging ahead, the Soviet Union, by its example and by its tremendous moral influence, will guarantee progress and happiness to the whole of humanity”. The new Ambassador further referred to the developments in China under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek and stated that in the circumstances “the undeniably friendly relations existing between the two great countries and gaining in strength every day are quite natural”. A full translation of General Yang’s statement is transmitted herewith9 for the Department’s further information. According to the Soviet press General Yang is a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang Party, Rector of the Chinese Military Academy and Assistant Chief of the General Staff. A short biographical sketch published in the Soviet press is as follows:

During the period of the Northern Expedition, 1926–27, he commanded the 6th and 18th National Revolutionary Armies. In 1928 he was Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the National Revolutionary Army. In 1930–31 he was commander of a fortress on the Yangtze River. In 1933 he commanded the 8th Corps on the front at the Great Chinese Wall against the Japanese invasion. In 1933–34 he was chairman of a Chinese military delegation visiting European countries. During the period 1933–35 ne was chairman of the commission dealing with civil affairs in the provinces of Shansi and Shensi.

Soviet Assistance to China.

Although it is impossible to confirm in Moscow the nature and extent of Soviet assistance to China in its fight against Japan, press reports continue to circulate here of the actuality of such assistance, particularly in the shape of pilots and planes as well as, less insistent, reports of tanks and military instructors. Recently, in discussing present conditions in China, a member of the Chinese Embassy said that China is no longer having difficulty in obtaining military supplies and intimated that a portion of them are coming from the Soviet Union. He stated in this connection that it is an open secret that the purpose of the present Chinese Mission here is to obtain as much military assistance as possible.

Respectfully yours,

A. C. Kirk
  1. Not printed.
  2. See pp. 441 ff.
  3. Signed September 5, 1905, Foreign Relations, 1905, p. 824.
  4. Embassy’s telegram No. 264, August 21, 1938. [Footnote In the original; telegram not printed.]
  5. See Embassy’s despatch No. 1426, June 29, 1938. [Footnote in the original; despatch not printed.]
  6. Not printed.
  7. See Embassy’s despatch No. 1426, June 29, 1938. [Footnote in the original; despatch not printed.]
  8. Not printed.
  9. Moscow Pravda, September 5, 1938. [Footnote in the original.]