740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 575
Briefing Book Paper1

top secret

Special Manchurian Problems

a. free port, dairen

In 1898 Russia obtained from China a 25–year lease of the Kwantung Leased Territory in South Manchuria2 in which is situated Dairen, a large modern ice-free port, and Port Arthur, a naval base. Dairen is connected with Siberia by rail through Manchuria. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese war, the lease was transferred to Japan with the consent of China.3 The period of the lease was extended to 99 years by the terms of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of 19154 (one of the so-called “21 Demands”), the validity of which China has contested. The United States Government has never recognized the validity of that Treaty.

Should the USSR enter the war against Japan, it is probable that the USSR will desire that Dairen retain the status of a “free port”.

So long as there is upheld the principle of nondiscrimination in international commercial relations, there would be no reason for the United States to oppose any Russian proposal that Dairen remain a “free port”. At the same time, however, the United States should support China’s sovereignty over the Kwantung Leased Territory, [Page 860] including Dairen, as that territory has been regarded as forming a part of Manchuria, and the Cairo Declaration5 provides that Manchuria is to be returned to the Republic of China.

b. traffic arrangements on manchurian railways

In 1896 China granted Russia the right to construct a railway known as the Chinese Eastern across Northern Manchuria to shorten the route across Siberia to Vladivostok. This railway, with all its appurtenances, was to revert to China free of charge 80 years after being placed in operation and China possessed the right to purchase the railway after 36 years.6 In 1898 Russia obtained, under similar terms, rights under which a connecting line was built southward from Harbin to Dairen and Port Arthur in the Kwantung Leased Territory.7 The lines were opened to traffic in 1901 and 1903, respectively.

The railway zone usually consisted of a narrow ribbon of land varying from 50 to 300 feet on either side of the right of way, except in special areas, principally railway towns, where it was widened to include sizeable settlements.

In 1905, as a result of the Russo-Japanese war, the rights pertaining to the southern half of the connecting line were transferred to Japan with the consent of China. This Japanese-held southern section was known as the South Manchuria Railway. The period of Japan’s lease on this line was extended to 99 years by the terms of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of 1915, the validity of which China has contested. The United States Government has never recognized the validity of that Treaty. In 1935 Soviet Russia sold the Chinese Eastern Railway (including the northern half of the connecting line to Dairen) to “Manchukuo”.8 The USSR, which has no completely ice-free port in the Far East, has both economic and historical reasons for wanting free use of and access to Dairen after the war.

So long as it is the intention of the Soviet Government to effect these purposes through amicable negotiations with China, there would appear to be no reason why the Government of the United States should offer opposition, provided that any arrangements made will not operate to establish in favor of the interests of the Soviet Union any general superiority of rights with respect to commercial and economic development in the area concerned.

Since the original trunk lines were built, there have been constructed both by Chinese and Japanese interests a considerable mileage of connecting lines. It is less likely that the Soviet Government will [Page 861] have an interest in any of these lines, her chief interest being in through traffic on the line between Manchuli and Vladivostok and between a point on that line (Harbin) and the ice-free port of Dairen.

Foreign traffic moving through Manchuria should have the unhampered right of duty-free transit by rail between Dairen and the international borders of Manchuria if Dairen is to be of maximum use as a free port.

  1. Cf. document No. 579, post, and vol. ii, document No. 1215.
  2. See John V. A. MacMurray, ed., Treaties and Agreements With and Concerning China, 1894–1919 (New York, 1921), vol. i, p. 119.
  3. See ibid., p. 522.
  4. Text printed ibid., vol. ii, p. 1220.
  5. Text in Department of State Bulletin, vol. ix, p. 393.
  6. See MacMurray, ed., Treaties and Agreements, vol. i, p. 81.
  7. See ibid., p. 119.
  8. See Arnold J. Toynbee, Survey of International Affairs, 1934 (London, 1935), p. 672.