Moscow Embassy Files, Lot F–96

Minutes of the First Formal Session of the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers


1. The Agenda, etc.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Molotov then raised the question of the Conference agenda, pointing out that Mr. Byrnes, as the sponsor of the conference, had proposed an agenda of eight items. Mr. Molotov stated that in the opinion of the Soviet Delegation the first item on the agenda proposed by Mr. Byrnes should be placed at the end of the agenda and that two additional items should be inserted after item five.

[Page 836]

Mr. Molotov stated that the British Government had contributed its observations with regard to the proposed agenda and that Mr. Bevin had objected to discussing the question of withdrawing British troops from Greece. He added that Mr. Bevin had also made observations concerning economic collaboration in Europe without however proposing the inclusion of this topic in the agenda. Mr. Molotov stated further that Mr. Byrnes had objected to the proposal of the Soviet Government to discuss the withdrawal of American troops from China.

Mr. Byrnes stated that there must be a misunderstanding in this matter as he had no objection to discussing the question of American troops in China, but on the contrary, would be very glad to discuss it.

Mr. Molotov maintained that Mr. Harriman’s letter11 in this connection had replaced the question of withdrawing American troops from China by the question of withdrawing Allied troops from all independent states except Germany and Japan.

Mr. Byrnes at this point read aloud relevant excerpts of Mr. Harriman’s letter (see enclosure no. 1). Mr. Byrnes stated further that although he did not wish to arrive at a final understanding with regard to United States forces in China in the absence of a representative of the Chinese Government, he would be glad to discuss this question informally and also to discuss the withdrawal of Allied troops from all independent countries. With regard to Mr. Molotov’s suggestion that the first item on the agenda submitted by Mr. Byrnes should be placed at the end of the agenda, Mr. Byrnes stated that he had no objection to this.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Molotov then stated that the Soviet Government proposed to add to the agenda the following two questions:

The withdrawal of American troops from China, and
The withdrawal of British troops from Greece.

He stated further that the Soviet Delegation believed it necessary to receive information concerning developments in Indonesia and informally to exchange views on this topic. He stated that the Soviet Delegation, therefore, proposed to add the Indonesian situation to the agenda.

With regard to item six of Mr. Byrnes’ proposed agenda, concerning the transfer of control over Manchuria to the Chinese National Government, Mr. Molotov stated that this question might be removed from the agenda since the Soviet Government had a special agreement with [Page 837] the Chinese Government concerning Manchuria12 and since there were no differences of opinion between the Soviet and Chinese Governments on this score. He, therefore, saw no reason why the Manchurian question should require special consideration.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Byrnes stated that although the presence of United States troops in North China was covered by the surrender agreement,13 he had no objections to discussing this subject and would be glad to provide his colleagues with full information concerning it. He stated that his colleagues were entitled to be thoroughly informed concerning American actions in China and that he desired them to have this information. This, he said, applied to his desire to discuss the withdrawal of Allied troops from all states.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Byrnes stated that if Mr. Molotov’s suggestion with regard to Indonesia was based upon the inclusion by Mr. Byrnes of Manchuria on the agenda, he wished to point out that he had included Manchuria not in order to provoke a discussion of the conduct of the Soviet Command but purely to obtain information concerning the situation in Manchuria. He added that if Mr. Molotov so desired, he would be willing to withdraw the question of Manchuria from the agenda. He stated that this was particularly the case in view of Mr. Molotov’s statement that the USSR was working harmoniously with the Chinese Government in regard to Manchuria. He stated that he desired to advise his colleagues of the situation in North China and had also desired to inquire about the situation in Manchuria, in which all sides were interested, but that the question of Manchuria could be withdrawn if Mr. Molotov so wished.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

With regard to the question of the transfer of the control of Manchuria to the Chinese National Government, Mr. Molotov repeated that the Soviet Government had an agreement with the Chinese National Government concerning Manchuria. He stated further that the Soviet Command had worked out a plan of evacuation under the terms of this agreement in accordance with which the Soviet evacuation of Manchuria would have been completed by December 3. The Soviet Command had proceeded with the evacuation and had already evacuated southern Manchuria when the Chinese Government in the middle of November had requested that the evacuation be suspended for a period of one month, to which the Soviet Government had agreed. [Page 838] The Chinese Government had recently approached the Soviet Government again with the request that the evacuation be suspended until February 1st and this further proposal was now under consideration. Mr. Molotov concluded that the Soviet Government had neither misunderstandings nor differences of opinion with the Chinese Government on this question and accordingly he saw no reason for its inclusion in the agenda. With regard to the withdrawal of United States troops from North China, Mr. Molotov inquired whether he was correct in assuming that Mr. Byrnes did not object to the inclusion of this topic on the agenda and to an informal exchange of views upon it.

Mr. Byrnes stated that he was in agreement with this.

Mr. Molotov stated that with regard to Greece, he believed that the Ministers were fully entitled to have an exchange of views. He stated that if the withdrawal of our troops from Iran were to be discussed, he saw no reason why the withdrawal from Greece and China should not also be discussed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Byrnes suggested that the questions of evacuating troops from Greece, Iran and Indonesia be eliminated from the agenda but be discussed informally.

Mr. Molotov remarked that the agenda would be somewhat shorter in view of this and inquired whether agreement had been reached that the question of Manchuria should also be deleted from the agenda.

Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Bevin agreed that Manchuria should also be deleted.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Molotov summed up the items which had been agreed upon as constituting the agenda:

The reconvening of the Council of Foreign Ministers and the resumption of the work of their deputies.
The terms of reference of the Allied Council and FEC.
The creation of a unified administration for Korea looking toward the establishment of an independent Korean Government.
The disarming of Japanese armed forces in North China and their evacuation to Japan.
Conditions permitting the recognition of the present governments of Roumania and Bulgaria.
Proposals concerning a United Nations Commission for consideration of the control of atomic energy.

Mr. Molotov stated that he would proceed to the first item.

2. Preliminary Discussions

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Byrnes said that he had a statement which had been made by the President during the last day or so regarding the presence of [Page 839] American troops in North China14 (enclosure No. 5). He proposed that the other delegates take this statement for consideration and that it be discussed at tomorrow’s session.

Mr. Molotov expressed gratification to Mr. Byrnes for the document and terminated the session at 7:10 p.m.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  1. Omitted portions deal with items discussed other than China.
  2. Of December 9, p. 834.
  3. For text, see Department of State, United States Relations With China (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 592; for documentation, see post, pp. 851 ff.
  4. Apparently a reference to General Order No. 1; see directive by President Truman to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan (MacArthur) on August 15, ante, p. 530.
  5. For President Truman’s statement of United States policy towards China on December 15, see p. 770; for Secretary Byrnes’ summary of this statement, see infra.