Moscow Embassy Files, Lot F–96

Memorandum of Conversation Between the Three Foreign Ministers

The Secretary said that this was the first of the informal restricted meetings which had been agreed to be held on questions not formally on the agenda. He said that in regard to North China he had proposed this item in order to give an opportunity for the three of them to discuss both the situation in North China and that in Manchuria primarily to make sure that each understood what the other was doing since our objectives were identical. At Potsdam the three Governments had agreed as to the Cairo Declaration and subsequently as to the Potsdam Declaration, which was to the effect that the Chinese Government would receive the surrender of Japanese troops and that stolen Chinese territory would be restored to China. The Secretary said that two weeks ago in Washington the Chinese Ambassador had told him of the troubles they were having in regard to revolutionists in China. He said he called them revolutionists since he remembered Generalissimo Stalin telling the President at Potsdam that they were not communists. He added that the information which Mr. Molotov had given him two days ago concerning the Chinese request that the Soviet Government leave its troops in Manchuria until February 1 had made clear the present situation in Manchuria.

Mr. Molotov answered that the Chinese Government had first proposed in October that Soviet troops be left until January 1 but for technical reasons connected with their movements it had been agreed to leave them until February 1. He said that had it not been for this Chinese request, Soviet troops would now have been completely out of Manchuria. As it was, they had evacuated southern Manchuria.

The Secretary said that in North China the situation was complicated. There were 300,000 Japanese troops which had not yet been disarmed and that the Chinese National Government did not have sufficient troops on the spot to do this. He said that under the various agreements to support the Central Government they had all agreed that the forces of Chiang Kai-shek would take the surrender. He said our desire was to have these troops disarmed and evacuated to Japan as soon as possible and at the same time to avoid interference [Page 842] in China’s domestic affairs. One difficulty was the shortage of shipping, but we hoped to obtain additional ships and speed up the evacuation of the Japanese. He said the other difficulty was that the revolutionist or communist forces in North China were in between the nationalist forces and the 300,000 Japanese he had spoken of. In addition, while not organized into regular armies, the revolutionists numbered some 400,000. Chiang Kai-shek had only 100,000 in the area. This was caused by the fact that Chiang Kai-shek had sent troops to Manchuria and needed some time in order to assemble and move to North China additional forces. It was for this reason that the United States was leaving its marines in North China. The Secretary said that General Marshall’s instructions were first to attempt to get a truce agreed upon in North China between the nationalist forces and the revolutionists. If this could be done, then our marines could go inland to the railroad, disarm and evacuate the Japanese without risk of becoming involved in fighting between the Chinese factions. To attempt to do it without a truce would merely mean that the revolutionary forces, being nearer the railroad and the Japanese forces than the nationalist forces, would move in and occupy these areas before the nationalist troops could get there, thus cutting Chiang Kai-shek’s communications with Manchuria and setting the stage for a large-scale civil war. He said that if the truce were possible, General Marshall would then attempt to use his influence and the influence of the United States on Chiang Kai-shek to bring about a basic agreement concerning communist representation in the Government, which would permit of a unified government for China. If no truce could be arranged, the other alternative would be to fly in nationalist troops over the heads of the revolutionists and let them disarm the Japanese and occupy the railroad.

Mr. Molotov said he found it very abnormal that four months after the surrender there were still fully armed Japanese troops.

The Secretary pointed out that under the various agreements Chiang Kai-shek was to take the surrender but that his forces in the area were physically too weak to do so and also were, according to the Central Government, being prevented by the revolutionary forces. He said that according to our information the Japanese were quite prepared to surrender but would surrender only to Chiang Kai-shek’s forces or to United States forces.

Mr. Molotov said that he did not see how it could be tolerated that Japanese forces were still in being and asked Mr. Bevin’s opinion on that.

Mr. Bevin replied that he had not studied all the details of the North China situation but that in general he felt that while local disturbances interfered with the prompt execution of the Japanese [Page 843] surrender, our three powers should use their influence to overcome these disturbances in order to permit the carrying out of the main objectives connected with the Japanese surrender.

The Secretary pointed out that when we had all agreed to support the Government of Chiang Kai-shek, it was difficult to do something that would impair his position in China and make certain a large-scale civil war. He mentioned in this connection that Generalissimo Stalin had stated that Chiang Kai-shek was the only Chinese leader in sight and that there were no other elements that could hope to bring about the unity of China.

Mr. Molotov replied that it was without question that we had all agreed to support Chiang Kai-shek and that the Soviet Union had embodied this in writing in its agreements with China. He said, however, that he felt Chiang Kai-shek’s Government exaggerated the strength of the communist forces in Manchuria and in North China and that they really did not wish to do any fighting themselves but preferred to have others do it for them. He said that that was a well-known Chinese practice. He concluded by saying that they should dicuss the situation in North China again as he wished to study it in more detail. The Secretary’s statement, however, had made the main point clear.

The Secretary inquired whether Mr. Molotov had anything to add to his information concerning Manchuria.

Mr. Molotov replied he thoroughly agreed with Mr. Byrnes that we should exchange information and verify that our positions were in harmony. He repeated that except for the Chinese request the Soviet forces would have already left Manchuria in accordance with the published treaty with China. He repeated that it was the Soviet policy to support Chiang Kai-shek and that they were adhering to that policy. They were leaving their troops in Manchuria at China’s request so that Chiang Kai-shek’s forces would have time to get into Mukden and Changchun. He repeated his statement that he felt that the number of non-government or communist forces had been exaggerated in order to have others do the work for them. He said he felt this was also true in regard to North China.

The Secretary replied that according to our information the communist forces in North China were considerably larger, as he had stated, than the Government forces.

Mr. Molotov said that they could discuss this question again but he felt some way must be found to disarm and remove the Japanese as soon as possible. He felt that eight years of war should have been long enough for Chiang Kai-shek to learn how to handle Japanese, particularly after the latter had capitulated.

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The Secretary again stated that General Marshall would attempt to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to make a proper agreement with the communists as the best method of avoiding large-scale civil war and bringing about a unified China.

Mr. Molotov stated that the United States was in the best position to know the intentions and plans of Chiang Kai-shek’s Government. The only question was whether Chiang Kai-shek really desired to settle his internal problems.

The Secretary replied that he thought he did, but on his own terms.

In reply to a question from Mr. Molotov The Secretary stated that General Marshall was even more of a statesman than he had been a military man and that we could have found no better person for this difficult task; that he was there as a special representative of the President and not an Ambassador.

[Here follows a discussion of other agenda questions.]