Moscow Embassy Files, Lot F–96

Memorandum of Conversation Between the Three Foreign Ministers


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3. North China

Mr. Molotov asked the Secretary if he had anything further to say on north China in the light of the Soviet memorandum of December 21.

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The Secretary said that he had discussed this question three times with Mr. Molotov and he had submitted a paper on the subject and also sent Mr. Molotov a copy of the President’s statement. He felt he had nothing to add. He did note, however, that the Soviet memorandum to which Mr. Molotov referred revealed that his statements both in writing and orally had not cleared up Soviet misunderstandings. For example, it was stated in the Soviet memorandum that American troops would remain in China in order to restore stability in that country. This was not true since the American troops would be removed as soon as the problem of the disarming of the Japanese had been settled. He had explained in great detail why this was a complicated question and might take some time, but the United States felt that it was its duty to carry out this task and to help Chiang effect a surrender of these Japanese forces. He pointed out that the Japanese surrender had placed the responsibility upon the Soviet Union for the surrender of Japanese troops in Manchuria and on the Chinese Government for those in north China. Chiang Kai-shek had asked for patience and more time in order to carry out his responsibility and the United States Government was prepared to be patient with a friendly and Allied government. He said that in the last analysis if the Chinese Government was unable to do this it would then devolve upon the United States to do it with their own forces. He had also explained to Mr. Molotov the difficulty in regard to shipping and the efforts we were making to expedite the evacuation of the Japanese. He said the United States was doing all it could and he had explained everything in detail to Mr. Molotov.

Mr. Molotov said that they were interested in a fixed date for simultaneous evacuation of both Soviet and United States forces from China.

The Secretary stated that he could not agree on a fixed date since it was not at all certain how much time would be required to complete the task of disarming the Japanese. He pointed out that the Soviet Union had admittedly on China’s request already postponed twice the date of the evacuation of Soviet forces from Manchuria. He did not wish on behalf of the United States to fix a date and then subsequently have to change it. He said that if the date were fixed in the middle of January as the Soviet Delegation proposed it would mean that our troops would leave China while there were still over 200,000 armed Japanese in the area. This should be clear to Mr. Molotov since he had explained that we could only move 3,000 Japanese a day. He said that when Mr. Molotov had explained to him the reasons why Soviet forces were still remaining in Manchuria he had accepted these explanations in full faith and he must request Mr. Molotov to accept in like manner the explanations of the United States.

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Mr. Molotov said that he was asking merely for a time limit on the disarming of the Japanese and not for their evacuation to Japan. That admittedly would take a longer time. He said that forces of both countries were there by Chinese request but that what he was interested in was an agreement for simultaneous withdrawal within a fixed period. He said they wished to get their troops back as soon as possible and not leave them unnecessarily in Manchuria.

The Secretary replied that if the Soviet Union were remaining in Manchuria to disarm the Japanese there would be no question of the necessity of their remaining there until this was completed, but it was a different matter when they were remaining there solely by request of the Chinese. He repeated that we did not desire to interfere in Chinese affairs and for that reason our Marines had not gone into the interior, which would have involved them in the fighting between the two Chinese factions. He repeated that the United States could not reject the request of its friend to be granted more time in order to arrange for the disarming of these Japanese troops by the forces of the Central Government.

Mr. Molotov asserted that the Japanese were not resisting disarming and that the Soviet Government felt that the disarming of these Japanese forces could not be delayed. The question of evacuation was a definite question which would obviously take longer. He said their information was that there were 500,000 Japanese troops in north China.

Mr. Molotov pointed out that the presence of American forces in north China was a new development and one which had not been contemplated when the Soviet Government signed its agreement with China.

The Secretary replied that he did not see what the presence of the United States troops in China had to do with the Soviet-Chinese agreement.

Mr. Molotov again suggested that they agree on a date for simultaneous withdrawal, if not the middle of January, then some later date. He said that he felt that the task of disarming the Japanese was as complicated as the Chinese claimed.

The Secretary said that he believed that Mr. Molotov was asking these questions merely because he liked the sound of his (Mr. Byrnes’) voice.

Mr. Molotov replied that he found Mr. Byrnes’ voice very pleasant but even more pleasant would be an agreement for the simultaneous withdrawal of troops.

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The Secretary said that he had explained in great detail and at length the position of the United States Government. He said that we were supporting the Central Government and so was the Soviet Union and it would, therefore, not be in accordance with our common policy to do anything which would place the Central Government in a more difficult position. He said that it was our desire to see a unified China and he hoped that the Soviet Government would cooperate in the furtherance of that aim.

Mr. Molotov replied that the aim of the Soviet Union was identical with that of the United States Government on this question.