The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 28—7:05 p.m.]
3398. Following telegram received from Vladivostok: (Repeated Chungking 172).
“177, September 20, 2 p.m. Quoted interview regarding Soviet action in respect to Chinese Changchun Railway further stated that railway gauge has been ‘done over’ (pereshita), that is by implication changed to broad Russian gauge, for more than 1,500 kilometers which would be roughly the whole length of the line from Manchuli to Pogranichnaya (reference Consulate’s telegram September 19, 11 p.m. [a.m.?]68). This would be a considerable feat to accomplish in approximately one month, especially if, as stated elsewhere in interview, almost all sleepers had rotted and turned to dust under Japanese exploitation. It seems possible, however, that Soviet report of poor condition in which they discovered railway contained some exaggeration and Chinese Consul General considers that if original sleepers were used gauge could probably be changed in time indicated. Note that Red Army Journal Krasnaya Zvezda September 6 reported also that trains are running over altered gauge with first train reaching Harbin August 29 from Pogranichnaya. That item reports that work of restoration roadbed and changing gauge effected by Soviet railway troops with cooperation of local population. It has of late been rumored in town that a passenger train was to leave Vladivostok for Harbin on September 21 but current informal inquiry at local railway station elicits information that ‘perhaps’ that train will leave next week.[Page 1030]
I observed to Chinese Consul General that pertinent Sino-Soviet agreement of August 1469 made no reference to such technical questions as railway gauge. Noting that gauge had evidently been changed even before technical commissions had been set up (Articles 15 and 16 of agreement), I asked whether he had heard anything on subject. Consul General stated that he had heard nothing from Chungking regarding matter and assumed that Soviets had gone forward with effecting change while ‘military conditions’ prevailed. Referring to reputedly scheduled opening up of rail communications between Harbin and Vladivostok, I asked whether the Chinese Consul General would be called upon to perform any services such as issue of visas for travelers to Manchuria and Consul General replied that until Chinese representatives arrived in Manchuria presumably special ‘war time’ procedures would be followed by Soviets in respect to such matters. Clubb.”