125.461/9–2846: Telegram

The Consul at Mukden ( Coffey ) to the Secretary of State

211. This message from Clubb.

Secret indication by Embassy in its telegram September 24, 9 a.m. to Mukden after matter had been taken up with Chou En-lai that “possibility your (Harbin staffs) preceeding Harbin within immediate future with Communist approval now appears remote in view recent political developments” leads me respectfully offer for consideration Department and Embassy following review and observations ReDeptel 74, August 26:41

I was on October 4 last year designated by Department to proceed Manchuria to visit Harbin, Mukden and Dairen. As Department is aware, Soviet opposition sufficed to thwart American desire thus to observe course of events in Manchuria under Soviet occupation and I was forced eventually to leave Vladivostok by sea for Shanghai instead of entering Manchuria from USSR and was reassigned Mukden. Chase arrived Mukden in April with destination Harbin but as is also well known was unable proceed to his post. Communist obstructionism now is evidently going to be continued in respect to renewed project of staffs proceeding Harbin for legitimate purpose reopening American consular office there.

As background for this picture, would note that following foreign representatives are now in or near Harbin: Danish Consul Buck, French Consular Agent Lodjak, Soviet Consul Pavlichev (previously stationed at and now designated for Changchun), Executive Headquarters teams 35 and 36, Huangcheng and Tsitsihar respectively, and Japanese repatriation team. UNRRA42 and CNRRA43 representatives [Page 1145] were scheduled to proceed Harbin yesterday, but have been held up at Changchun pending acquiring Chinese interpreter. Foreign visitors to Harbin have included reparation mission, UNRRA representatives, and newsmen on various occasions. Besides consular officers, Soviets maintain there various other representatives and are understood to have recently reached an agreement with National Government for opening consular office Tsitsihar as well as Mukden and Changchun (unconfirmed officially). It is fully apparent that Soviet representatives meet no opposition from Chinese Communist authorities to their entry into and residence in Manchurian territory under Communist control. Communists can offer no logic to oppose entry thereto of American diplomatic officials.

It is now obvious to observers that inability State Department representatives proceed on their official business to north Manchuria resulted in first instance from direct opposition of Soviets and results now from indirect Soviet opposition expressed through Chinese Communists. Reason for that opposition cannot be other than Soviet desire that there be exercised least possible American observation and influence in area in question. That Soviets will maintain that opposition until it is overcome by superior force is to be expected on basis past performance.

Manchuria is a region of primary importance to USA in current international relations. Stalin’s44 letter September 24 to Times representative expressed simultaneously Soviet interest in China and desire see American influence there reduced, in respect to Chinese internal affairs, by withdrawal troops. Procedure to be adopted to implement best American policies in East Asia must perforce be determined in general by consideration all pertinent factors. It is not my present purpose to consider general problem, but it seems incontrovertible in particular that American representatives should have access to their designated posts. Soviet dictates to contrary expressed through mouthpiece of Chinese political party, which itself enjoys privileges of maintaining its representatives in Nationalist territory and having them travel by American transport facilities, logically need not be accepted by a power commanding political resources and authority of USA. In such circumstances a halting before Communists’ delaying tactics, and regard given to any implicit threats from that pressure for desired “privilege” might interfere with other and weightier matters, could I submit only play into hands of Communists and Soviet, who by established principle never give way on anything not benefiting them unless compelled by superior force to do so. I, of course, defer to superior position Department [Page 1146] and Embassy for judging overall situation. But I offer my considered opinion that this is no side issue which might economically be sidetracked for other political matters bearing semblance of more urgency, but is part of the important whole.

I believe issue should be made clear-cut by categorically demanding of Communists clearance for American plane proceeding Harbin at scheduled day and hour with Consular staff under orders re-open office that point, and that the demand should be armed by explicit or implicit threat making it plain that any further Communist obstructionism would bring from American side positive action detrimental to Communist (and therefore Soviet) cause in China. I believe that it has now been proven that only forceful approach can rip open iron curtain blocking road to Harbin. Contel September 4, 1 p.m., September 5, 3 p.m. and September 26, 1 p.m. to Embassy.

Am planning proceed Changchun not later than upon return Chase to Mukden and unless transport facilities in meantime become available for Harbin travel I plan to develop temporary office already set up Changchun by Chase by expanding quarters and having clerk Dunn join rest of staff there. Radio-technician Snider returned Shanghai today in view present inability proceed Harbin but tentative plan is that he will return week hence to set up station at Changchun, thus giving office independent service. Staff at Changchun can perform valuable work of observation and representation during any interim period of waiting, but I would point to patent fact that acceptance over period time of that second-best post instead of Harbin would mean (1) acceptance defeat at hands weaker opponent with some possible consequent injury to American authority, (2) deprivation of Department, during period of exclusion, of political and administrative benefits to be gained by maintenance office at Harbin, and (3) in practice, probably the renunciation of project reopening Harbin until such time as Nationalist armies might reach that point. Such time by present indications would probably not be before next spring at earliest, and depending upon the interim developments might well turn out to be much later. I have felt it incumbent upon me, because of my present orders and the long delay thus far experienced in re-opening Harbin, to set forth position in this detail. I have done this in support of expression my firm conviction there should be no further delay, and of my recommendation respectfully urged that Department and Embassy fix upon procedure to overcome at this time Communist and Soviet opposition to our entry into Harbin to re-open consular office there as instructed.

Department please forward Nanking. [Clubb.]

  1. Not printed; it instructed Mr. Clubb to proceed to Harbin when feasible to open the Consulate General and Mr. Chase to assume charge at Mukden pending arrival of Angus Ward, appointed Consul General (123 Clubb, Oliver Edmund).
  2. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
  3. Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
  4. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union.