The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State
[Received October 8—10:32 a.m.]
1871. Since fall of Tsinan we have reviewed military situation (Embtel 1807, September 3033) and have reconsidered from political point of view position of naval forces based Tsingtao. We know problem has previously been subject of JCS recommendation and we submit following in event JCS should reconsider in light of changed situation Shantung.
Communists now have clear-cut capability concentrating forces before Tsingtao defenses which would vastly outnumber any garrison Government could build up there. While it is by no means certain that Communists will embark on such course of action fact remains they can do so if they desire. In this situation there appear from the purely political point of view three possible courses of action for ComNavWesPac:
- Considering Communist capability to take Tsingtao in absence our active intervention, he could withdraw immediately or he could evacuate dependents and withdraw at first sign of major Communist concentration in area. Such action, we believe, would be disastrous in effect on morale of Chinese Government and its armed forces and would be taken by world at large as evidence our belief situation North China hopeless and as consequence we are withdrawing. One of principal elements contributing to what remains of stability in political, economic and military situation is conviction among Chinese that greater American military and other aid will be forthcoming one of these days. Abandonment Tsingtao would destroy that hope and hasten disintegration Nationalist Government. Also plans for emergency evacuation of Americans from North China would have to be completely revised.
- He could evacuate dependents, strengthen his forces and generally let it be known that he was prepared defend Tsingtao against Communist attack. This would be a calculated risk yet one where we feel strong chance is Communists would not test sincerity his position. Such position could not be taken without authorization to ComNavWesPac to fight if necessary. US naval forces are in Tsingtao with the consent of the recognized Government of China. It could be argued that if territory of Nationalist Government with whom we maintain unusually close and friendly relations is attacked by rebels or pirates without international standing our navy would be justified in defending its own personnel and installation alongside troops of host Government. From political point of view, however, we believe risk of finding ourselves thus actively participating in the civil war is one we would not be warranted in assuming at this stage. Also killing of Chinese, albeit Communist Chinese, by American Armed [Page 326] Forces would, regardless of circumstances, be bitterly resented by Chinese of all political persuasions and might do irreparable damage to our prestige in China.
- He might evacuate dependents and put afloat all supplies and stores possible reducing personnel remaining ashore to that minimum necessary to maintain installations and await possible Communist attack on Tsingtao. Should Communists show clear intentions attack he could announce publicly his neutrality and fact that he would take no part in defense of port but express his intention remain Tsingtao to protect American life, property and naval installations which would be clearly designated by US flag. Such move would have advantage from political point of view, we believe, that should Communists refuse recognize his position and disregard American character of his installations by attacking them, responsibility for starting the show would rest on Communists rather than ComNavWesPac. If, during withdrawal under these conditions, some Chinese Communist casualties result repercussions would likely be less than under conditions envisaged in (1) above. Should the Communists on the other hand, as seems not entirely impossible in view their recent change in tactics in other newly acquired territories, recognize his position and respect his installations he could at least withdraw later should they so demand without too great loss of prestige and he might be allowed to remain. In the meantime the serious repercussions which would result from immediate withdrawal would be avoided.
The considerations set forth above are, of course, mainly political in character; choice of courses of action may in long run be determined by worldwide strategic and military factors of which we are unaware. For this reason we hesitate to recommend any of the three courses. Each seems unattractive yet we incline toward the third as being least objectionable of alternatives. In any event it looks very much as though whatever decision is reached will have to be implemented in the near future.
As Ambassador is in north, above represents the thinking of senior staff only.
Sent Department 1871, repeated Tsingtao 150. Repeated ComNavWesPac via Consulate General Tsingtao.