NOTES ON INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS FROM FEBRUARY 10 TO MARCH 10
Prepared by Professor Allan Westcott, U. S. Naval Academy
LONDON CONFERENCE ENDS IN FAILURE
In accordance with previous plans, Allied representatives met those of Germany in London during the first week of March for the purpose of presenting to Germany the reparation terms as finally decided upon by the Allies. The Allied representatives, as it developed later, were ready to consider changes in the method of payment, and in details, but were in no mood to accept such radical reductions as Germany submitted by way of counter-proposals.
The Allied terms called for payment of about 226 billion gold marks, spread over a period of 42 years, and a 12% tax on German exports. In his initial reply on March 1, the German Foreign Minister, Dr. Simons, proposed that the total sum be reduced at once to 50 billion marks, that about 20 million be subtracted from this for reparations already made, and that on the remaining 30 million marks (about 7 ½ billion dollars) Germany pay 1 billion marks a year until 1926 when the whole question would come up for readjustment. In immediate reply Premier Lloyd George declared: "The German Government appears to have a complete misunderstanding of the realities of the situation, and the Allies have already agreed that the German proposal is one they cannot examine or discuss." On the following day he insisted that Germany must continue to accept responsibility for the war, that she had already been guilty of violations of the treaty, and that her people were not as heavily taxed as those of Allied nations. The Germans were given four days in which to accept the Allied terms or present an offer worthy of consideration.
Final Rejection of German Counter Proposals.—On Monday, March 7, Minister Simons presented a modified proposal, which was indeed more nearly that which he had been authorized to make by his government. In brief, he agreed to pay the annuities demanded by the Allies (two billion marks) for a period of five years. Even this, however, was contingent upon Germany's retention of Upper Silesia in the approaching plebiscite, so that, as the British Premier said, it was an offer for five weeks and not for five years. As to what would be done at the end of the five years no assurance was given. The offer was therefore rejected as wholly unsatisfactory.
Enforcement of Penalties.—Immediately upon the conclusion of the London Conference the Allied powers proceeded to execute the penalties which had been agreed upon in the event of German refusal. These consisted of occupation of Duisburg, Ruhrort, and Duesseldorf, ports for the Ruhr region on the east bank of the Rhine; a tax not to exceed 50% on the sale price of German goods in Allied countries; and establishment of a customs line along the Rhine. It was explained that, in the application of the 50% tax, a purchaser of German goods in Allied countries would pay half the purchase price to his own government, which would give him a certificate to be turned over by him to the German merchant, who would get the certificate redeemed by the German Government in German money. On March 7 the Allied forces, consisting chiefly of about 10,000 French and 5000 Belgians, were in movement and had completed the occupation of the Rhine ports on the following day.
The Germans offered no resistance, but declared they would protest to the League of Nations on the ground that no penalties should have been inflicted until May 1, the date set by the Versailles Treaty as the limit for agreement on reparations. The Treaty read, however, that the terms must be presented on or before that date. Furthermore, the Allies based their action on violations by Germany of other treaty terms. Upon the execution of the penalties, Germany as a protest recalled her envoys from London, Paris, and Rome.
READJUSTMENT IN NEAR EAST
Revision of Turkish Treaty.—Prior to the Reparations Conference, delegates from Turkey and Greece were requested to meet in London to consider a revision of the Treaty of Sevres. In preparation for the conference, former Premier Venizelos of Greece worked in cooperation with the representative of King Constantine's government, Premier Kalogeropoulos, aiming to retain the acquisitions granted to Greece by the treaty. Both the Constantinople government of Turkey and the Turkish Nationalists sent delegates, the two factions working with perhaps more coordination than appeared on the surface.
The meetings, which began on February 21, were devoted chiefly to hearing the Greek and Turkish claims. No general action was taken aside from a decision that an investigation be made of conditions in Smyrna and Thrace prior to alteration of the treaty.
The French Government, which was favorable to the Turkish Nationalists and responsible for their inclusion at the conference, reached terms for a treaty of peace with that faction. The treaty provides for French evacuation of Cilicia in eastern Asia Minor, on condition of Turkish acceptance of the proposals made in London for protection of minorities in regions under Nationalist control.
Persian Cabinet Upset.—A force of 2500 Persian Nationalist Cossacks on February 22 entered the Persian capital, Teheran, and compelled the resignation of Premier Sephandar Pasha. It is not known whether British influence was in any way connected with the coup, both the Premier and the Nationalists being supposedly opposed to British domination of Persian politics.
British Rail Route to India.—Washington, Feb. 20 (Associated Press).—The complete text of the Franco-British convention of December 23, 1920, by which the Syrian Desert is transferred from a French to a British mandate was received here to-day, and is expected to engage the close attention of officials of the State Department.
The two phases of the treaty which have engaged particular attention are the establishment of the precedent of a transfer of mandate territory from one power to another without reference to the League of Nations, and the acquisition by Great Britain of her dream of an all-rail route from the Mediterranean to India.
The southern portion of Syria, bordering upon Palestine, previously allotted to France by the League of Nations, is transferred to Great Britain, and specific provision is made for the construction of a British railway line linking Palestine with the Mesopotamian railway systems through the Syrian Desert.
Part of the British all-rail route from India to the Mediterranean, according to advices received in official circles recently, was begun secretly during the war and has been completed from Quetta, in Northern India, to a point in Central Persia, skirting the Afghanistan border. The rail route from Palestine would cross the Syrian Desert and, passing through Basra, in Southern Mesopotamia, would effect a junction with the line already completed from India at a point in Southern Persia. With the transfer of Southern Syria from France to Great Britain, according to officials, only the Southern Persian link would be left outside the political control of Great Britain, and even this link is now partly under her political and wholly under her military control.—N. Y. Times, Feb. 21, 1920.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS AND MANDATES
League Council Meeting in Paris.—The League Council meeting in Paris on February 21 was devoted largely to routine matters. After lengthy discussion with representatives of Poland and Lithuania, it was decided that the plebiscite for the Vilna district and the sending of an international force thither should be abandoned, owing to failure of both nations to refrain from military activities in the disputed area. The territorial dispute will again be taken up in direct negotiations at Brussels, presided over by M. Paul Huymans as representative of the League.
A committee was appointed to consider amendments to the League Covenant and report at the Assembly meeting in September. Proposed changes include the Canadian amendment eliminating Article X and the Argentine proposal for immediate admission of all nations.
American Protest over Mandates.—At the Council session on February 22, the U. S. Ambassador to France presented a note from Secretary Colby insisting upon the right of the United States to a voice in all discussions and decisions as to the terms on which mandates should be granted. The note reaffirmed the principles set forth in the note to the British Foreign Office last November. It insisted on equality of economic opportunity and the "open door" in mandate territories for all nations whether or not members of the League of Nations. It called attention to apparent violations of this principle in the British mandate over Mesopotamia, and cited the reservations made by President Wilson regarding the Japanese mandate over the island of Yap.
Council Reply Conciliatory.—In reply to the American note, the Council stated that the allocation of Yap to Japan was made not by the League Council but by the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers in May, 1919, and the misunderstanding should therefore be taken up with the nations represented in that body. The Council, however, had in its session of December 17, 1920, approved the form of Class C mandates covering former German possessions in the Pacific.
Regarding Class A mandates, including Mesopotamia and other former possessions of Turkey, action on the part of the Council was postponed until May or June. The Council invited the United States to send a representative to take part in its discussions at that time.
British Position Unyielding.—Washington, March 5.—The British Foreign Office's reply to the Colby note on mandates, in which the American demand for equal opportunity for United States nationals in the economic employment of Mesopotamia was advanced, is conciliatory in tone, but rejects the American contentions in respect of Mesopotamia.
The British Government, while in the main agreeing with the Colby definition of the principles controlling mandates, subscribes reservations, but in the instance of Mesopotamia flatly declares that it will not "discriminate" against its own nationals, maintaining that Britishers obtained monopolistic rights in Mesopotamia before mandates were conceived, and even before the outbreak of the war.
As the question of mandates is one of the keystones to the entire American position regarding the rights of this country flowing out of the victory over the Central Empires, it is understood that Secretary of State Hughes, before beginning the draft of a reply to the British note, will review the whole subject, from the inception of mandates at Paris to the acts of the American plenipotentiaries and government both during and after the Peace Conference.
It is felt here the Mesopotamia issue is not in precisely the same category as the Island of Yap, as the British Government now maintains that the exclusive rights it asserts in Mesopotamia were not acquired as a result of the war, but antedated the war and bear no proper relation to the mandate. The determination of the Yap issue, it is said, depends upon Mr. Hughes's findings, after examination, in respect of the reservations filed by President Wilson at Paris.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is known to have accepted the validity of the reservations, and it is said to insist upon their effectiveness, and there appears to be little doubt that the new Administration tends to maintain the same position as that defined by the Wilson Administration on the subject of Yap. The continuance of Under Secretary of State Davis, although only temporarily, as a delegate to the Communications Conference, is accepted generally not only as a compliment to Mr. Davis, in appreciation of his work on that body, but as an indication of the likely attitude of Mr. Hughes toward the Yap and cables problems.—N. Y. Times, March 6, 1920.
Japan Will Insist on Retention of Yap.—Regarding the attitude of Japan on control of the island of Yap, Count Ishii, Japanese Ambassador to France, expressed the opinion that his government would be willing to "compromise" on some such basis as a guarantee of free use of the island for cable purposes without surrender of Japanese control.
Foreign Minister Uchida, speaking in the Japanese Diet on March 7, pointed out that notes on the subject had been exchanged last year between the United States and Japan. When the mandates were considered, he continued, President Wilson protested, but when the final decision was reached America made no reservations. He added that he considered the question of the Yap mandate definitely decided. As for the question of the concession of Pacific cables to the United States, he said he was unable to speak on it.
Mandates and Open Door.—Mandates have been divided into three groups, Class A including former Turkish possessions, Class B former German possessions in Central Africa, and Class C German possessions in Southwest Africa and the Pacific. A statement issued by the News Bureau of the League of Nations Association points out that the Class B mandates guarantee economic equality only to league members.
The open door restrictions are considered by the News Bureau as having a direct bearing upon the United States as a non-member of the League. The article regarding the open door says:
"The mandatory will insure to all nationals of states, members of the League of Nations, on the same footing as his own nationals, freedom of transit and navigation, and complete economic commercial and industrial equality; provided that the mandatory shall be free to organize essential public works and services on such terms and conditions as he thinks just.
"Concessions for the development of the natural resources of the territory shall be granted by the mandatory without distinction on grounds of nationality between the nationals of all states members of the League of Nations, but on such conditions as will maintain intact the authority of the local government."
However, the British mandate over Palestine, the full text of which appeared in the N. Y. Times of February 28, made no such distinction between nations within and outside the league.
Argentina Refuses to Bar German Munitions.—According to news despatches of February 18, the Argentine Government had refused the request of the Allied Powers that it bar German exportation of war materials to Argentina in contravention of the Treaty of Versailles. Argentina took the ground that German violations were not the concern of a nation not a party to the treaty. The Allied Powers can, however, check German exports by means of their control commissions in Germany.
Milner Report Urges Free Egypt.—The report of Lord Milner, former British Colonial Secretary, on the Egyptian question was presented to Parliament on February 18. It urged that negotiations should be started as soon as possible for the conclusion of a treaty according self-government to Egypt, with her own foreign representatives, but without complete withdrawal of British supervision. The document, which is dated December 29, 1920, includes a memorandum agreed upon in negotiations with Egyptian representatives as a basis for the proposed treaty.
The Irish Problem.—During the month ending March 10 there was little apparent change in the Irish situation. Premier Lloyd George on February 15 declared that conditions were "definitely and decidedly improving," that boycotting was at an end, that Irish recruits were again joining the constabulary, and that the Crown police and courts were recovering authority. He stated that one company of the constabulary, according to the unpublished Strickland report, were involved in the Cork burnings and would be punished.
On February 16 President Eammon de Valera of the Sinn Feiners sent a protest to members of the British Parliament against seizure of firearms, use of hostages, torture of prisoners, and other methods employed by British forces "contrary to all rules of civilized warfare." The Irish Republic on March 7 issued a manifesto to foreign nations reciting the grievances of Ireland and claiming their desire for "peace on a just basis."
The Mayor of Limerick, George Clancy, the ex-mayor, and another citizen were murdered in their homes on the evening of March 6. It was claimed that the murders were in reprisal for the assassination of the British Brigadier General Gumming on March 4.
Premier Assassinated.—Premier Eduardo Dato of Spain was assassinated on the evening of March 8 in Madrid while returning from the Chamber in a motor car. He was attacked by several persons, who- fired a number of shots.
Dato was leader of a group of the Conservative party and has headed the government for a large part of the time during and since the war. Last October he announced a program of sweeping industrial reforms, combined with strong measures for suppressing internal disorders. Dato resigned in January, but was persuaded to remain in office.
Poles Secure Aid Against Soviet.—The Franco-Polish Agreement recently negotiated by Marshal Pilsudski is said to assure French expert military advice, munitions, and supplies, but no French troops, in the event of an attack on Poland by Russia. It is also reported that a defensive alliance against the Soviets has been entered into by Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary.
Petrograd in Revolt.—Anti-Red uprisings in Russia and especially in the Petrograd district, beginning in the latter part of February, increased in scope until on March 9 it was reported that the revolutionary forces, controlling eight ships of the Baltic fleet and the Kronstadt fortress, had silenced the minor forts of Petrograd and were preparing to enter the city. Later despatches indicated that the revolt had been checked.
Inaugural Statement on Foreign Policy.—The following passages of President Harding's inaugural address were studied with interest as clues to the new administration's foreign policy:
"The recorded progress of our Republic, materially and spiritually, in itself proves the wisdom of the inherited policy of non-involvement in Old World affairs. Confident of our ability to work out our own destiny and jealously guarding our right to do so, we seek no part in directing the destinies of the Old World. We do not mean to be entangled. We will accept no responsibility except as our own conscience and judgment in each instance may determine.
"Our eyes never will be blind to a developing menace, our ears never deaf to the call of civilization. We recognize the new order in the world with the closer contacts which progress has wrought. We sense the call of the human heart for fellowship, fraternity and co-operation. We crave friendship and harbor no hate. But America, our America, the America builded on the foundation laid by the inspired fathers, can be a party to no permanent military alliance. It can enter into no political commitments, nor assume any economic obligations or subject our decisions to any other than our own authority.
"I am sure our own people will not misunderstand nor will the world misconstrue. We have no thought to impede the paths to closer friendship. We wish to promote understanding. We want to do our part in making offensive warfare so hateful that governments and peoples who resort to it must prove the righteousness of their cause or stand as outlaws before the bar of civilization.
"We are ready to associate ourselves with the nations of the world, great and small, for conference, for counsel, to seek the expressed views of world opinion, to recommend a way to approximate disarmament and relieve the crushing burdens of military and naval establishments. We elect to participate in suggesting plans for mediation, conciliation and arbitration, and would gladly join in that expressed conscience of progress which seeks to clarify and write the laws of international relationship, and establish a world court for the disposition of such justiciable questions as nations are agreed to submit thereto.
"In expressing aspirations, in seeking practical plans, in translating humanity's new concept of righteousness, justice and its hatred of war into recommended action we are ready most heartily to unite, but every commitment must be made in the exercise of our national sovereignty.
"Since freedom impelled and independence inspired and nationality exalted, a world super-government is contrary to everything we cherish and can have no sanction by our Republic. This is not selfishness, it is sanctity. It is not aloofness, it is security. It is not suspicion of others, it is patriotic adherence to the things which made us what we are."
Senate Votes for Arms Conference.—By a unanimous vote the Senate on March 1 attached to the Naval Appropriations Bill the Borah resolution calling upon the President to invite a conference of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan to consider naval reductions. This action followed a lively seven-hour debate on the navy and foreign problems. Action on the bill itself was postponed until the next session of Congress through the opposition of a minority led by Senator Borah.
Viviani to Come as French Envoy.—In March the French Government is to send Rene Viviani to the United States for about two weeks to present the views of France to the new administration and present arguments in support of the Versailles Treaty and against a separate peace with Berlin.
Not Pledged as to Allied Debts.—In a conference with Mr. Harding on February 15, Mr. Thomas W. Lamont, one of Mr. Wilson's financial advisers at the Peace Conference, gave assurance that the United States had made absolutely no secret or public agreement "that the Allied indebtedness should in whole or in part be cancelled."
Columbian Treaty Reported.—Washington, March 7.—The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations reported out favorably to-day various treaties, some of which have been pending for years, including the Colombia Treaty.
The Colombian Treaty as reported to the Senate is with a few exceptions the same treaty as was sent to the Senate by President Wilson on June 16, 1914, Article I of the original treaty, which expressed to Colombia "in the name of the people of the United States, sincere regret that anything should have occurred to interrupt or mar the relations of cordial friendship that had so long subsisted between the two nations" is eliminated. This was the section that was so bitterly opposed by friends of Colonel Roosevelt, the reference in the section being to the Panama insurrection of November, 1903.
In the original treaty the United States was obligated to pay Colombia $25,000,000 in gold within six months after the exchange of ratifications. In the amended treaty the money will be paid in five installments of $5,000,000 each, the first in six months after ratifications and the other four in annual payments.—N. Y. Times, March 8, 1920.
PANAMA-COSTA RICA DISPUTE
Border Conflicts.—On February 20 Costa Rican forces invaded and took possession of the town of Coto on the Pacific side of the Panama-Costa Rica frontier. A week later they were driven out by a cavalry troop of Panamans with the loss of two men and 35 prisoners. It was reported on March 6 that Costa Rican forces had advanced into Panama territory on the Atlantic side of the isthmus and occupied Bocas del Toro and Almirante.
Cause of Dispute.—Until the recent disturbance, the two countries had observed a "status quo" frontier agreed upon in the early eighties of the last century. A commission headed by President Loubet of France in 1900 awarded the Coto district to Costa Rica and a region north and west of the River Sixaola on the Atlantic side to Panama. This was confirmed by an arbitration decision of Chief Justice White in 1914. Panama, however, has refused to evacuate the Coto territory until Costa Rica gave up the territory on the Atlantic side.
American Intervention.—Following the seizure of Coto by Costa Rica the United States Government sent notes to each country insisting that peaceable means be adopted to settle their conflicting claims. The reply of Panama is stated to have expressed willingness to accept the good offices of the United States, while that of Costo Rica was less favorable.
Second identic notes were despatched by Secretary Hughes on March 5 insisting that the troops of each nation retire within the frontiers as fixed by the White decision. To this proposal Costo Rica gave her consent in a reply of March 7 and issued orders for the withdrawal of troops.
Apology in Langdon Case.—On February 22 the American State Department issued the following announcement regarding the action taken by Japan following the killing of Lieut. W. H. Langdon, U. S. N., by a Japanese sentry at Vladivostok:
"A most thorough and exhaustive examination was conducted by the court-martial, resulting in the removal from the active list of the Japanese army of Major Gen. Nishihara, commanding the Japanese garrison at Vladivostok. The court held that General Nishihara had been guilty of a misinterpretation of the barracks service regulations and had thus incurred primary responsibility for the unfortunate incident. He has been deprived of the command of the garrison and of the rank of Brigade Commander, which he previously held. The barracks officer of the rank of Major has been adjudged guilty of responsibility in the matter and sentenced to confinement for thirty days. The assistant barracks officer, a Lieutenant, and the regimental commander have both been sentenced to a similar punishment for a period of twenty days. The company commander has been sentenced to a lesser period.
"The commander-in-chief of the Japanese Expeditionary Force in Vladivostok has paid a visit to the U. S. S. Albany and expressed to the commanding officer of the ship his regret at the occurrence of the incident. The sentry who fired the fatal shot has been held to be excused by the orders and actions of his superiors, upon whom responsibility has been squarely placed and who are to be punished as stated. The sentry, however, was found guilty of deception in his testimony as to the circumstances of the fatality and for this has been sentenced to confinement for thirty days.
"In addition to the expressions of regret on the part of the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Expeditionary Force, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in communicating the action of the court-martial conveys to the American Government 'the expression of deep regret on the part of the Japanese Government at the occurrence of this sad event,' and expresses the hope 'that the government of the United States will fully appreciate the sincere spirit in which the Japanese Government has acted in dealing with this most unfortunate incident.'"
Secretary Colby added that the subject of reparation was still under discussion and not concluded.
"The action of the Japanese authorities has been prompt and sincere, he said, "It will undoubtedly be received with appreciation in this country."
Japanese Census Returns.—Washington. March 1.— The Japanese Government has just completed the taking of the first census of Japan proper, Korea, Formosa and Saghalien. The total population for Japan proper is given as 55,961,140, but for the whole empire, embracing Korea, Formosa and Saghalien, the population is given as 77,005,112.
Japan proper 55,961,140
Tokio, the capital, was supposed to approach 3,000,000 in population, but the census shows only 2,173,162.—N. Y. Times, March 2, 1921.