Washington, February 16, 1904.
The minister of the Netherlands inquires whether the declaration of Japan that coal is contraband of war entails any restrictions of the rule that coal may be supplied to a man-of-war of a belligerent (in a neutral port) in sufficient quantity to reach the belligerent’s nearest home port.
By the general rule of international law neutrals are free to sell contraband of war, even arms and ammunition, to a belligerent, subject always to the risk of seizure by the other belligerent. The recently issued neutrality proclamation of the Presidenta merely limits the right of citizens of the United States to sell coal within the jurisdiction of the United States to a belligerent war ship to a certain amount, namely, enough to take the vessel to its nearest home port.
As the United States Government understands the matter, the Japanese proclamation merely declares that coal is contraband of war, the effect being to serve notice that where Japan finds coal being carried to her enemy by neutrals she will seize it. This does not appear to conflict with the declaration in the President’s proclamation, which has application within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.