The Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Navy (Denby)

Sir: I have the honor to refer to your letter of September 2, 1921, with which you enclosed a copy of a report received by you from the Commander-in-Chief, US. Asiatic Fleet, regarding the policy being followed by him in the conduct of naval operations in the Yangtze River. You state that you approve the decision of the Commander-in-Chief not to place armed guards on board vessels not entitled to fly the American flag but that the providing of naval [Page 531] escorts for such vessels when carrying American cargoes introduces a somewhat different question; that should this Department decide that the providing of such escorts may be considered legitimate under existing circumstances on the Yangtze River, such escorts could not be provided in all cases on account of the limited number of vessels available for such duty, and you ask to be informed of the attitude of this Department on the subject.

The right of this Government to afford, through the use of American war vessels, protection to American “commerce” in Chinese waters open to foreign commerce, is specifically recognized by Article 9 of the Treaty of 1858 between the United States and China. It is conceivable that the affording of this protection to commerce may in many cases entail the furnishing of naval escorts to foreign vessels not entitled to fly the American flag, as for example, where the whole or a large part of the cargo of a foreign vessel is made up of American owned goods.

Since it is observed from your letter that owing to the limited number of vessels available for such duty it will not be possible in all cases to furnish escort to vessels carrying American owned goods, this Department would be willing to leave to the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet the question as to when and to what extent escorts should be furnished.

I am enclosing for your information and such action if any as you may deem it desirable to take, a copy of a letter dated October 10, 1921,26 which the Department has received from Messrs. L. C. Gillespie and Sons of New York reporting the capture by rebel forces along the Yangtze River of three chartered junks with cargoes of wood oil valued at between $75,000 and $100,000.

I have [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
F. M. Dearing

Assistant Secretary
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