The British Ambassador ( Geddes ) to the Secretary of State

No. 218


His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador presents his compliments to the Secretary of State and has the honour, on instructions from his Government, to revert to the subject of the embargo on the importation of arms into China. On this subject, as Mr. Hughes is no doubt aware, numerous communications both written and verbal have recently passed between His Majesty’s Embassy and the State Department, notably on January 3rd last in an interview between Sir Auckland Geddes and the Acting Secretary of State, and more recently in an interview between the First Secretary of the Embassy and the Head of the Far Eastern Division of the State Department.

Sir Auckland Geddes has now been advised that the Japanese Government a few weeks ago addressed to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Tokio a note in which, while recognising that there is at present no prospect of a union between North and South China, they once more urge the difficulty of their own position vis-à-vis those Japanese merchants who are desirous of securing, or of carrying out, contracts for the supply of arms or munitions to China.

The Imperial Japanese Government claim that the difficulty of their position is enhanced by alleged sales by Americans of machinery for manufacturing arms to the Canton Government and by the Vickers contract for the supply of commercial aeroplanes, as well as by rumours of a contract entered into with the Handley Page Company for the supply of seaplanes.

This last contract, as the United States Government are aware, His Majesty’s Government have hitherto refused to countenance on considerations connected with the Consortium rather than the Arms Embargo. As regards the Vickers aeroplanes, the Japanese Government, while accepting the assurances given by His Majesty’s Ambassador [Page 551] at Tokio after full investigation of the facts, that these aeroplanes were not used in the fighting in China last summer, refer to a rumour that the Chinese Bureau of Aviation have reported that the machines can easily be converted to warlike purposes and ask that the question of whether or not such aeroplanes are to be classed as “arms” should be reconsidered.

On this point, although in a different connexion and without any direct bearing on the question of the Chinese Embargo, His Majesty’s Government have already made known their views to the United States Government in the note, No. 123, which His Majesty’s Chargé d’Affaires had the honour to address to the Secretary of State on February 25th, 1920.58 From these views the United States Government have never, so far as Sir Auckland Geddes is aware, indicated dissent.

In bringing this information to the notice of the United States Government, His Majesty’s Ambassador is instructed to state that, in the event of their deciding to take any action at Tokio, with a view to preventing any relaxation of the embargo by the Japanese Government, there is no objection on the part of His Majesty’s Government to the source of their information being disclosed by the United States Government to the Government of Japan. Should the United States Government wish to act in this matter conjointly with His Majesty’s Government, Sir Auckland Geddes would suggest that it should be left to the discretion of the two Ambassadors at Tokio to determine the opportune moment for making representations.