The Chargé in Japan (Bell) to the Secretary of State

No. 857

Sir: With reference to my telegram No. 145 of April 26, 12 noon, transmitting the text of a confidential note from the Minister for Foreign Affairs concerning the arms embargo with regard to China, and to the Department’s telegram No. 75 of April 29, 1 p.m.66 stating that our Government would welcome any evidence at the disposal of the Japanese Government regarding the actual existence of the Canton contracts mentioned in Count Uchida’s note, I have the honor to report that I did not fail to bring this matter to the immediate attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I now have the honor to transmit herewith a Strictly Confidential Memorandum dated May 25, 1921, regarding the abovementioned [Page 558] contracts which was this day handed to me by the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, as reported by me in my telegram No. 202 of June 14, 4 p.m.,66a and to add that I have forwarded copies thereof to the American Minister at Peking for his information.

I have [etc.]

Edward Bell

The Japanese Foreign Office to the American Embassy


While naturally refraining from affirming positively the report referred to in their note of April 2567 addressed to the American Chargé d’Affaires to the effect that some American merchants had supplied the Canton Government with machinery for manufacturing arms and other articles the Japanese Government are none the less inclined to give a certain degree of credence to the information, emanating, as it did, from an official Chinese source. The substance of the said report may therefore with pertinence be given somewhat more in detail. Mo Ying-hsin, Ex-Governor of Canton, and Ma Chi, Superintendent-General of the Canton Arsenal, made a contract through Messrs. Davis & Co., American merchants at Hongkong, for the purchase from America [of] machinery for manufacturing rifles, a number of airplanes, and iron material for the construction of an arsenal, amounting in value to three million silver dollars of which sum seven hundred thousand dollars being paid as earnest. It would seem that Mo Ying-hsin and Ma Chi contemplated transporting these articles to Kwangsi where to build a new arsenal. Of these goods, the iron material arrived while the Ex-Governor was still in office and was immediately transported to Kwangsi, but the arrival (about December of last year) of the machinery and the aeroplanes was delayed until after the revolution in Canton whereby the two officials lost their positions. As the contract was made in behalf of the Province of Canton, the articles last named were received by Chen Chiung-ming. They tried at the time to install the machinery in the Shih ching Arsenal of Canton but could not do so on account of the arsenal being too small in scale.

As for the report of the purchase from America by the Canton authorities through merchants at Macao of more than a dozen amphibious military planes, the Japanese Government came by the information from a no less reliable source though they have not been able to obtain further details in this respect. It may, however, be mentioned in this connection that previous to this (about November [Page 559] of last year) the Japanese Government received a news which might possibly be connected with the same subject as the said report and which, though not confirmable, cannot, in view of the circumstantial account it gives, be dismissed as a groundless rumour. It is roughly to the following effect:—

In February of last year, at the request of Chen Chiungming a certain Mr. Chen Ching-yun (said to be a graduate of an American aviation school) went to Shanghai and ordered by letter seven hydroplanes from America. Where the order was placed is not stated, but Chen Ching-yun is said to have mentioned the American Navy.
Of these seven hydroplanes, two arrived at Swatow on September 11 of last year by S.S. Tung Sheng of Jardine, Matheson & Co. As they were entered in the declaration simply as “aeroplanes”, the Customs Office at Swatow proceeded to examine them as common goods. The headquarters of the Canton Army thereupon despatched a number of armed troops who prevented the examination and caused them to be landed almost by force. The hydroplanes were being kept in hangar at the headquarters of the aviation corps of the Canton Army. The details of these hydroplanes are as follows:
Large size HSIL Curtiss 400 HP. Six-seated biplane capable of flying continuously for 7 hours, and of carrying 400 pounds of bombs. Price 13,000 gold dollars.
Small size Acromarine Curtiss 100 HP. Double-seated hydrobiplane, capable of flying continuously for 3 hours, and of carrying 100 pounds of bombs. Price $6,000.
Two more planes of the same type as that given under (a) were sent by S.S. Kuang Sheng of Jardine, Matheson & Co. which arrived at Hongkong on October 9 of last year.
The remaining four planes classed as large-sized hydroplanes seating fifteen persons, were still on the way at the time.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See telegram no. 145, Apr. 26, from the Chargé in Japan, p. 556.