893.113/511a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Schurman)

142. The Department has been informed that the British Government has instructed its Minister at Peking that it approves of the recommendations relating to the China Arms embargo adopted by the diplomatic body as stated in its identic telegram of October 3d last. Inquiry has been made whether this Government also proposes to approve of the above recommendations. On this subject the British Government is also sounding out the other Governments represented at Peking.

Your No. 46, February 9, 6 p.m., appears to disclose a more serious failure to attain complete unanimity than that indicated by the inability of the Netherlands and Norwegian ministers to join in the identic telegram agreed to on October 3d. The Department understands, however, that, as the result of discussions between the British and Netherlands Governments, it appears likely that the inability of the latter Government to join in the embargo may be overcome for all practical purposes. The Department’s instruction No. 406 May 24th39 informed you that although the Norwegian Government had expressed its inability to instruct its Minister at Peking to commit that Government to the terms of an embargo, there was nevertheless already in effect an embargo prohibiting the export of arms and munitions from Norway to China. It would, therefore, appear that if the other Ministers at Peking are still in agreement as to the recommendations made in the telegram of October 3d, there would be [Page 611]no good reason why their Governments should not adopt those recommendations.

The Department would be pleased to receive a statement of the present status of this question, and your opinion whether there is any objection to this Government informing the British Government of its willingness to accept the terms of an embargo, embodying the text of the amended Washington resolution with the interpretative note (as set forth in your telegram No. 405 of October 4, 11 a.m.40) provided that substantial unanimity can be had among the Powers represented at Peking.

The Department feels that, although the embargo of May 5, 1919, may not have been entirely effective, and although a majority of the Powers may not have the legal authority to effect a complete enforcement of its terms, it has nevertheless proved distinctly beneficial and is justified by its results. In view of the difficulty of obtaining the adherence of so many Powers to a new formula, which might not prove more efficacious in practice than that of 1919, the Department is reluctant to see any change attempted, unless definite advantages will clearly result therefrom, and unless there is every prospect of obtaining substantial unanimity.

Hughes