The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Howard)
Excellency: With reference to your notes No. 1127 of November 20, 1924, and No. 1205 of December 10, 1924, in which you refer to a suggestion made by the American Chargé d’Affaires at Paris that an informal understanding should be negotiated between the American, British, and French Governments prohibiting absolutely the export of any kind of aircraft to China during the present revolutionary disturbances in that country, and stating that the British Government would welcome such a proposal and would be prepared to cooperate with this Government in the event of its deciding to approach the French Government to this end, I have the honor to inform you that this Government would be happy to inquire of the French Government whether it would be receptive to a proposal to the effect that the interested Powers agree to restrain their citizens and subjects from exporting any kind of aircraft to China in so far as their respective laws and regulations will permit.
This Government appreciates that the qualified character of the proposal as herein set forth may fall short of the absolute degree of [Page 541] prohibition which the British Government appears to have in mind. For its own part, however, this Government would, under existing legislation, find it difficult to obligate itself in the matter without reservation concerning the legal limitations of its competence with regard to the export of aircraft. In this connection, there is enclosed herewith a copy of the Joint Resolution of January 81, 1922,73 and of the Presidential Proclamation of March 4, 1922,74 issued pursuant thereto, under the provisions of which this Government is restraining its citizens from the export of arms and munitions of war to China. As a matter of actual practice, however, I may state that, for a period of over two years, this Government has discouraged (with entire success, as it understands) the exportation of any kind of aircraft to China, since it appears that, at the present time, there is no such thing as commercial aviation in China and that shipments of this character almost invariably are found to fall into the hands of militarists and to be used by them for military purposes.
The suggestion of the American Chargé d’Affaires at Paris, to which you refer, related to an agreement regarding aircraft by all the interested Powers rather than merely by the three Powers named in your notes. In the opinion of this Government, the participation of France in such an agreement is of particular importance; and, should the French Government indicate a willingness to accede to such a proposal, this Government would be glad to join with the British and French Governments in giving immediate effect to an agreement of the nature above indicated and to cooperate in afterward extending its scope so as to include as many as possible of the other Powers whose adherence might be deemed desirable.
I shall be glad if you will inform me of the attitude of the British Government toward such a proposal, and whether it will be disposed to instruct its representative at Paris to cooperate in sounding the French Government with regard thereto.