The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador ( Howard )

Excellency: With reference to your note No. 1014 of October 29, 1924, concerning the China Arms Embargo Agreement in which you state that the British Government feels that the time is now ripe for [Page 542] the definite adoption, by the signatory Powers of the revised Arms Embargo resolution proposed at the Washington Conference, and of certain portions of the interpretative note recommended by the Diplomatic Body at Peking, I have the honor to inform you that this Government, in its desire to strengthen in every way the effectiveness of the embargo, has given most careful consideration to the suggestion made in your note that it should undertake to make formal proposals to the various governments concerned with a view to the adoption, from January 1, 1925, of the revised Washington Resolution and of at least so much of the interpretative note as the British Government is able to enforce.

With regard to the question of “substantial unanimity” in the adoption of the revised formula, on which this Government originally predicated its readiness to proceed in the matter, it appears that the governments of Norway, The Netherlands, and Brazil have not as yet signified their willingness to adopt the formula in question, and that the Government of Sweden is prepared to do so only in the event that all the other interested Powers adopt the formula and in equal degree with Sweden. It appears, moreover, that although the Danish Government is prepared to adopt the language of the revised Washington Resolution, it is not prepared to adopt the interpretative note, and desires to make the reservation that airplanes be excluded from the scope of the embargo in so far as concerns the regulations governing the prohibition of exportation in Denmark. In this connection, there is quoted the final paragraph of a note on the subject, dated November 17 [6], 1924, from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the American Chargé d’Affaires at Copenhagen:75

“Le Gouvernement Royal serait cependant disposé—sous condition que tous les autres Etats interessés adoptent un procédé analogue—à adherer, en conformité de la recommandation votée par les chefs de mission réunis à Pékin le 9 février 1923, à la résolution présentée a la Conference de Washington sans interpretation, sous la réserve toutefois que les aéronefs ne sont pas compris par les règies concernant la prohibition d’exportation en vigueur en Danemark.”

It is the understanding of this Government that the new formula is to be adopted in substitution for the Agreement of May, 1919;76 for it would seem impracticable for the Powers to apply two varying formulae simultaneously. If the new formula were, therefore, to be [Page 543] adopted at the present time, we should lose the adherence to the embargo of the Netherlands and Brazilian Governments, which are signatory to the Agreement of May, 1919; and we should have, on the part of Denmark, only a qualified adherence of substantially the same character as the 1919 Agreement.

With reference, moreover, to the question of the adoption of the new formula in its entirety, the British Government, as explained in your note under reference, finds itself unable to enforce the portion of the interpretative note relating to machinery destined exclusively for the manufacture of arms or the equipment of arsenals, although it is stated that transactions of this character will continue to be discouraged on the understanding that the other governments concerned do likewise. The situation confronting the British Government in this particular is similar to that in which this Government would find itself with respect to its strict legal authority to prohibit the export of materials and machinery destined exclusively for the manufacture of arms and the equipment of arsenals; although, as a matter of actual practice, this Government has, with a very fair degree of success, discouraged the shipment to China of exports of this character on the part of its nationals. It would seem, however, that, before definitely binding themselves to the new formula, it would be necessary for both the American and British Governments to qualify the acceptance on their part of a very considerable portion of the interpretative note.

From a survey of the actual working of the Agreement of May, 1919, it is the view of this Government that the precise formula in use has been of less importance than the intent and spirit of the various governments concerned in carrying out the Agreement entered into at that time. In spite of the infractions of the embargo which have occurred from time to time, this Government is of the opinion that the embargo has attained a measurable success, and it desires in every way to strengthen its effectiveness. In view, however, of the difficulties apparently to be met at the present time in substituting the revised Washington formula (with the interpretative note) for the Agreement of May, 1919, this Government questions whether any practical benefits would be derived from an attempt to do so until a more complete unanimity can be had among the interested Powers. I need hardly say that I regret that no greater success has thus far attended the efforts which have been made to procure substantial unanimity in this matter.

Accept [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. For English text of note, see p. 535.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. i, pp. 667 ff.