511.4 A 2/178: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Geneva ( Tuck )

Your December 4, 11 A.M. For Porter.

The Department has received an Aide Mémoire from the British Embassy at Washington dated December 3, reading as follows:

“The American Delegation to the Second Opium Conference which is now proceeding at Geneva have submitted a number of proposals including two which the British Delegate considers to be outside the scope of the Conference.

The object of the Conference is to consider measures to limit—(1) the manufacture of morphine, heroin, cocaine, etc., (2) the amounts of raw opium and coca leaf to be imported for manufacture and for other medicinal and scientific purposes and (3) the production of raw opium and coca leaf for export to the amount required for medicinal and scientific purposes.

The American proposals in question are—(1) that the contracting parties shall control the production and distribution of raw opium so that there will be no surplus available for purposes not strictly medical or scientific; and (2) that the contracting parties, in whose territories the use of prepared opium is temporarily permitted, shall agree to reduce the importation by 10 per cent each year so as to bring the use of opium to an end within 10 years.

Of these proposals the first raises questions of domestic consumption in India and His Majesty’s Government fear that unless it is withdrawn a difficult situation will arise. The question will be raised whether the Conference is competent to discuss a matter not specified on the agenda and the decision taken on this point will have a bearing on the second American proposal above referred to.

If the American delegates bring forward their second proposal the course of the proceedings at the Conference will probably be as follows: The Netherlands Delegation will refuse to take part in the discussion and some of the other Powers with Far Eastern territories, if not all, will do the same. The British Delegate will take the line that the matter is outside the scope of the Conference and that it was considered by the first Conference (on the control of opium smoking in the Far East) which reached an agreement as to the further measures to be taken. The position in British territories was then fully set out and, apart from the question as to the competence [Page 117] of the Conference, no useful purpose will be served by re-opening the matter.

The British Delegate will then propose that the Council of the League of Nations should be invited to appoint a small impartial Commission with an American Chairman to visit the territories concerned of all nationalities as well as any other countries, such as China, that may be necessary in order to investigate and report on all relevant facts as affecting further measures of repression. In the opinion of His Majesty’s Government this Commission should include no nationals of Powers possessing Far Eastern territories.

His Majesty’s Government feel that the adoption of this proposal would disarm criticism in the United States, where British administrative difficulties in the Far East are naturally not widely known, and would also convince public opinion generally that His Majesty’s Government neither shirk impartial investigation nor desire to take up an obstructive attitude.

In the circumstances His Majesty’s Government hope that the above proposal will be acceptable to the United States Government and that they will be disposed to instruct the American Delegation at Geneva to co-operate with the British Delegate when he puts it forward, with a view to its being carried into effect.”

The Department proposes to reply to the British that in view of the conditions set forth in the preamble of the House Joint Resolution approved May 15, 1924, authorizing an appropriation for the participation of this Government in the International Narcotics Conference, and in view of the further fact that the representatives of the United States are not authorized to sign any agreement which does not fulfill the conditions Decessary for the suppression of the habit-forming narcotic drug traffic, as set forth in the preamble of the Joint Resolution in question, it finds itself unable to acquiesce in the suggestions made by the British Government as set forth in the Aide Mémoire. The Department may further suggest to the British that since all the other participating Governments in the Geneva Conference are likewise interested in the questions at issue, it would perhaps be better to have the questions determined by the Conference itself.

The Department is hopeful that no issues will arise at Geneva which will jeopardize the success of the Conference and with that in mind it suggests that you may find it advisable not to rigidly adhere to a fixed term of 10 years within which the importation of raw opium for the purpose of making prepared opium should be discontinued. The Department feels that some flexibility in this period of time might afford an avenue through which a compromise might be reached if the differences foreseen by the British Government, as set forth in its Aide Mémoire, should arise.

The Department desires your comment on the Aide Mémoire and the proposed reply.