The British Ambassador (Howard) to the Secretary of State

Aide Memoire

Referring to his Note No. 252 of March 12th respecting the suggested prohibition of export of aircraft to China and the possibility of strengthening the Arms Embargo Agreement of 1919, Sir Esme [Page 643]Howard has been instructed by Mr. Chamberlain to bring the following points to the attention of Mr. Kellogg.

It appears not altogether improbable that at the forthcoming Conference on Arms Traffic to be held at Geneva in May71 the question may arise whether China should be scheduled as a prohibited area.

There is no doubt that there is cause for grave disquiet as regards the present state of China. Sooner or later the change in the conditions of Chinese internecine warfare, brought about by the increasing supply of modern weapons, may involve the Powers in increased military commitments in the Far East. This is a matter of international concern and it is for consideration whether, since the present Arms Embargo Agreement has not proved capable of arresting the progress, some more comprehensive international remedy should not be sought. With this end in view Mr. Chamberlain recently invited the views of His Majesty’s Minister in Peking, Sir R. Macleay, of whose reply Sir Esme Howard begs to enclose a copy.72

In the opinion of His Majesty’s Government the Powers, so long as they are unable or unwilling effectively to prevent their nationals from making money out of a traffic that merely increases the miseries of the Chinese people, are exposed to some measure of moral reproach and are in a position less strong than they would be otherwise to deal with the calumnies of the agitators who exasperate anti-foreign feeling by representing the sufferings of China as due to the “imperialism” and greed of foreigners.

Again, so long as they cannot keep arms out of China, the hands of the Powers are pro tanto weakened for any pacific influence they may wish to exert to promote the evolution of a stable and effective Government in China which is their prime interest in the Far East—That is impossible so long as China swarms with hordes of soldiers who are indistinguishable from brigands and the difficulty of disbanding these hordes is perpetuated so long as military adventurers can obtain copious supplies of modern weapons from Europe.

His Majesty’s Government would therefore be very glad to know how the United States Government consider that this serious situation can best be met, how they would view a possible proposal to place China on the list of prohibited areas and, failing this, whether they can suggest any other means of effective international cooperation to cope with this evil which experience has shown the Arms Embargo Agreement is insufficient to check. His Majesty’s Government have themselves no intention of bringing forward this proposal but they are earnestly desirous of cooperating with the United States Government in any way possible in order to find an exit from the present impasse.

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Sir Esme Howard would be grateful to learn the views of the United States Government on this subject as soon as possible in order to communicate them to Mr. Chamberlain without delay.

  1. See pp. 26 ff.
  2. Not printed.