The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Howard)
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Notes No. 252 of March 12, 1925, and No. 302 of March 25, 1925, in regard to the China Arms Embargo Agreement of 1919 and the suggested prohibition of the export of aircraft to China, and to express my appreciation of the offer of the British Government to instruct its Ambassador at Paris to support his American colleague in any steps that the latter may be instructed to take with reference to obtaining the assent of the French Government to a tripartite agreement concerning aircraft. This Government, however, shares [Page 645]the view of the British Government that there is little, if any, hope of success for the conclusion of such a tripartite agreement at the present time, and it does not therefore now contemplate approaching the French Government on the matter. This Government feels itself the less disposed to do so in view of the fact that it would, as stated in Mr. Hughes’ note to you of December 24, 1924,74 “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.”
Although this Government does not feel, in view of its own limitations, that it can propose to the French Government an absolute prohibition on the export of aircraft to China, it purposes, nevertheless, to continue, as it has in the past, to draw; the attention of the French Government to important cases of exportation of aircraft, emphasizing the non-existence of commercial aviation in China and the view that, for all practical purposes, all aircraft destined for China should be considered as within the scope of the embargo. Such is the position which this Government has taken administratively; and, as was stated in the note above mentioned, it has for a period of over two years (and with entire success, as it understands) discouraged the exportation of any kind of aircraft to China since it appears that at present there is no commercial aviation in China and since the experience has been that shipments of this character have invariably fallen into the hands of militarists and been utilized by them for military purposes.
With reference to the question of the possibility of strengthening the China Arms Embargo Agreement of 1919, I am glad to note that the views of the British Government are in accord with those of this Government as expressed in its note of December 24, 1924,75 to which you refer. I also note with much satisfaction that it is the present purpose of the British Government to continue to do all that lies within its power to render the embargo more effective. Being convinced that, apart from other considerations, the present disturbed conditions in China, which show no signs of abating, require the rigorous suppression of the export of arms and munitions to that country, this Government likewise purposes to do all that it can to make the embargo thoroughly effective. In this connection, your attention is invited to the action of the United States Court for China at Shanghai, which recently fined and sentenced to a year’s penal servitude the master of the American sailing ship Talbot for a violation of the American laws upon this subject.