893.00 Nanking/20: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State


317. Legation’s telegram 275, March 29, 10 a.m.

American, British, French, Italian, and Japanese Ministers met this afternoon to discuss the reply of the Japanese Government to the recommendations for joint demands regarding the Nanking incident. For the Japanese reply, see my telegram 312 sent today at 9 a.m.
Yoshizawa indicated that the Japanese Government would be willing to approve the terms as recommended with the deletions from section B of the words “to specify a time limit for compliance, failing which they reserve to themselves”. We all agreed to recommend this deletion in order to obtain united action.
Sir Miles Lampson had been instructed that the British Government was reconsidering the whole problem of China in the light of the Nanking incident and was drawing up certain proposals in consultation with British military and naval experts to be referred to the other four powers chiefly concerned. Lampson presumed that these proposals dealt with sanctions. The British Government agreed in general with the terms recommended but raised the question whether we should not further insist that Chiang Kai-shek should attend a formal military parade and salute the flags of the powers whose nationals had been attacked and offer apologies in person. All of us, Lampson included, agreed that we could not hope to obtain as much as this.
It was also the view of the British Government that we should notify Eugene Ch’en of the demands and allow him the opportunity of doing what he could to obtain compliance, since there is no question [Page 173] of discussion or negotiation with respect to the terms to be presented. As both the British and Japanese Governments agreed in the opinion that it was not advisable to single out Chiang Kai-shek for responsibility independently of the Nationalist regime, the five interested Ministers decided to recommend that the terms be presented at the same time to Chiang and to Ch’en, the following preface being used in the latter case:42

“Under the instructions of the (blank) Government I am directed by the (blank) Minister to present to you the following terms (which are also being addressed to General Chiang Kai-shek, commander in chief of the Nationalist armies) for the prompt settlement of the situation created by the outrages against (blank) nationals committed by Nationalist troops at Nanking on March 24th last.”

Instructions have been received by the Italian Minister authorizing him to take part in any joint action upon which he and the other interested Ministers agree.
The instructions of the French Minister are to the effect that he should not take the initiative but that he is authorized to take part in any joint action definitely agreed upon after full discussion by the five interested Ministers.
The five interested Ministers were in agreement that time is of the essence for the success of any demands but that it would be worse than useless, it would be calamitous, to make such demands if the interested powers were not definitely resolved to follow them up by any necessary means to secure satisfaction. As I had not received any indication of the attitude of my Government, further consideration of the matter had to be postponed until I should receive my instructions.
  1. Quotation not paraphrased.