893.113/1072: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in China (Mayer)

55. 1. The following is quoted from telegram No. 12 of February 13, 2 p.m., received from the American Ambassador at Tokyo.

“The Minister for Foreign Affairs has informed me that he is instructing the Japanese Minister at Peking to confer with representatives of other foreign powers with a view to securing adhesion [Page 295] of non-signatory powers to the agreement of 1919 to [for?] the embargo of arms and ammunition for China.”

The Department has replied as follows:

[Here follows telegram No. 13, February 18, to the Ambassador in Japan, printed supra.]

2. Reports of the importation of arms into China not only from non-participating countries but also by nationals of countries committed to the 1919 agreement indicate that that undertaking has now a comparatively slight effect in limiting the current importation of munitions into China. This is due partly to the great changes that have occurred in the international situation since 1919. In addition to being ineffective, the present limited embargo imposed on themselves by certain nations but leaving other nations free in this regard has affected the course of factional warfare without appearing to curtail it. For these reasons the Department considers that the value either of the existing agreement or of a revised or extended agreement should be carefully estimated in the light of the changed circumstances.

3. The Department would heartily support an international agreement designed to prevent the importation of arms into China if it could feel hopeful of the success of such a project. However, the lack of any effective cooperative authority in China and other obvious obstacles appear well nigh insuperable. The Department doubts whether it will be found possible so to strengthen and broaden the 1919 embargo agreement as to render advisable its continuance.

4. The Department feels that if the Japanese Minister approaches his interested colleagues as intimated in the telegram from the American Ambassador at Tokyo, an opportunity will be afforded for you to guide the discussions along the lines outlined above. You will, however, carefully avoid giving the impression that this Government has arrived at any conclusion in the premises.