893.113/1077: Telegram

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


119. My telegram No. 109, February 20, 11 a.m.

The Japanese Minister, at the meeting of the diplomatic body to which reference was made, stated that he was instructed to endeavor to bring about a joining in the embargo by the nonsignatory powers concerned. He stated that inclusion of the Soviets in this Peking discussion was not considered practical by his Government because no Soviet diplomatic representative was stationed here, but that, in the event it was agreed that the nonsignatory powers concerned should be invited, the Soviet Ambassador at Tokyo would be approached by the Japanese Foreign Office for this purpose. The Japanese suggestion, the Japanese Minister added, was based on the 1919 agreement, and it was not the desire of his Government that the scope of the embargo be increased as was sought in 1922.
An effort was made by me to guide the discussion in the sense of the Department’s telegram of February 18, number 25 [55], 9 p.m.; but this effort was unsuccessful, particularly because of a prompt proposal by the Senior Minister, a proposal to which there was general assent, favoring the transmission of identic telegram to the following effect:61

“In view of the continued internal wars in China which have now practically spread over the whole country and with a view to making the embargo on arms of 1919 more effective, the foreign diplomatic representatives once more draw the attention of their respective Governments to the importance of the agreement and of prohibiting the exportation of arms and munitions of war from or through their territories to China.

They therefore express their conviction that those powers who have not yet taken any measure in this respect should be induced to do so as soon as possible.”

The Heads of Legation were informed by me that it was my opinion the transmission of such an identic telegram would simply return to the respective Governments the responsibility for seeing that ways and means were devised, either through accessions to the signatories or otherwise, for bolstering up the arms embargo. I stated that it would be much preferred by my Government, and that I myself strongly felt it to be the practical course of action, that the matter should be discussed fully by the diplomatic representatives [Page 297] in Peking, that they determine themselves what in their estimation would be the best course to pursue, and that they make recommendations accordingly to their Governments. No support was given to my suggestion. To me it appeared quite evident that the majority of the powers (especially those, I should imagine, such as France and Italy, who have been under fire for breaches of the embargo) greatly preferred a gesture of the kind embodied in the proposal of the Senior Minister, no matter how unavailing it might be in the long run, rather than concentrating on practicalities and entering into a discussion of details of a situation which might result in much embarrassment if a solution were attempted here.
Because to have failed to do so would have made it seem that the United States was obstructing an effort by the powers to reach some international arrangement to prevent the importation of arms into China, I agreed to join in the dispatch of identic telegram.
Although much pressure was brought to bear toward suggesting at once that the Japanese Minister have his Government proceed to invite the nonsignatory powers to join in the embargo, I blocked this move, limiting the decision of the meeting solely to the identic telegram as an expression of the view of the several diplomatic representatives to their respective Governments, thus leaving the Department free to take whatever course may be decided upon by it.
In the hope that the publicity would help to make evident the sincerity of the powers in executing the embargo, as well as being conducive toward its greater efficacy, it was the general sense of the meeting that the identic telegram should be made public at the time of its transmission. Present publicity without authority of the respective Governments was opposed by me, keeping in mind that it was desirable to retain freedom of action for the Department. It was agreed, therefore, that the matter of publicity be submitted for their decision to the respective Governments. In case there is no objection thereto by the Department it is hoped that I shall be so informed.
This telegram communicated to Tokyo.
  1. Quotation not paraphrased.