The Ambassador in Japan (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

No. 787

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 13 of February 18, 7 p.m., and previous correspondence dealing with the agreement signed by certain Powers, at Peking, on May 5, 1919, I have the honor to inform the Department that, on February 23rd last, I informed the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the contents of the Department’s telegram above referred to.

While the only official communication which I have received from the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been an acknowledgment of the [Page 299] receipt of my note, I have received from the Legation at Peking copies of telegrams exchanged with the Department on this subject, and I have also been kept informed of developments, informally, by the Foreign Office. In talks which the Embassy has had with the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Debuchi has pointed out that, while the Japanese Government was in hearty agreement with our Government, that the 1919 Embargo Agreement had not achieved its objectives and that an investigation of the whole matter might well be advisable, they felt that the large shipments of arms into China, recently reported, made it advisable to secure, as soon as possible, the adhesion to the Agreement of certain Powers not now parties to it. For this reason, Mr. Debuchi felt that the decision reached by the diplomatic representatives on February 21st, urging the adhesion of these Powers, was a wise one. Mr. Debuchi said that he had reason to believe that the German Government would be willing to take the necessary measures and that the Japanese Government would undertake to bring the matter to the attention of the Soviet Government, with a view to securing their agreement to refrain from exporting arms to China. (He said that of course no attempt would be made to have them adhere to the Agreement as this would, he felt, prove embarrassing to those Powers not maintaining relations with the Soviet Government.) Mr. Debuchi, at that time, seemed to feel that the approval of the remaining Powers, which had in the past been shipping arms to China, could be secured.

In a more recent conversation, Mr. Debuchi stated that the Japanese Government had, on March 1st last, in an informal note to the Soviet Ambassador, requested his Government’s approval of the principles outlined above, but that since that date no reply had been received and he, Mr. Debuchi, was beginning to feel that perhaps the Soviet Government would not be willing to bind itself. He said that, so far as the Czechoslovak Government was concerned, Dr. Benes had indicated that his Government would prefer an international agreement, bringing in all the Powers, rather than the small group contemplated in the proposed agreement. Mr. Debuchi seemed to feel that it would be virtually impossible to carry out the proposal of the Czechoslovak Government. With regard to Sweden and Germany, he seemed to think that both of these Powers would agree to the restrictions, but that, up to the present, no indication had been received as to Norway’s intentions.

I have [etc.]

Charles MacVeagh