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

No. 937

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 1491 of May 4, 1928, in regard to the despatch addressed to the Legation on April 26, 1928, by the American Consul at Harbin74 and the Legation’s reply thereto of May 4, 1928,74 concerning the sale of armored motor cars by an American firm to the Chinese authorities.

In the first paragraph of the Consul’s despatch to the Legation he stated that he had sent a notice to the importers “to the effect [Page 306] that furnishing the military authorities with munitions of war, which would include armored cars, was prohibited by the American Government.” Whether the Consul’s action was based on his opinion that it is warranted by the Agreement of 1919, or by the President’s Proclamation of 1922, is not disclosed by the record, but it seems desirable to inform the Consul that neither the agreement nor the President’s Proclamation prohibits “furnishing the military authorities with munitions of war.” The proclamation mentioned prohibits the exportation of arms and munitions of war from the United States to China and the agreement expresses the undertaking of the United States “effectively to restrain their …75 citizens from exporting to or importing into China arms and munitions of war and material destined exclusively for their manufacture,” No legislation has been enacted to give effect to the Agreement of 1919 and the only specific legal inhibition against the shipment of arms and munitions of war to China is that contained in the President’s Proclamation mentioned.

Consular officers should, therefore, be careful in discussing the shipment of arms and munitions to China to refrain from expressions which are not warranted by the President’s Proclamation or by the status of the Agreement of 1919. While, as above stated, legislation has not been enacted giving effect to the latter Agreement the Department feels that in view of the purpose of the Agreement and the Proclamation, consular officers should avail themselves of every opportunity to inform American citizens contemplating the importation into China of arms and munitions of war of the provisions of the Proclamation and the Agreement without attempting to discuss the legal effect of the latter. They should, of course, refrain from affording any assistance in furtherance of the importation of any equipment which may reasonably be regarded as contrary to the letter or spirit of the Proclamation of 1922 and the Agreement of 1919 and should report to the Department and to the Legation every case of which they have authoritative information indicating an intention by any person, regardless of nationality, to export arms and munitions from the United States or any territory under its control or any case indicating an intention by American citizens to import into China from any source equipment the importation of which may be regarded as contrary to the purpose of the Agreement of 1919.

In view of the purpose for which the automobile chassis is declared to be intended, that is, for protection against bandits, the Department would not be disposed to offer any objection to its exportation from the United States.

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You are requested to communicate the substance of this instruction to all consular officers in China for their information and guidance.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Nelson Trusler Johnson
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