893.113 Airplanes/12

The Secretary of State to Senator Hiram Bingham

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of September 12, 1928,76 in regard to the exportation of airplanes from the United States to China.

Neither the treaties nor the resolutions resulting from the Washington Conference embodied any general agreement to restrict the exportation of airplanes from the territories of the signatory Powers to China. The United States is party to an international understanding, generally known as the Arms Embargo of May 5, 1919, by virtue of which the nations concerned have agreed to restrain their citizens from importing into China “arms and munitions of war and material destined exclusively for their manufacture”. This restraint was, by the terms of the understanding, to continue “until the establishment of a government whose authority is recognized throughout the whole country”.

On March 4, 1922, the President issued a Proclamation under the terms of a Joint Resolution of Congress forbidding the exportation from the United States to China of “any arms or munitions of war”, authority to prescribe exceptions and limitations being vested in the Secretary of State. Texts of the Arms Embargo Agreement of 1919 and of the President’s Proclamation of March 4, 1922, are transmitted herewith. You will note that the scope of the Proclamation is more limited than that of the Agreement, since the former forbids only exportation from the United States to China, while the latter requires the effective restraint of the importation of arms from all sources. There appear to be no legislative enactments by virtue of which general control over American citizens in this manner can be exercised, but the 1919 Agreement nevertheless indicates the present policy of this Government. Since the American Government has now negotiated a treaty with the Nationalist Government of China the question may arise whether so far as this Government is concerned, the Agreement is still binding, [Page 308] or whether the condition for its termination, i. e., “the establishment of a government whose authority is recognized throughout the whole country” has been fulfilled.

With specific reference to the matter of airplanes, I have the honor to state that in order to fulfill the policies and duties arising from the Arms Embargo understanding of 1919 and the President’s proclamation of March 4, 1922, the Secretary of State has required that persons or firms desiring to export airplanes to China shall explain the circumstances of the transaction and shall apply for an export permit. This precaution has been rendered necessary by the fact that in the type of warfare waged of late years in China commercial airplanes are adaptable, after little or no alteration, to warlike uses.

The concern of the State Department is merely to prevent the exportation of airplanes to China for military use, in other words, when they are to be classified as “munitions of war”, exportation of which is forbidden by the President’s Proclamation of March 4, 1922. In the case of commercial type airplanes and in the absence of circumstances necessitating caution, permits for export are granted immediately following the submission in proper form of the required application.

I have [etc.]

Frank B. Kellogg
  1. Not printed.