The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Johnson)
153. Your 293, April 28, 6 p.m.
1. The Department observes that the question of exercising by American authorities of jurisdiction over persons who have not claimed American citizenship or over naturalized American citizens who rest under the presumption of expatriation is a question for determination by appropriate judicial proceedings. In connection with the reported importation into China by American citizens or firms of arms contrary to the terms of the President’s Proclamation of March 4, 1922,83 you are referred to Department’s instruction No. 937, July 30, 1928,84 concerning sale of armored motor cars at Harbin, and telegram No. 327, October 5, 6 p.m., 1929,85 concerning exportation of arms from the United States to China. See also Department’s instruction of June 25, 1887, Foreign Relations that year, page 225, relating to importation into China of contraband, in that case opium.
2. Department desires that Legation substitute for its proposed reply to Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs a text substantially as follows:
“(Begin with reference to and quotation of entire telegram from Minister for Foreign Affairs.)
The Ministry requests that the American Government be asked to prohibit the sale and shipment of the airplanes referred to and that the American Consul at Tientsin be instructed to prevent the delivery of the rifles and ammunition referred to. In reply, with regard to the airplanes alleged to have been ordered, the Legation would state, first, that the information given is not sufficient to serve as a basis for investigation and, second, that it is believed that the Ministry is adequately informed with regard to the policy of the American Government in regulation of exports of military airplanes from the United States to China. With regard to the rifles and ammunition, the Legation notes that the Ministry states that these items have been purchased from Europe and are being sent to an American firm at Tientsin. The Ministry will realize that American authorities cannot act toward preventing a sale and shipment from a country other than the United States; while, with regard to preventing delivery to a consignee in China, the Legation would observe that administrative responsibility in connection with importation into China of contraband goods has long been understood to rest with the Chinese Maritime Customs Administration. If, in connection with an alleged importation of contraband goods, the Maritime Customs Administration has occasion and desire to bring a charge against an American firm in China, such charge may be and should be communicated to the American consular [Page 619] official concerned, who is authorized, if a charge is brought, to take such measures as are lawful and appropriate.”