793.94/12279: Telegram

The Consul General at Shanghai ( Gauss ) to the Secretary of State

177. Following from Tokyo:

January 31, 5 p.m. Please relay the following to the Department and repeat to Ambassador Johnson:

“My 25, January 13, 6 p.m., paragraph No. 3.73

In view of recent developments at Geneva, the Department may be interested in the statement made in the Diet on January 25 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as follows: ‘The first point of [in] the present interpellation was a question of the significance of calling the present Sino-Japanese relations an incident and not a war. As is well known, the present trouble arose from the Lukowkiao Bridge incident, becoming gradually aggravated until turned into a general conflict. Up to the present time, if we look at the situation between Japan and China, it is clearly a great struggle; for the Far East an extraordinary struggle. However, as you know, the situation in the Far East is not one like that of Europe based on concepts of international law. Speaking from racial as well as other considerations the relations of these two countries cannot be regulated by war. Actually Japan has from the outset of this incident announced that it was combatting the anti-Japanese movement as represented by the Chiang regime and the military cliques. On the [Page 447] one hand there has arisen in North China a government which, friendly to Japan, is adopting a joint anti-Communist policy. Arguing from this standpoint it is beyond need of proof that the relations between China and Japan are not a war in which the Chinese Government and its people are looked upon as enemies. Ordinarily, according to the dictates of international law, in the case of war it is usual to make a declaration of war at the outset or later. As a result of the declaration of war it is customary for third countries to assume the obligations of neutrals. In the present situation in the Far East the advantages and disadvantages of the application of the principles of international law to this situation must be considered carefully. In the light of the situation in China and in international relations we have not yet taken the step of declaring war. However, depending on developments, this step may become necessary. Consequently it is unnecessary to repeat that both internally and externally the present struggle is in fact a war. Accordingly the question of the steps to be taken at the termination are the same as those of war. If we look at the attitude of the Chinese National Government up to the present time we see that it lacked entirely any sincere intention to negotiate with Japan and we therefore severed all international intercourse with it. However from the standpoint of actual fact the relations between Japan and China must be postponed [fostered]. Having reached this state [stage], Japan with extraordinary determination is urging the reflection of all China and is building everlasting peace in the Far East. Japan cannot lend an ear to effort by a third power to intervene at this time. I can hardly imagine there would be such a third country. However with respect to relations between China and third countries in the past there are a number of countries which have had very many cultural or material interests in China. Considerable reflection is necessary as to what degree these countries will maintain the interests they have had in China up to the present time. Should, through the action of a third country, there result aid being given to China this will only serve to prolong the incident and would have a deplorable effect on the restoration of peace in the Far East, to be sure—nay, on the restoration of peace in the world. We are trying to get the various countries to understand fully the present situation in the Far East and to adopt policies in conformity with the new situation. In this respect in the past in the relation between China and third countries it is a fact that there have been such things as the supplying of armaments. It appears in the majority of cases that third countries and China, not being subject to the restrictions of laws of neutrality, regard this trade in arms as undertaken purely as a commercial transaction. However this is a matter of theory. Actually, those countries with kindly intentions, desiring a quick solution of the present situation, restoration of the peace in the Far East, and maintenance of world peace, are for the most part restricting voluntarily the supplying of arms. Those who are not so doing have had the situation explained to them and have had attention called to this fact. Various countries are cited and we often are asked which country is the principal supplier of armaments. Recently, in a communication received from England it has been explained that in Hong Kong, which is supposed to be the [Page 448] principal import source of arms to China, at the present time the armaments of English manufacture occupy but a small portion of the whole. We must recognize that almost the entire amount comes from other countries. To look upon this as an act of commercial character and to [simply stand] with folded arms can only result in the prolongation of the present trouble between Japan and China and I am constantly calling this to the attention of various foreign countries, the countries concerned. As the situation develops I believe that these countries can be made to have a more comprehensive understanding, particularly as a result of making clear our attitude that we would have nothing to do with Chiang Kai-shek, that with different administration as the center we would assist in the reconstruction of China. I believe that the business [men] of various countries who have been supplying the armaments to the national movement [National Government] for purely profit motives will reflect seriously. This will constitute my answer to the above interpellation.’
As reports from Geneva state that Eden, Delbos, and Litvinov73b have assured Koo73c that their respective countries are prepared to assist China by continued supplies of arms and munitions, considerable significance is being attachéd to a statement made by the Prime Minister on January 29 before the Budget Committee of the Lower House. No official text of the statement is available but it was reported in the press to have been as follows: ‘With reference to a declaration of war, it is possible by methods of diplomacy to prevent to a certain degree third countries helping China by the supply of munitions and we are employing various appropriate means to convey to such countries a correct conception of Japanese position in China. However as I stated on a previous occasion we intend to request that His Majesty declare war if Chiang Kai-shek’s future attitude and other developments, both internal and external to Japan, should warrant such action.’ Comment will follow shortly.”

  • Grew
  • Gauss
  1. Not printed.
  2. British, French, and Soviet representatives.
  3. Chinese representative.