The American Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Hirota)

No. 874

Excellency: The American Government has from time to time since the outbreak of the present conflict in China made known to the Japanese Government its very real interest in the preservation of the integrity of the Chinese customs and in the safeguarding of the customs revenues. The American Government has repeatedly urged that no action be taken or countenanced by the Japanese authorities which might undermine the authority of the customs administration, disrupt the customs service, or impair the ability of the customs to continue the service of foreign loan and indemnity quotas and to meet administrative expenses. My Government has expressed a desire to receive from the Japanese Government certain assurances, including an assurance with regard to the continuance of existing custom tariff rates and procedure.

The American Government has recently received information from its representatives in China to the effect that a provisional regime in [Page 739]Peiping has caused a revision to be made of Chinese customs rates on certain articles entering into the foreign export and import trade of North China. My Government, regarding the Government of China as the only authority which can legally cause a revision to be made in the Chinese customs tariff, is constrained to invite the attention of the Japanese Government to this arbitrary and illegal assumption of authority by the provisional régime in Peiping and to point out that the action of the provisional regime may have a seriously adverse effect upon the integrity of the Chinese customs, with regard both to administration and to revenues, and that the revision of rates does violence to the principle of a uniform Chinese tariff at all ports.

The Japanese Government shares with the American Government and with other Governments a long established and well recognized interest in the integrity of the Chinese customs administration, and the American Government has expressed its confident belief that the Japanese Government reciprocates the earnest desire of the American Government that the integrity of the Chinese customs be respected. The action of the provisional régime at Peiping in revising rates of duty seriously threatens the integrity of the customs. For the creation and the acts of the provisional regime the Japanese Government has an inescapable responsibility; and when those acts are of a character, as in the case of the revision of the rates of duty, which affect the interests of foreign Governments, it is to the Japanese Government that those Governments must address their representations.

The American Government is impelled, therefore, to state to the Japanese Government that it perceives no legality or legitimacy in the assumption of authority by the provisional regime and that it profoundly regrets that the Japanese Government has not exercised that restraining influence which it is in position to exercise upon the authorities of the provisional regime. In the light of the existing situation, the American Government will be compelled to consider the Japanese Government responsible for any adverse effects which a revision of the rates may have upon American rights and interests, including therein trade with China and the servicing from customs revenues of foreign loans and indemnity quotas.

I avail myself [etc.]

Joseph C. Grew