Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck) of a Conversation With Mr. Rogers of the Bureau of Aeronautics, Department of Commerce

Mr. Rogers said that he wished to become oriented with regard to the present policy in connection with export of arms to China. In view of developments at Canton, had there been any change? The United Aircraft Company and the Curtiss-Wright Company were bent on some sales to Canton.

Mr. Hornbeck stated that there had been no change in policy. He said that we had had to make some slight readjustments in reference to procedure. The constant principle is that we wish to grant license to export only on consignments the export of which is known to us to be approved and desired by the National (Nanking) Government of China. For Mr. Rogers’ confidential information, we have had reason to believe that certain notifications from the Nanking Government are being delayed in the process of communication to us, and we have taken temporarily the position that, where we learn definitely [Page 1017] through another acceptable channel that the Nanking Government has given the notification, we will, on presentation of application for license to export, approve.

There followed inquiries by Mr. Rogers with regard to exporting to Hong Kong, Canton, Indo-China, and Yunnanfu. Mr. Hornbeck explained that, for export to Hong Kong or to Indo-China, no license is required, but that we would do what we properly can in cases where we know that the ultimate destination is a point in China, to discourage the transaction in the absence of notification to us that the Nanking Government approves.

Mr. Rogers inquired about export of commercial planes. Mr. Hornbeck said that for these no license is required; he called attention to the press release of June 2, 1930,2 especially the list on page 2 thereof. He said that licenses would be useful in order to prevent doubt and possible delay at the port of export, as customs officers would be likely, if they erred, to err on the side of caution and might hold back planes which were of ambiguous construction.

Mr. Rogers said that some of the aircraft companies were inclined to attempt to “get around” our regulations and policy wherever they saw a possible sale in sight. Mr. Hornbeck said that this would indicate short sightedness on their part, inasmuch as encouragement given to civil war in China, while it may mean increase of small sales temporarily, must mean in the long run a retarding of large purchases which might and probably would be made by the Central Government if, relieved of the necessity for fighting for its existence, it could accumulate resources sufficient for the carrying out of a broad gauge program of equipment and construction. Mr. Rogers said that he agreed.

Mr. Hornbeck explained the objection in principle of this Department to transactions involving the necessity for purchase, in fulfillment of contracts to export, of military equipment from American Government Departments. Mr. Rogers said that he considered it highly inadvisable for the Government to be directly associated with trade in arms for export to foreign countries, and that he considered that our attitude with regard to the matter was altogether sound. He said that he would endeavor to discourage that type of transaction. But, he said, the aircraft companies, some at least, care nothing about the Government’s policy or other considerations if they see immediate profit in sight.

The view was expressed and concurred in that the Department of Commerce and the Department of State must keep in close touch and work in close cooperation on this matter.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. Department of State, Press Releases, June 7, 1930 (no. 36), p. 273.