867.113 Jones and Lamson Machine Co./13

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Turkey (Skinner)

No. 147

Sir: I refer to your despatch No. 419 of November 5, 1934, in regard to the exportation of arms and munitions of war from the United States. I have noted your suggestion as to the advisability of greater precision in regard to the meaning of the phrase arms and munitions.

In reply, I have to inform you that there is no universally accepted definition of these terms, nor has this Government found it possible to be entirely consistent concerning the articles which should be considered as being included under that general description. I enclose a copy of a Press Release of May 28, 1934,77 which contains a list of those articles which are recognized by the Department as arms and munitions of war in administering the restrictions upon the export of arms and munitions to China, in pursuance of the President’s Proclamation of March 4, 1922.78 The same articles are recognized as arms and munitions in administering the restrictions upon the export thereof to Honduras and Nicaragua. The list of arms and munitions recognized as such in administering the restrictions upon their export to Cuba is, however, much more extensive as this list has been made to conform to the Cuban regulations governing imports.

The categories listed in the Arms Traffic Convention of 192579—which has not as yet been ratified by this Government—give perhaps the most nearly universally accepted list of what are generally recognized as constituting arms and munitions of war. I enclose a copy of that portion of the Convention which embodies these categories.80

I enclose also a copy of the Draft Articles for the Regulation and Control of the Manufacture of and Trade in Arms and the Establishment of a Permanent Disarmament Commission.80 These Articles [Page 971]were presented by the American Delegation on November 20, 1934,81 to the Bureau of the General Disarmament Conference. I invite your particular attention to Chapter I which contains a list of such arms and munitions as this Government believes should be recognized as such by international agreement. In connection with the drafting of this Chapter, the Delegation was instructed that the arms listed in the Convention should be limited to well recognized implements of war, and that an effort should be made to exclude, so far as possible, from the provisions of the Convention articles of peaceful commerce which only incidentally and exceptionally can be considered as arms or munitions. It was further instructed that in drawing up the categories of arms, the purpose of those articles of the Convention dealing with the regulation of the trade in and manufacture of arms should be kept constantly in mind, and that the inclusion of any provisions which are not definitely adapted to the attainment of the ends in view and which might constitute an unwarranted interference with international trade unrelated to war or preparation for war should be avoided.

It is hoped that through the negotiation of a treaty for the supervision and control of the manufacture of and international trade in arms, or through the enactment of legislation dealing with that matter, a definition of the phrase arms and munitions of war may be formulated which will determine for all practical purposes what articles are to be considered as comprised therein. In the absence of any such recognized definition, I regret that I am unable to give a more precise answer to the question raised in your despatch under reference.

Very truly yours,

William Phillips
  1. No record of such a press release of this date has been found in the printed Press Releases or files of the Department. For similar release of June 2, 1930, see Department of State, Press Releases, June 7, 1930, p. 273.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 726.
  3. Signed at Geneva, June 17, 1925, ibid., 1925, vol. i, p. 61.
  4. Not attached to file copy.
  5. Not attached to file copy.
  6. See Department of State, Press Releases, December 22, 1934, pp. 391–404.