The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Hospitalization ( Patman )
My Dear Mr. Patman: I have your letter of May 16, 1935, suggesting the possibility of obtaining radium from Belgium as a payment on the war debts owed by Belgium to the United States.
Belgium has not made payments due December 15, 1932, June 15 and December 15, 1933, and June 15 and December 15, 1934, on its indebtedness to the United States. In a communication to the Department of State, dated December 6, 1932,6 the Belgian Embassy stated that the Belgian Government was convinced that a careful examination of the situation would show that the depression has brought it face to face with serious difficulties and that Belgium would be exposed to grave danger if she were asked to resume payments. In November, 1934, the Department wrote the Belgian Embassy7 that this Government was fully disposed to discuss, through diplomatic channels, any proposals the Belgian Government may desire to put forward in regard to the payment of this indebtedness, and that such proposals would receive careful consideration with a view to eventual submission to the American Congress. In a reply dated December 13, 1934,8 the [Page 378] Embassy stated that the Belgian Government regretted that the reasons which prevented it from resuming on December 15, 1932, the payments suspended by the Hoover Moratorium, and which had been brought to the attention of the United States Government in previous correspondence, still existed in their entirety.
As has been indicated to the Belgian Government and to other governments in arrears in payment on their indebtedness to the United States, this Government is prepared to discuss any proposals which debtor governments may make as to the payment of their obligations. The present obligation of the debtor governments is to make certain scheduled payments in currency in the United States. Should the Belgian Government express an interest in facilitating payments by the delivery of a commodity like radium, instead of cash payment, such a suggestion would come directly within the spirit of the announced willingness of this Government to consider any practicable and reasonable proposals regarding payment. So far as I am informed, delivery of radium would require the appropriation by the Belgian Government of moneys to purchase the radium so that for the present the matter would appear to be covered by the general negative reply of the Belgian Government of December 13, 1934.
This Government from time to time formally recalls to the debtor governments the payments maturing on their debt and the arrears thereon. A communication of this kind will shortly be addressed to the Belgian Government. In case the reply of the Belgian Government indicates any favorable change in the Belgian position, an opportunity might be opened for discussion of mutually advantageous methods of payment.