Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton)

Mr. Green of WE68 and Mr. Mackay and Mr. Hamilton of FE69 discussed in detail the situation relating to the export from the United States of small arms and ammunition to Hong Kong, particular reference being had to Hong Kong’s confidential telegram of May 17, 1 p.m. [May 15, 3 p.m.]. As a result of this discussion it was agreed that the important factors in the situation as it now exists are as follows:

The American exporters have endeavored without success to obtain from the Hong Kong importers the information desired by the Department to enable the Department to determine the ultimate purchaser;
The American Consul General at Hong Kong has been unable to obtain this information or information which would afford the Department a basis for prescribing what particular amount of arms or ammunition might be construed as for the retail trade;
Any attempt by the Department to fix a definite limit as to the amount of arms or ammunition which might be exported to Hong Kong during a particular period would operate to bring about discrimination as between one American exporter and another American exporter;
The Department has under discussion with the British Government a method of handling the situation at Hong Kong, which, if accepted by the British Government, offers a reasonable prospect of working satisfactorily;
Should the Department now devide to permit practically no exports of small arms and ammunition to Hong Kong, such decision would result in diverting the present orders now obtained by American exporters to exporters from other countries, without effecting a reduction in the amounts imported into China through Hong Kong.

In view of the foregoing factors, Messrs. Green, Mackay and Hamilton came to the conclusion that, pending the receipt of a reply from the British Government to the last communication from the Department in regard to the situation at Hong Kong, the Department should approve applications for license to export to Hong Kong shipments of small arms and ammunition except when particular circumstances seem to warrant the withholding of a license for any particular shipment.70

  1. Division of Western European Affairs.
  2. Division of Far Eastern Affairs.
  3. The following note was appended to this memorandum by the Under Secretary of State: “Assuming that this is a temporary arrangement I approve your recommendation. We should clear the matter up with the British as soon as possible. W[illiam] P[hillips].”