793.94/9372: Telegram

The Ambassador in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

433. Your 141, August 12, 2 p.m.,12 and 144, August 12, 8 p.m., received 3:30 p.m. today. Your 147, August 13, 5 p.m., received 5 p.m. today.

I saw British Ambassador this evening and he told me that he had just made to Wang Chung Hui the following statement under orders from his Government:

“Reports today of fighting having broken out in the Hongkew District of Shanghai make it urgently necessary to impress on the Chinese and the Japanese Governments once more in strongest terms the importance of avoiding hostilities in that city. Each side is under the strongest moral obligation to refrain from any action likely to lead, whether through their own immediate fault or that of the other, to such hostilities and to the incalculable danger which will ensue to thousands of foreigners in no way concerned. Not only contact between troops of opposite parties, but their presence in that area, must be recognized as constituting a naked flame in a powder magazine, and responsibility can not be avoided by petty arguments as to who started firing or what technical right exists to have troops on the spot. Both sides will be responsible for disaster which is inevitable if their present attitude is maintained. To the casual onlooker that attitude is one of the most certain to lead to the very trouble which each side professes to wish to avoid. No words can alter the fact, and His Majesty’s Government must appeal to both the Chinese and Japanese Governments with the utmost insistence to make their actions conformable to their assurances. Please point out to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the folly and inconsistency of the Chinese bringing their troops into contact with the Japanese at Shanghai. They cannot ultimately do themselves any good by such action but will in fact only increase the danger of the Japanese ultimately controlling the destiny of Shanghai and main source of the customs revenue while endangering the city itself and the foreign lives in it.”

He asked me whether I would support this. Subsequently when I went to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs to protest against bombs dropped in Settlement I told Minister of Foreign Affairs that I had been informed of British Ambassador’s statement to him and that I wished to support the British Ambassador to the point of expressing the hope that some means might be found whereby the two Governments might get together and bring about a cessation of hostilities in neighborhood of Shanghai. Minister of Foreign Affairs asked me whether I was informed of formula quoted in paragraph 1 of [Page 414] Shanghai’s No. 473 of August 13, 9 p.m.13 I had previously been informed that British Ambassador had handed this formula to Minister of Foreign Affairs. I told Minister of Foreign Affairs that I was informed of this formula and I expressed the hope that Chinese Government would give it serious consideration. Minister of Foreign Affairs took matter to the Generalissimo this evening. I shall probably hear tomorrow of result.