793.94/10043: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

593. 1. The Foreign Office sent for me this morning to say that they regarded seriously the Japanese occupation of Pratas Reef some distance southeast of Hong Kong. There is a Chinese meteorological station on this small island which is said to render invaluable service, particularly in warning Hong Kong of approaching typhoons. The Japanese have dismantled this station and, according to the Foreign Office, plan to establish an airplane base. It was likewise stated that the British authorities have strictly secret information that the Japanese are planning to attack and occupy the Island of Hainan. In addition both the British and the French are apprehensive that an attempt to occupy the Paracels Reef may be made. The sovereignty of this reef is said to have been long in dispute between France and China and to be of particular importance to the French as it commands the eastern approaches to Indo-China.

2. A final instruction is being telegraphed today to the British Ambassador at Tokyo to warn the Japanese Government that their occupation of Pratas Reef, already accomplished, and any projected occupation of Hainan and Paracels would inevitably involve serious difficulties with third powers and therefore be directly contrary to official Japanese statements that they had no intention of antagonizing the interests of third powers in their conflict with China. The British Ambassador in addition is instructed to protest against the Japanese dismantling of the meteorological station on Pratas Reef. The French Ambassador at Tokyo, according to the Foreign Office, has been instructed to join with his British colleague in this démarche.

3. The Foreign Office pointed out the fact that the Japanese occupation of these three points would offer potential dangers to sea communications north from Singapore, and a very general wish was expressed to know what, if any, action the United States proposed to take in this matter. There evidently exists the hope that the United States might be prepared to make similar representations at Tokyo.