793.94/10111: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva ( Bucknell ) to the Secretary of State

302. From Harrison:

1. a. Avenol26 asked me to call this morning. He expressed great pleasure that your statements of July 16 and August 23 had been communicated and told me that he proposed to lay them before the Council with a view to a most appreciative reply.

b. He then said that he wanted to let me know in advance that the Council proposed to refer the Chinese complaint to the Advisory Committee which was listed in their last publication of League Committees and considered still to be in existence. He explained that their purpose was to obviate the necessity of taking action on Koo’s requests of September 13 (see Consulate’s telegram No. 292 of September 13, 9 p.m.) for the application of article 17 of the Covenant. He also told me confidentially that Eden,27 Delbos, and he had talked with Koo pointing out the inevitable consequences entailed if the application of article 17 were followed through and stressing the effect of an eventual declaration of a state of war and the enforcement of our Neutrality Act. Koo had therefore modified his demand in his address yesterday, leaving to the Council three alternatives as to the course to be pursued (see Consulate’s telegram No. 297, September 15, 3 p.m.). Avenol laid emphasis on the fact that in its decision the Council would avoid reference to article 17. As he seemed to take it for granted that we would sit on the Advisory Committee I thought it well, in thanking him for the information, to say that there was no assurance that we would wish to participate.

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2. At his request I called upon Eden after seeing Avenol. He said that he wished to inform me that it was proposed to have the Council refer the Japanese-Chinese dispute to the Advisory Committee, that he felt that if it were taken up by the Council it might be embarrassing to us and furthermore the Council did not include important interested countries such as Holland as well as the United States who were represented on the Committee. I referred to Wilson’s conversation with the British Chargé d’Affaires reserving our freedom of decision. He said that he did not have a clear recollection on that point but from observation he would like to say that he earnestly hoped we would participate.

Eden also told me that he and Delbos had talked with Koo and had urged him not to insist on the application of article 17.

They had pointed out that such insistence might result in the declaration of a state of war, recognition of belligerency, restriction of British trade and enforcement of our Neutrality Act. Koo had claimed that he wanted to appeal to the first paragraph of article 17 only. Eden expressed the belief that the Chinese did not want a recognition of a state of war. On the other hand the Japanese did not want the enforcement of the Neutrality Act, why he could not imagine; perhaps as we were the source of their oil supply. To my question as to what he had in mind for the Advisory Committee he replied that it might appeal of [to?] both parties or invite Japanese cooperation or find some solution and in this connection mentioned his admiration for Colijn’s28 capabilities.

3. After Eden I saw Vansittart.29 (a) In his opinion there is no prospect of any move by members to take the initiative in obtaining Italian return to the League in connection with the Abyssinian situation in view of the general conviction that Italy is responsible for submarine piracy, and (b) only hope for termination of Sino-Japanese conflict lies in stiff Chinese resistance with resultant Japanese realization that the game is not worth the candle.

4. Koo and Hoo have just called on me. Explained that the Council in private session this afternoon will discuss procedure. Koo will briefly summarize his speech of yesterday and repeat proposed alternatives, the President of the Council will propose reference to the Advisory Committee, namely, reference of the Chinese notes of August 30 and September 13. Koo, however, in order to protect his juridical position will then make a reservation respecting his appeal to article [Page 22] 17 as set forth in his letter of September 12th. Koo explained that while he wished to maintain his appeal intact he was satisfied to have the matter referred to the Advisory Committee since Holland, Belgium, Sweden and especially the United States were represented on the Committee. He then asked what our attitude would be. I pointed out that it was a long time since we had participated in the Committee, that if the Committee were set up and we received an invitation this would of course be referred to Washington but that I could give him no assurance of what our attitude might be. Koo also expressed interest in the announcement of yesterday31 respecting the carrying of munitions of war by American Government and merchant ships and asked for the official text. Likewise he asked what exactly was meant by Government ships. He presumed that this category would not include ships such as those of the Dollar Line.

Koo offered to keep me closely informed of developments. [Harrison.]

  1. Joseph Avenol, Secretary General of the League of Nations.
  2. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Hendrik Colijn, Netherland Premier.
  4. Sir Robert Vansittart, British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  5. See Department’s press release of September 14, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 201.