793.94/10366: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland (Harrison) to the Secretary of State

19. My 18, September 30, 8 p.m. Advisory Committee held public session this morning:

Cranborne seconded by de Tessan66 proposed the following terms of reference for the Subcommittee: (1) to examine situation in China; (2) discuss the questions involved; (3) and submit to the Committee such proposals as it might find fit. The Committee agreed to Cranborne’s proposal with an amendment by Koo that point 1 read “to examine the situation arising out of the Sino-Japanese conflict in the Far East”.

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The Chairman then proposed that the Subcommittee be composed of the representatives of Australia, Belgium, United Kingdom, China, Ecuador, France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Russia and of the United States whose representative would sit on the same conditions as govern his participation in the full Committee. Cranborne and Koo proposed that Latvia be included and Munters act as Chairman of the Subcommittee. Litvinoff proposed New Zealand. With these amendments the Chairman’s proposal was approved, the Polish representative stating that he would refrain from sitting pending receipt of instructions from his Government. The Chinese delegation moved the following resolution:

“Whereas, Japan has taken the initiative of sending to China powerful armies which have invaded large portions of Chinese territory,

Whereas, Japan has proclaimed a maritime blockade of China, and her fleet has bombarded various Chinese ports,

Whereas, the Japanese Air Force has also proceeded in Chinese territory to aerial bombardment, the illegal character of which has been condemned by a resolution of this Committee dated September 27, 1937, which was endorsed by the Assembly at its meeting on September 28,

Whereas, Japan has rejected the overtures made to her with a view to arriving at a pacific settlement of the dispute,

Whereas, she has in particular declined the invitation made to her on September 21 to participate in the work of the Advisory Committee,

Whereas, Japan has undertaken hostilities in defiance of the provision of the Washington Treaty of February 22 [6], 1922, and of the Pact of Paris of April [August] 27, 1928, of which she is a signatory, and of the fundamental rules of international law,

The Advisory Committee condemns these violations of international law and of contractual obligations,

Condemns the illegal blockade of the Chinese coasts,

And declares that the facts noted above constitute a case of external aggression against a member of the League of Nations under article 10 of the Covenant.”

In the course of his remarks supporting his resolution Koo declared that the facts were incontestable and established a clear case of aggression under article 10 of the Covenant. In view of the League’s unsatisfactory experience in the past and present world conditions, China did not ask the members of the League [to] carry out all their obligations under the Covenant but he did ask a study of definite steps to restore peace in the Far East. There could be no hesitation when it was merely a question of re-affirming the principles of the Covenant.

After some discussion it was decided to refer the Chinese resolution to the Subcommittee with instructions to report back to the full Committee so that the full Committee might report to the Assembly before the close of this session.

A meeting of the Subcommittee immediately followed.

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Munters invited suggestions as to procedure. A discussion ensued in which Litvinoff supported the acceptance of Koo’s resolution as it stood. De Tessan requested a juridicial and factual analysis of the situation referring to the Boxer and 1932 Shanghai arrangements. Unden67 pointed out the difficulty owing to the absence of Japan. Cranborne urged the importance of having a complete exposé of the facts with full consideration given to all sides of the question so that a suitable resolution could be prepared for adoption by the Assembly. “For the Subcommittee to go through Koo’s resolution point by point and express agreement on that [this] and that point was not a proper procedure for the League of Nations”. After further discussion among the representatives of Russia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the Secretary General agreed to prepare and if possible deliver to the delegates this evening a summary exposé of the facts. Bruce summed up his understanding of what the Committee desired: it should deal with the matter impartially with an open mind so that the Committee could go before the Assembly and the world with a suitable document. He suggested that such presentation of the case should contain first an outline of the original incident and of the extension of hostilities with the probable finding that these were not justified, secondly a careful examination of the public statements and justifications which the Japanese Government and Japanese statesmen have made, and thirdly an examination of Japan’s treaty obligations with other powers in respect to China such as the Washington Treaty and the Pact of Paris. The conclusion to be drawn from these studies would, he felt sure, result in establishing the fact of a clear breach of Japan’s international obligations. There need be no detailed examination of vast obligations of League members under the Covenant but broad conclusions could be reached.

Koo then rose to speak but as the hour was late he stated that he would withhold his remarks with respect to the various views that have been expressed until the next meeting of the Subcommittee tentatively set for tomorrow morning at 10.

  1. François de Tessan, French Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Oesten Unden, special counsel on international law of the Swedish Foreign Office.