793.94/9815: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

329. Department’s 177, August 28, 4 p.m.86

On August 28 the French Ambassador sent his Counselor to the Foreign Office in connection with the “China blockade” (1) to make “serious reservations [representations?]” concerning the attitude of the French Government and (2) to inquire as to the interpretation of the term “peaceful commerce” mentioned in the announcement. The Vice Minister professed entire ignorance of the announcement by the navy which gave the Ambassador the impression that the step had been taken without consulting the Foreign Office. Horinouchi said he would investigate and reply.
Yesterday the Vice Minister handed to the French Ambassador as an “oral” reply the following text:
The closing of the traffic applies, as clearly stated in the declaration made on the 25th instant by Admiral Hasegawa, only to Chinese vessels and does not apply to the vessels of third powers. [Page 438] Consequently, arms and ammunitions carried on board the latter ships do not come within the scope of the present measure. However, since the above mentioned declaration was issued, there have been Chinese ships flying foreign flags in order to evade the application of the declaration, and the Japanese Government are faced with the necessity of inspecting the suspected ships in order to identify their nationality. The Japanese Government, of course, do not want to create unnecessary misunderstanding with the ships of third powers and, so, they would find it convenient to have advance notice of the ships entering the prescribed area, as to their names, their captains, and the matters concerning the capital invested in them.
As you are aware the Japanese Government have made it clear, in their statement of August 26th, that in the face of the present situation they were forced to adopt this measure with a view to prompting China’s reconsideration and bringing about a speedy settlement. Under the present circumstances, if large quantities of arms and ammunitions were to be supplied to China from abroad, it would only strengthen both morally and materially her antagonism toward Japan, and thereby prolong and intensify the present conflict. The Japanese Government, therefore, hope that the Governments of the third powers concerned will appreciate the delicate situation, and refrain, as much as possible, from doing anything which is likely to encourage China in this direction.
The present declaration, as stated above, does not apply in the case of ships of third powers, and the Japanese Government do not, for the present, contemplate taking any action to prevent the importation of arms and ammunition into China by foreign vessels. But in view of the fact that such importation of war supplies is bound to increase Chinese opposition against Japan, future developments may compel the Japanese Government to devise more effective and suitable measures to stop all importation of arms and ammunition into China. August 30, 1937.
Any inquiry from us would probably draw forth an identic reply. Therefore, if instructions from the Department to take action should cross this telegram I shall nevertheless delay action until this telegram has been received and acknowledged by the Department.

Repeated to Shanghai for relay to Nanking.

  1. Not printed.