793.94119/436: Telegram

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

748. The Foreign Office informed me this afternoon that the British Ambassador in China on a recent visit to Hankow was approached by the Chinese Government with a request for the good offices of the British Government between themselves and Japan. According to the British Ambassador, a similar approach was made by the Chinese Government at the same time to Ambassador Johnson. Last night instructions in the following tenor were telegraphed to Ambassador Craigie at Tokyo:

After consultation with Ambassador Grew and in his discretion with the German Ambassador,53 and subject to concurrence of the British Ambassador in China who has been informed of the instructions to Tokyo, Ambassador Craigie is to approach the Japanese Foreign Minister and tell him that the British Government is prepared, either alone or acting with other neutral powers, to offer its good offices with a view to settlement of the Sino-Japanese difficulty. Ambassador Craigie is being requested to avoid the use of the word “mediation” and to confine the British offer strictly to “good offices”. The Foreign Office explains that they are not willing to be anything more than a “post office” in the matter and that if their offer of good offices is accepted they do not propose to comment upon or discuss the merits of any proposals which may be made by either side to the other except to the party making the proposals, in the event that British comment or criticism is requested. In other words, they will not comment to the Chinese upon Japanese proposals nor to the Japanese upon Chinese proposals. Ambassador Craigie at the same time is to invite the attention of the Japanese Foreign Minister to the statement made in the House of Commons on July 26, as follows: “In the Far East we should be very glad to offer our services to bring about the cessation of hostilities if ever and whenever we can see an opportunity [Page 256] which presents a favorable prospect of success” (see Embassy’s despatch No. 862, July 28, 1938,54 enclosure, Hansard, top of column 2972). This statement of the Prime Minister’s55 incidentally anticipated the Chinese request by 2 or 3 days.

Following the overture made by the Chinese Government to the British Ambassador, it was confirmed in London by the Chinese Ambassador acting under instructions and the Foreign Office has been informed that a similar procedure was carried out with the United States Government.

In explanation of the instruction to Ambassador Craigie authorizing him in his discretion to consult also with the German Ambassador, the Foreign Office explained that Ambassador Henderson in Berlin has repeatedly urged the advisability of associating Germany, if at all possible, in any steps which might be taken toward a settlement of the Far Eastern conflict. He urges this on the ground that it could only be interpreted as a gesture of friendliness toward Germany on the part of Great Britain and because in fact, if the German Government wished to do so, it could be of genuine help in bringing about a pacific settlement of the Sino-Japanese dispute. With this opinion the Foreign Office agrees.

  1. Gen. Eugen Ott.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Neville Chamberlain.