793.94/13816: Telegram

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

577. Our January 13, 4 p.m. to Shanghai,83 Hankow safety zone. The following is translation of a note verbale dated September 3, received today, from the Foreign Office:

“The Imperial Ministry of Foreign Affairs present its compliments to the American Ambassador and has the honor, in view of the attack which is soon to be made on Hankow and its environs by the Imperial Army, to convey to the American Ambassador the following communication regarding the safety of the rights and interests in Hankow of third countries.

Information concerning the safety of the rights and interests in Hankow of third powers was conveyed in a note verbale dated January 11 of this year. From that time up to the present the attack on Hankow has been limited to aerial bombardment.

Since the capture of Hankow is soon to be carried out by means of military force both land and water, the Imperial Government by enlarging upon and explaining the purport of the above mentioned note verbale is desirous of contributing toward assuring the safety of the rights and interests of third countries.

As was stated in the preceding note verbale, the conditions under which the Imperial Army will not attack the specified area are that Chinese forces are not present within the said area; that absolutely no military advantage of the area be taken by the Chinese Army and that the movements of Japanese forces outside the area are not hindered from within the area. In consequence of these conditions:

the Chinese forces are not to be allowed to pass through the said area;
the Chinese forces’ arms, ammunition, military supplies, et cetera are not to be allowed to be stored in or to be transported thru the area;
the Chinese forces are not to confront the Imperial forces by taking a position in front of this area;
the area is not to be utilized by the Chinese military authorities for espionage, communication, or as a base of operations for creating disturbances behind Japanese lines;
vessels used by the Chinese forces are not to be allowed to navigate along or to anchor at the river front in the said area;
troops, assassins, and criminals are to be considered as elements of the Chinese Army and the foregoing conditions are properly to be applicable also to them.

The Imperial forces consider these to be especially important items in connection with the need for planning for the safety of third party interests at the time of the capture of Hankow, and accordingly they [Page 278] urgently ask that the countries concerned will take steps to see that they are strictly carried out.

In regard to the abuse by the Chinese forces of third party rights: The experiences during the hostilities in the western part of Shanghai last year fully evidence that, in the event that the Chinese forces confront the Japanese forces in the vicinity of foreign property or use such property as cover, as an unavoidable consequence the property of third parties is unintentionally subjected to fire.

Accordingly it is particularly to be added that as long as there are Chinese military forces or military emplacements within 1,000 meters from the outer edge of the established area at Hankow herein referred to, it is exceedingly difficult for the Imperial forces to bear responsibility for unforeseen damages to the rights and interests of third parties which may occur as a result of an attack on such Chinese forces or emplacements.”

  1. See telegram No. 73, January 13, 7 p.m., from the Consul General at Shanghai, p. 21.