Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)
Mr. Truelle98 called me on October 28 and said that his Embassy had a telegram from the French Foreign Office stating that the [Page 370] Chinese Ambassador in Paris99 had stated to the Foreign Office that he and the Chinese Ambassadors at Washington and at London1 had instructions from their Government to ask the respective foreign offices to consider making a joint or common declaration to the Japanese Government that the three Governments thus concerned would “oppose” Japanese operations in south China. Mr. Truelle wished to know whether such an approach had been made to this Department by the Chinese Embassy here.
I replied that no such approach had been made here. Mr. Truelle expressed surprise. I stated that I was not surprised. There followed some discussion of the matter, in the course of which I repeated that no such approach had been made here and therefore no consideration had been given here to any such suggestion.
This morning, November 5, the French Ambassador2 asked for an appointment with me and stated that it was urgent. The Ambassador then came to see me and stated that the Chinese Ambassador in Paris was insistently telling the Foreign Office that the Chinese Government had instructed its Ambassadors in Paris, Washington and London to make the request mentioned above. His Foreign Office wished to know whether this Government had yet been approached by the Chinese Embassy in the sense indicated.
I replied that we had not been so approached. With the consent of the Ambassador, I called Mr. Hamilton3 in and put the inquiry before him. Mr. Hamilton confirmed what I had said to Mr. Truelle and to the Ambassador. I then asked the Ambassador whether his Government had ascertained whether the Chinese Ambassador in London had made such an approach to the British Government. The Ambassador replied that he was uninformed on that subject. I said that it would seem reasonable to assume that his Government would have made such an inquiry and that it might be interesting both for the Ambassador and for us to know what might have transpired in that connection. The Ambassador said that he would inquire. I suggested that if and when he inquired he should assume authorship of the inquiry and not attribute it to us, as mine was an informal and unofficial suggestion and not a suggestion of the Department.
Mr. Hamilton referred to a conversation which the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs4 had had sometime ago with the American Ambassador in China in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs had indicated an interest in ascertaining the reaction of the United States to the south China invasion and in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs [Page 371] had made a suggestion that there should be some common action by the American, the British and the French Governments in regard to the general situation in China and to observations in somewhat the same sense that had been made by officers of the French Foreign Office to our Chargé in Paris.5 At that point, Mr. Hamilton was called away. I thereafter said to the Ambassador that, if the French Government, in having twice asked whether we had been approached by the Chinese Ambassador, was seeking to ascertain what might be our reaction to some proposal of common or joint action, I would suggest that the Ambassador carry the inquiry directly to the Under Secretary or the Secretary, as I did not wish to venture into even a tentative discussion of that point. The Ambassador replied that if he felt or found that such was the intent of his Government he would so proceed.
With appropriate exchanges of amenities the conversation there ended.