793.94/14317: Telegram

The Chargé in France ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State

1877. I handed Hoppenot10 this afternoon a note containing the text of your statement to the press of November 4 (your 840, November 6, 4 p.m.11). He was much interested and expressed appreciation that this text had been communicated to the Foreign Office.

He referred to our conversation of November 3 regarding the Yangtze River question (my 1856, November 3, noon12) and stated that instructions in the sense indicated had in fact been cabled to the French Ambassador in Tokyo that same day. He expressed again the satisfaction of the Foreign Office at having been informed in advance of our contemplated action and stated that the French Ambassador in London had reported that the British Government was also greatly pleased at having been advised beforehand. The British also had instructed their Ambassador in Tokyo to take similar action.

Hoppenot said that the powers having interests in China were confronted today with a different situation from that which existed a year ago at the time of the Brussels Conference. Prior to the Brussels Conference the Japanese Government had given repeatedly assurances that it would respect the Open Door and the rights of other countries in China. The Brussels Conference therefore had considered the Far Eastern question more from the angle of what could be done to maintain the integrity of China than from the point of view of protection of their own rights in China. Today the situation is vastly different. Since Brussels, Japan has consistently acted contrary to her undertakings to respect the Open Door and now the statements made last week in Tokyo leave no doubt of the intention of the Japanese unless they are checked to create a new situation in the Far East at the expense of the rights and interests of other powers in that area. Hoppenot said that he believed that unless the United States, Great Britain, and France should take firm and concerted action to convince the Japanese that they will not accept such unilateral revision of their rights in China these three countries will find themselves in the early future completely frozen out of China.

I asked Hoppenot along what lines he was thinking [of] attempting action to convince the Japanese. He said that he was thinking about as follows: that the three powers mentioned should, at approximately the same time, let the Japanese Government know (secretly in order [Page 375] that the Japanese need not lose face) that they recognized that changes had taken place in China since July 1937 and that this fact would have to be taken into consideration in arriving at new agreements regarding the Far East. However, the recognition of changes in the situation in the Far East could not be imposed by Japan by unilateral action, and could only become effective upon agreement of the powers signatories to the Nine Power Treaty. Furthermore discussion of this question could not take place until the present conflict in China had come to an end whether this took 1 year or 2 years or longer, and of course a government representing China would have to be a party to the discussion. In the meanwhile the status quo regarding their rights in China must be maintained.

Hoppenot said that he believes that if something along the foregoing lines could be conveyed firmly and secretly by Great Britain, France, and the United States to Japan such action would prove effective. He believes that a move of this nature would strengthen the hands of Konoe, Arita and other civilian leaders.

As indicating that a firm stand with the Japanese proves effective, Hoppenot referred to the matter of the Japanese protest against alleged continuous passage of munitions over Indo-China (see my 1841, October 29, 1 p.m.). He said that the French reply to the Japanese Embassy had been made on November 4 and had been in strong terms refusing to take the Japanese protest into consideration. (Incidentally he stated that the Japanese had proposed the despatch of a Franco-Japanese commission to Indo-China to investigate the situation on the spot; the French Government had of course turned this down flatly.) Hoppenot then read me a Havas despatch just received from Tokyo stating that the Domei Agency had announced that the Japanese Government was now satisfied that there had been no appreciable traffic in arms across Indo-China and that the discussion with the French on this matter had taken place in a manner entirely satisfactory to Japan.

  1. Chief of the Far Eastern Division, French Foreign Office.
  2. See telegram No. 379, November 4, 5 p.m., to the Ambassador in Japan, p. 368.
  3. Vol. iv, p. 196.