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

No. 3522

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s confidential instruction no. 1574 of September 12, 1938, with its enclosures99 (File No. 500.C1197/1240), relating to the drug situation in China as reported in the statements of the American representative at the last session of the Opium Advisory Committee at Geneva. The Embassy has carefully noted, and appreciates, the background [Page 570] information and the Department’s views as set forth in that instruction.

The Embassy has delayed its reply to the instruction under acknowledgment in the expectation that, without soliciting it, the Japanese authorities would make orally or otherwise to the Embassy some explanation or statement further in regard to their attitude on the situation in China as exposed by the American delegate. Although a member of the Embassy staff has had on many occasions conversations on other matters pertaining to the narcotics traffic with the official of the Foreign Office in charge of that work, no reference has been made by that official to the situation in China or to the expose of our delegate.

It has been noted, however, that there has been a slackening in cooperation on the part of the Japanese authorities since they first called our attention, as reported in the Embassy’s telegram No. 400, June 22, 6 p.m., to the statements of our delegate at Geneva. Though there have been only two or three cases of a minor nature and the Turevic case since that time we have noted that the Japanese authorities have not been as prompt as heretofore in replying to our inquiries.

In this relation and with respect to the question of undertaking to consult with the Japanese authorities in advance before giving publicity to information concerning the illicit traffic conducted by Japanese in China and the illicit traffic to the United States from the areas in China controlled by the Japanese, the Embassy refers to its opinion given in the penultimate paragraph of confidential despatch No. 3181 of August 11, 1938,1 to the effect that we are not in a position to determine whether the advantages derived from unrestricted publication of information with regard to illicit Japanese activities in China are greater than the advantages which flow from the effective cooperation of the Japanese Government in preventing the illicit shipment of narcotics to the United States.

We desire to point out, however, that the Japanese authorities here in Japan with whom we have had to deal in connection with the illicit traffic in narcotics have shown a sincere desire to cooperate in the suppression of this traffic. Just what influence or control they may have over their nationals or the military authorities in China it is not possible to say, but we do believe that if the Japanese authorities here in Japan could first be furnished in entire confidence, as in the case of all our local dealings, with whatever information we have regarding the activities in the illicit traffic in narcotics of their nationals in China they might be in a better position to take some action vis-à-vis the military authorities.

The military authorities in China are not likely to be affected by publicity in connection with the narcotics traffic any more than they [Page 571] appear to be sensitive to publicity given to other features of their activities in China. On the other hand the local authorities with whom we have to deal are sensitive to the adverse effect of such publicity and if placed in a position where direct approach could be made to the higher military command in Tokyo before the military in China are aware that their activities are the subject of protest, some good results might be expected.

It was with the foregoing in mind that the suggestion was made that the Japanese authorities here be furnished in confidence with information regarding the activities of their nationals in China in connection with the illicit traffic in narcotics, in accordance with the agreement referred to in the copy of the letter from the Director of the Treaty Bureau dated July 30, 1938, enclosed with our confidential despatch No. 3181 of August 11, 1938.2 The suggestion was not intended to convey the idea that action be taken in derogation of the Narcotics Limitation Convention of 1931, nor was it our intention to suggest that information should be suppressed.

Respectfully yours,

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Enclosures not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Neither printed.