851G.014/11: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

662. Reference our 613, April 1, 3 p.m. Chauvel, Chief of the Far Eastern Division at the Foreign Office, showed us this afternoon a cable sent April 3 to the French Ambassador at Tokyo containing the text of the note which he was instructed to deliver to the Japanese Government in reply to the Japanese note of March 30.

The French note expresses surprise that the reply of the Japanese to the French proposal for arbitration concerning the Spratley Islands [Page 115] should be the announcement of Japanese annexation of the Islands. The French Government protests energetically against the Japanese action and declines to recognize that French rights have been affected in any way thereby. The French Government points out that the Japanese action is hardly in accord with the spirit of mutual recognition of rights and interests as set out in the 1907 Treaty between Japan and France. The note closes by stating in effect that if this recent Japanese action is to be interpreted as an indication of the Japanese attitude towards France then the French Government will be compelled to reexamine the reasons which had led to the adoption in the past of its attitude toward Japan.

Chauvel said that one minor result of the Japanese action was that the French Government would decline henceforth to reply to any further communication from the Japanese Embassy alleging that the Yunnan Railway was being used to transport military supplies. The Japanese Government has continued to protest from time to time on this subject. Two or three days ago the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires delivered another note along this line. Chauvel will telephone him tomorrow or the next day and will state that the French Government is the sole judge of what use may be made of the railway, that it declines to take under consideration any further communications on the subject or to make any reply to them.

Chauvel stated that information from Japan indicated that the move to declare the annexation of the Island[s] by Japan had come not from the Admiralty but from the Foreign Office and that it might have been done in an effort to build up the waning prestige of Arita. There is no indication yet that the Japanese intend to occupy the Islands effectively and construct seaplane and submarine bases there.