793.94119/539: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Peck) to the Secretary of State

285. During a 2-hour informal conversation with McHugh on April 22 the British Ambassador referred to what he termed “the Wang Keh Min–Kita peace terms” which had been reported from Peiping a few weeks ago (see Peiping’s 97 of February 24, 2 p.m.), with which terms he said he assumed McHugh was familiar. He stated that the British had checked this information later and had found it to be absolutely reliable. He went on to say that he understood the Japanese Army had agreed with the more moderate element in Japan to permit negotiations regarding the terms indicated during the coming summer if the army had not succeeded by that time in achieving evidence of substantial progress in their own program toward a settlement of the present conflict. The Ambassador added that he understood the good offices of Great Britain and the United States as mediators would be sought and that the Japanese proposed to attempt to placate us toward this end between now and midsummer by minor concessions on various outstanding problems. He stated however that the British had no evidence of such placation to date especially at Tientsin where the Japanese were pressing them very hard.

The Ambassador stated that British intelligence agencies still believed Wang Ching Wei to be a potential peace emissary for the Chungking Government. He did not refer to him directly however in reviewing briefly the above peace conditions but merely stated these: as military withdrawal from Central and South China, probable renewal of an enlarged safety zone around Shanghai, demilitarization of North China with special economic privileges there for Japan, recognition by China of Manchukuo, and some special understanding regarding Inner Mongolia.

Sir Archibald assured McHugh that neither his present visit to Chungking nor the recent visit of Sir Robert Craigie47 to Shanghai was directly concerned with peace negotiations. With respect to the latter he referred to previous conversations with McHugh at Changsha and Chungking last fall and later at Shanghai in January when [Page 168] he described the differences in point of view between himself and his colleague at Tokyo regarding general British policy in the Far East and the specific question of extending aid to China. The visit of Craigie to Shanghai had been suggested by Chiang Kai Shek during Clark Kerr’s interviews with Chiang at Changsha and had subsequently been approved in principle by London. It had been deferred at the suggestion of the Foreign Office until after the passage of the recent bill for the support of China’s currency in order not to embarrass Craigie in Japan by giving the impression that this aid had come about as a result of his trip to Shanghai. Sir Archibald confidentially added that he had consented to permit the currency stabilization fund to be publicized in Japan as designed for the relief of British merchants in China rather than as the direct assistance to the Chinese which it really was. He stated that he felt he could afford this concession since he had his way finally in the main courses of action which he has been urging upon London.

He reviewed his three point program which he had mentioned to McHugh in January as follows: first, a firm reaffirmation of the principles set forth in the Nine Power Treaty; second, financial assistance to China; and third, retaliatory measures against Japan to bring about a cessation of the present war and force respect for the rights of third powers. Points 1 and 2, he stated, had now been accomplished and in collaboration with the United States as he had advocated, the British having followed the lead of the United States in each instance. Point 3 he said he believed to be by far the most important and he expressed the hope that concrete measures in this direction would soon be forthcoming lest the beneficial effect of the first two points be lost.

Sir Archibald was scheduled to have his first talk with the Generalissimo later the same day he reviewed with McHugh the general topics which he hoped to bring up and which dealt mainly with questions of the present state of Chinese morale and resistance, plus the failure of the Japanese with whom he had talked to appreciate the true state of affairs within China. In response to leading questions by McHugh with regard to the subject matter of the memorandum which has been handed him recently in Hong Kong (see my 274, April 19, 9 a.m.), the Ambassador did not directly admit receipt of the proposals from Chiang Kai Shek. He assured McHugh, however, that Chinese apprehension over possible desertion by Great Britain in favor of some special arrangement with Japan in the event of world war was absolutely unfounded and out of the question. With regard to the present Chinese counter-offensive, Sir Archibald said he had been told by Dr. Kung48 at dinner the previous evening [Page 169] that the real offensive had been planned for a while; that the present one consisted only of a few thrusts which had been deemed necessary at this time as an offset to the Japanese capture of Nanchang. Sir Archibald expressed the desire for a further talk with McHugh in about a week after he had had time for further conversations with various officials. He stated that he expected to remain here for at least 3 weeks.

McHugh requests that the substance of the foregoing be made available to the Navy Department, the Naval Attaché at Peiping, and the Commander-in-Chief at Shanghai.

Repeated to Shanghai, Peiping. Latter mail to Tokyo.

  1. British Ambassador in Japan.
  2. H. H. Kung, Chinese Minister of Finance.