793.94 Advisory Committee/157

Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The British Ambassador37 called to see me late yesterday afternoon. He gave me to read an urgent telegram which he had just received from Lord Halifax38 which was along the following lines. Lord Halifax had been advised that the Chinese Government intended to propose at the meeting of the Council of the League at Geneva on May 22 a resolution for setting up a small committee of countries most interested in the Far East to coordinate measures of sanction against Japan under Article XVI of the Covenant.39

Lord Halifax had been informed by certain leading members of the opposition in the House of Commons that they would probably raise the question in Commons of their well-founded belief that the Government of the United States would agree to participate in such a committee or at least to send an observer to attend the sessions of the committee. Lord Halifax stated that his own impressions did not coincide with these opinions which had been given him and he wished Sir Ronald Lindsay to inform him urgently what the attitude of this Government might be.

I said to Sir Ronald that so far as I was informed this Government had not been advised of any such intention on the part of the Chinese Government but that before making any reply to him I should wish to verify my impression on this point and also to consult with the Secretary of State. I said that my primary reaction was very definitely that this Government for many reasons would not at this time be prepared either to participate or to send an observer. I said that Sir Ronald knew of course what the situation was in the Congress with regard to the consideration of a revision of neutrality legislation and that it seemed to me altogether out of the question for this Government to take part in such a meeting as that apparently proposed which would give rise to every kind of conjecture with regard to foreign involvements on the part of this Administration, particularly when both Sir Ronald and I knew that none of the governments which would attend this meeting had the slightest intention of imposing sanctions. I told the Ambassador of the telegram which we had received from our Embassy at Tokyo40 informing us that Mr. Grew had advised the British Ambassador in Tokyo, Sir Robert Craigie, that he would refuse to recommend to his Government the joint approach to the Japanese Foreign Minister which Sir Robert Craigie had suggested [Page 338] for the purpose of threatening the imposition of sanctions by the two Governments if Japan took any measure of force with regard to the International Settlement of Shanghai and that I heartily concurred in the views which Mr. Grew had expressed to Sir Robert Craigie. Sir Ronald Lindsay acquiesced warmly in this regard.

This morning, after consulting with the Secretary of State, I informed the British Ambassador that the reply of this Government to the message he had given me last night was as follows.

First. This Government would very definitely prefer not to have any requests made of it to participate in the meeting of the suggested committee or to send an observer to the sessions of such committee and that I hoped that the British Government would do what was necessary to see that no such request was sent to the Government of the United States either directly from London or from Geneva. I said that if such a request were made this Government would have to reply by stating that it must decline to participate or to send an observer.

Second. I said that as the Ambassador and his Government well knew this Government had consistently throughout the course of the recent hostilities in the Far East pursued an independent course although frequently taking action which was parallel to the action taken by other powers directly interested in the Far Eastern situation. I said that this Government would continue that policy and that the objectives proposed by the setting up of the suggested committee would therefore be out of keeping with our policy insofar as the question of coordination was concerned.

Third. I told the Ambassador that the Secretary of State felt that it would be useful if the British Government would influence the Chinese Government to refrain from making such a proposal in view of the fact that everyone was well aware that none of the governments “most interested in the Far East” were at this time prepared to impose any sanctions upon Japan and there seemed to be very little common sense in creating a committee to discuss measures which it was known in advance would not be undertaken.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Sir Ronald Lindsay.
  2. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 69, 88.
  4. Telegram No. 53, January 31, 3 p.m., p. 497.