The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 11—12:48 p.m.]
264. We inquired this morning at the Foreign Office concerning the French reaction to the occupation of Hainan by a strong Japanese naval force. Hoppenot6 informs us that the seizure came as a brutal surprise to the French who were given no advance notification nor have they since been informed by the Japanese of the reasons for the action. Hoppenot referred to the informal understanding of over a year ago between the French and the Japanese which contemplated a status quo in Hainan on condition that the French would not permit the shipment [Page 105] of munitions over the Indo-Chinese Railroad to China. Hoppenot maintains that the French have faithfully observed their obligation under the arrangement and that there has been no shipment of munitions to the Chinese of any importance via Indo-China during the intervening months. Under the circumstances the French obviously regard the agreement with Japan concerning the transit of munitions across Indo-China as terminated.7 He believes that the Japanese action was taken at this time principally to rekindle the waning enthusiasm in Japan for the continuance of the war in China. The fact that Germany and Italy received advance notification is disturbing to the French who are not sure what interpretation should be placed upon it. He said that the French Embassy in Tokyo is being instructed to submit an energetic protest and that similar action will be taken by the British. According to Hoppenot’s information the British situation is identic with that of the French in that the former have not been consulted in advance nor advised of the reasons for the Japanese action. Other than this diplomatic step, no other démarche is contemplated at the moment. Hoppenot said that effort was being made to obtain further details of the occupation but communication with the French Consul in Hainan had apparently been cut.