The Chargé in China ( Peck ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 28—10:20 a.m.]
142. Department’s 65, February 24, 6 p.m., to Shanghai. The Embassy received this morning Tokyo’s 111, February 27, 3  p.m., to the Department and I immediately called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs15 and communicated the message outlined in paragraph 2 of the Department’s instruction.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs at once said that the problem presented by acts of terrorism in the International Settlement was not so simple as it might seem to the American Government. He assumed in the message I conveyed an imputation that the Chinese [Page 10] Government had instigated the assassinations and could stop them if it so desired. He asserted that where the victims were “puppet” Chinese officials the assassinations were probably perpetrated by persons acting spontaneously from patriotic motives or in revenge for wrongs suffered at the hands of the Japanese. He said that the Japanese themselves had instigated murders of political opponents and he did not exclude the possibility of the killing of their own partisans as well in order to discredit the Municipal Council. He pointed out that many assassinations, notably that of Chen Lu,16 had taken place in areas controlled by the Japanese. He said that in any case the Chinese Government, far from controlling Chinese in the International Settlement and adjacent areas, would find it difficult even to communicate with them.
I invited the Minister’s attention to the fact that the message I had communicated carried no implication that the Chinese Government had instigated assassinations nor had any request been made that the Chinese Government terminate them but only that it take such measures as it might “appropriately” take to “discourage” them.
The Minister expressed the view that the violation of the neutrality of the International Settlement was due to [pressure] therein of organs and officials of the “bogus” government and he thought the best method of ending these disturbances was for the Municipal Government to stand firmly on its legal rights and expel such unneutral elements. I observed that the Chinese Government Salt and Customs Administrations likewise had branches in the Settlement and that it was obviously to the advantage of all concerned that no pretext should be given to the Japanese to criticize the efficiency of the control of the Settlement. Although the conversation was prolonged by Dr. Wang beyond the time I had anticipated, he had not given me any reply directed specifically to the request I had made. I therefore asked him what I should report to the Department as his reply.
The Minister asked that I inform the Department that the Chinese Government did not approve of political assassination and that he would convey to the appropriate authorities the request just made by the American Embassy, but he specially asked that I inform the Department of the complexity of the problem offered by these assassinations as he had explained it. I said I would do this but I urged in turn that the National Government or the Nationalist Party or whoever might be in a position to do so endeavor to convince those Chinese who might be inclined to attempt assassinations in the International Settlement that such acts made matters extremely difficult for the Council and tended to play into the hands of those persons who might be attempting to overthrow the existing form of municipal control.[Page 11]
It seemed to me throughout the conversation that the Minister being by profession a lawyer was not so much trying to evade the main issue as trying to avoid any admission of responsibility on the part of his Government for the acts of terrorism.
Repeated to Shanghai, Peiping; Shanghai repeat to Tokyo.