393.115/554: Telegram

The Consul General at Hankow (Josselyn) to the Secretary of State

31. My 50, November 9, 3 p.m.80 I have received from the Japanese Consul General the following letter dated January 31, 1939.

“I have the honor to inform you that the Imperial Japanese Army authorities in Hankow have asked me to request that you be good enough to bring the following to the attention of your nationals in Hankow for the purpose of preventing untoward incidents, of avoiding any friction and of perfecting the protection of third power nationals;

from February 10th third power nationals on foot or in vehicles shall show identification cards or passes to sentries.
They shall respect the instruction of sentries. The army authorities wish to point out in this connection that they will not be responsible for any incidents arising from a disregard of the aforementioned requirements”.

Similar communications were addressed to the consular representatives of the other countries represented here.

2. I replied February 3rd to the Consul General as follows:

“I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of January 31, 1939, requesting me to inform American citizens of certain requirements of the Imperial Japanese Army, which will be enforced as from February 10. These requirements are that from that date third power nationals shall show identification cards or passes to sentries and shall respect instructions of sentries. It is my understanding [Page 275] from our conversation of February 2 that the purpose of the Japanese Army authorities is to ensure that identification cards be produced on request and that it is not contemplated to establish a procedure fundamentally different from that at present in effect. I shall, however, be gratified if you will confirm whether my understanding is correct. I assume of course that, in the discharge of their duties, Japanese sentries and other members of the Imperial Japanese armed forces will treat American citizens with courtesy and consideration.

While I am bringing the contents of your letter to the attention of American citizens, I must nevertheless point out that there exists no legal basis for the requirement that American citizens carry an identification document other than that issued by the American authorities, nor for the requirement that American citizens are bound to respect the instructions of sentries. When, as a matter of expediency, American citizens may elect to comply with the above-mentioned requirements of the Imperial Japanese Army, I must make it clear that should, unfortunately, an incident arise involving an American citizen in connection with the enforcement of these requirements, I cannot accept the disavowal by the Japanese Army authorities of responsibility therefore”.

3. My comments will follow.81

4. Repeated to Chungking, Peiping, Shanghai.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. iv, p. 530.
  2. See telegram No. 32, February 5, 9 a.m., p. 276.