893.114 Narcotics/2458

The Department of State to the British Embassy


The Secretary of State refers to the British Embassy’s Aide-Mémoire of January 4, 193917 and to conversations between the British Ambassador and Mr. Welles on July 8 and July 29, 1938 in the course of which the British Ambassador stated that the British Foreign Office had instructed the British Ambassador at Tokyo that it proposed to make vigorous and formal representations to the Japanese Government in regard to Japanese complicity in the sale of opium in China.

It is believed that the reports of British Consular Officers in China, which form an enclosure17 to the Aide-Mémoire under reference, and the information already in the possession of this Government offer a [Page 427] reliable basis for similar representations by the Government of the United States and, accordingly, the Government of the United States is prepared to make such representations to the Japanese Government.

It is believed that the evidence in the possession of this Government would sustain a contention that any such approach by this Government to the Japanese Government would be a measure of self-defense against the infiltration of narcotic drugs into the United States for reasons as follows:

The evidence in the possession of this Government indicates that the heroin found in the illicit traffic in the United States has since 1935 come in large measure from the Japanese Concession in Tientsin.
Practically all of the smoking opium found in the illicit traffic in the United States comes from China and is a blend of Chinese and Iranian opiums. Part of it is prepared in or near Shanghai, part in South China and a little in North China. This type of smoking opium has practically no market in China and is put up solely for the illicit traffic in America. Recent large seizures in the continental United States, at Honolulu, and at Manila point to a substantial increase in the illicit shipment of smoking opium from the Far East to the United States, the amounts seized during the last six months of 1938 having been approximately five-sixths of the total amount seized during the year.
The participation of Japanese nationals in the traffic in raw materials for heroin and prepared opium and in the manufacture thereof is a matter of common repute. A summary of the information which has reached this Government concerning the present narcotics situation in China and the participation of Japanese nationals therein is appended hereto.

There are also appended hereto, for convenience of reference, copies of the statements made by the American representative at the Opium Advisory Committee at Geneva18 on June 13 and 21, 1938.19

The Department of State believes that the basis of its intended representations to Japan should not be restricted to one of self-defense against the infiltration of narcotic drugs into the United States, but should include the broader grounds that the Japanese Government shares with the American Government and with other governments the well-recognized obligations under the International Drug Conventions to control the production and distribution of raw opium, to render effective the limitation of manufacture of narcotic drugs to the world’s legitimate requirements for medical and scientific purposes, to use its efforts to control or to cause to be controlled all those who manufacture, import, sell, distribute and export narcotic drugs, and to cooperate in other ways provided for in those Conventions. It is self-evident that the growing of opium, the sale of opium, and the [Page 428] sale of opium derivatives in amounts greater than needed for medical or scientific purposes constitute a threat, active or potential, to no one people alone but to the peoples of all countries.

The Department of State is issuing instructions to the American Ambassador at Tokyo20 in which he is authorized, after consulting with his British colleague, to make at such time as he may consider opportune, representations to the Japanese Government along the lines indicated. It is being suggested to the American Ambassador that he consider and decide the question whether, from the point of view of bringing about effective action by the Japanese Government, it would be advisable for his approach to be synchronized with the approach of his British colleague or for the two approaches to be separated substantially in point of time.


Memorandum by the Department of State

Subject: The Narcotics Situation in the Japanese Controlled Areas in China.

The representative of the United States at the Twenty-third Session of the Opium Advisory Committee at Geneva in June 1938 presented information in regard to the traffic in narcotic drugs in Manchuria and Jehol and in other parts of China. This information was based for the most part on official reports and was substantially corroborated by the Japanese representative on instructions from his Government.

The representative of the United States stressed points as follows:

With regard to Manchuria and Jehol, there had been no real or effective improvement during the past year in the conditions obtaining in respect of addiction, illicit import, illicit traffic or opium production.
In China between the Yellow River and the Great Wall, which has for some time past been controlled by the Japanese Northern Army, conditions were worse than they were the year before. Legal control lapsed in August 1937 and the illicit traffic increased. The Peiping “Provisional Government”, set up and maintained by the Japanese Army, took a hand in the narcotics situation soon after the establishment of that regime. It rescinded by its Order no. 33 of February 24, 1938, the Chinese Central Government’s provisional anti-opium and anti-narcotics laws and regulations and all persons who were being detained under those laws and regulations were promptly released from prison. The narcotics situation became progressively worse.
In a period of fifteen months, 650 kilograms of heroin were exported to the United States from the Japanese Concession in Tientsin [Page 429] by a group operating in this trade there. This amount was sufficient to supply some 10,000 addicts for a year.
In Shanghai, control appeared to have broken down completely except in the French Concession and in the International Settlement.
Huge quantities of Iranian opium were reliably reported to have arrived in North China and in Shanghai consigned to Japanese firms and intended, in some instances, for Japanese army officers, while further large consignments were en route to those destinations under similar auspices and still others were on order.

Since last June, the American Government has continued to receive from official sources additional alarming information in regard to the traffic in narcotic drugs in those parts of China controlled by Japan, as follows:

Manchuria and Jehol:

The Director of the Opium Section of the Municipality of Harbin informed the press on May 4, 1938 that the number of unlicensed opium dens in the city of Harbin was estimated at about 1,000 as against 76 that were licensed.

The authorities in Pinkiang Province (in which Harbin is located) estimated in June 1938 that in the Province there were approximately 2,000 Japanese and Koreans addicted to opium, morphine or heroin.

The Opium Administration Section of the Department of People’s Welfare of “Manchukuo” announced on August 23, 1938 that reports received from provinces and cities, in connection with the 10-year anti-opium campaign, showed that the total number of registered addicts in Manchuria and Jehol was 585,267.


In a report from the American Consul General at Tientsin dated November 3, 1938 it is stated that, notwithstanding an announcement in the local press to the effect that all opium dens in the Japanese Concession of Tientsin had been closed on October 1, many small places in that Concession continue to dispense opium, that the larger dens in the Japanese Concession were closed, but that those dens which had been operating in the Japanese Concession are now operating in the areas nominally controlled by Chinese outside the Japanese Concession, and that the number of such places operating is conservatively estimated at 500. According to a reliable informant at Tientsin, all varieties of habit-forming drugs known to the Japanese trade continue to be readily purchasable in numerous places in the Japanese Concession.

The daily newspaper, Yungpao, published in the Chinese language at Tientsin and controlled by the Japanese authorities, contained the statement in its issue of November 12, 1938 that the Tientsin Branch [Page 430] Consolidated Tax Office had received instructions from its head office in Peiping to permit the operation of an additional 25 opium dens, bringing the total of licensed opium dens in the nominally Chinese-controlled areas of Tientsin to 189.


It is reliably reported that the only restriction existing in Peiping in regard to establishing shops for the sale and/or smoking of opium is the payment of taxes. As a result, there were estimated to be some 300 such establishments in Peiping in October 1938. Heroin was also being sold at that time at many places in the city with no evidence of any effort being made to stamp out the trade.


At Tsinan, since the Japanese occupation, the Tsinan Branch of the Consolidated Tax Bureau has permitted the sale of opium publicly upon the payment of certain taxes. At the end of September 1938 there were four shops authorized to sell raw opium and 40 shops authorized to sell opium paste. By the end of November 1938 the number of shops selling opium paste had increased from 40 to 136. It was reported that, during November 1938, raw opium to the amount of 100,000 taels arrived at Tsinan via the Tsin-pu Railway from the north and that 10,000 taels of that amount were transshipped at Tsinan to other large cities and towns in the interior.


The American Embassy at Nanking has forwarded copies of a letter dated November 22, 1938 by Professor M. S. Bates, in regard to the narcotics situation in Nanking. In the opinion of the Embassy, Dr. Bates is an experienced investigator and a man of unquestioned integrity. He states that, prior to 1938, the present generation had not known large supply and consumption of opium in Nanking nor open sale in a way to attract the poor and ignorant, especially during the five years preceding 1938, and that heroin was practically unknown. Dr. Bates’ investigation disclosed that, as a result of changes brought about in 1938, legalized opium sales in Nanking amounted to $2,000,000 monthly and that heroin sales in the area of which Nanking is the center amounted to $3,000,000 monthly (Chinese currency). Dr. Bates reported that, according to a private estimate, there were at least 50,000 heroin addicts in a population of 400,000. He stated that there were many young people of both sexes among the addicts; that the public opium system in Nanking, the major supplies for which are reported as coming from Dairen through Shanghai, was controlled by the “Opium Suppression Bureau” which is under the Finance Office of the Nanking Municipal Government; and that the Bureau’s regulations and by-laws were concerned mainly with bringing [Page 431] all private trade and consumption into the revenue net. Dr. Bates also stated:

“It is commonly reported that the Special Service Department of the Japanese Army has close and protective relations with the semi-organized trade in heroin.”

He further pointed out that:

“There is general testimony that a good deal of the wholesale trade is carried on by Japanese firms which outwardly deal in tinned goods or medicines, but handle heroin through rooms in the rear.”


The American Consulate General at Shanghai, in forwarding copies of a series of articles by Mr. C. D. Alcott which were published in The China Press on December 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1938, observed that the articles were believed to give a fairly accurate picture of the present narcotics situation in Shanghai, as much of the factual matter contained therein was understood to have been obtained from the Narcotics Section of the Shanghai Municipal Police and from the records of the Special Municipal Police and from the records of the Special District Courts. The Consulate General added that the traffic was most active in the areas controlled by the Japanese; that no visible efforts were being made by the Japanese or the new administrations to suppress the traffic; and that the traffic appeared likely to increase in Japanese controlled areas around Shanghai.

Pointing out that the application and enforcement of the drastic anti-narcotic laws and regulations promulgated by the National Government during the latter part of 1936 had resulted in a marked diminution in the traffic in heroin and morphine and in some decrease in the opium trade, Mr. Alcott writes that, since the Shanghai area came under Japanese control, heroin, morphine, and similar derivatives have been reintroduced into the area; that the importation and distribution of these drugs have been steadily increasing; that between 60 and 70 stores located in areas immediately adjacent to the International Settlement and the French Concession are now selling these drugs; that a total of about $1,500,000 (Chinese currency) is being spent monthly by the addicts for narcotic drugs, of which $250,000 is spent for heroin; that an increasing number of coolies and poor laborers are using heroin and derivatives; that Jehol opium is now the chief source of supply for cheap drugs in the Shanghai area and that most of the heroin comes from Dairen and Shanhaikwan; that no effort is being made by the Japanese authorities or the Chinese administrations under their direction to suppress the traffic in narcotics in the areas controlled by them; and that, in fact, there is considerable evidence to show that many Japanese are deeply involved in the importing and sale of opium, heroin and other derivatives, [Page 432] including, according to some authorities on the subject, a group within the Special Affairs Organ of the Japanese military.

The alarming description given by Mr. Alcott of conditions in the Shanghai area is in large measure substantiated by information received from other reliable sources.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Stuart J. Fuller.
  4. Statements not printed; for substance, see note to the Secretary General of the League of Nations, May 15, p. 435.
  5. Instruction No. 1661, February 16, not printed.