The Secretary of State to the Secretary General of the League of Nations ( Avenol )

The Secretary of State of the United States of America refers to Circular Letter no. 197 of October 27, 1938, from the Secretary General of the League of Nations,24 in regard to the situation in the Far East in respect of the clandestine manufacture of and the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

With regard to the facts brought to light by the discussions on this subject which took place at Geneva during the Twenty-third Session of the Opium Advisory Committee, the Government of the United States desires to observe that it supports and associates itself with the statements presented by its representative on that occasion.

It will be recalled that at the ninth meeting of the Committee, on June 13, 1938, the American representative in the course of his statement, after presenting numerous details in regard to certain illicit shipments of opium into China under Japanese auspices, made the following remarks:

“I wonder if the Opium Advisory Committee, to whose attention the Japanese representative last year called the newly enacted laws for punishing Japanese who import opium into China or who deal in opium therein, would be willing to suggest to the Japanese representative that these transactions of Japanese subjects in China should be investigated and reported upon even if they cannot be adequately punished?”

[Page 436]

The Japanese representative at the fifteenth meeting of the Committee, on June 21, having referred the question to his Government for inquiry, reported that he had received a detailed reply, which he proceeded to read. That reply contained the following statements:

“From the investigations made by the Japanese Government, the following conclusions may be drawn:

  • “1. The North China Provisional Government authorized the import of 428 chests which were covered by the permit issued by the authorities.
  • “2. Since all the other shipments were also covered by the import certificates issued by the importing countries, they were all licit and not illicit transactions.
  • “3. The Japanese Government considers that all the transactions were carried out in conformity with the stipulations of the existing opium Conventions, and strongly protests against any charge that the Japanese Government is responsible for the alleged illicit transactions.”

The Government of the United States observes that the Japanese Government, after admitting the importation of large quantities of opium of high morphine content into areas of China under control of its military forces, endeavors to justify such importations as technically permissible under the International Drug Conventions, presumably as a basis for refraining from prosecuting or interfering with the Japanese who are concerned in thus building up this serious menace to the rest of the world. The Government of the United States holds 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. The actions in reference to narcotic drugs of the régimes which have been established in those areas of China controlled by Japanese military forces cannot be regarded as limiting the manufacture or controlling the distribution of narcotic drugs.

In a further statement at the fifteenth meeting of the Committee on June 21, 1938, the American representative presented information in regard to the reported arrival at Macao of an armed Japanese vessel carrying over 2,000 chests of raw Iranian opium and said:

“I should like to inquire whether the Portuguese, Japanese and Iranian representatives will undertake to ask their respective governments [Page 437] to report on this case under the terms of Article 23 of the Narcotics Limitation Convention of 1931.”

As yet, so far as this Government is aware, the Portuguese, Japanese and Iranian Governments have not submitted reports covering this important case.

In conclusion, the Government of the United States is of the opinion that it would serve to ameliorate the deplorable conditions now prevailing in the narcotics situation in the Far East

if the Japanese Government would exercise the restraining influence which it is in a position to bring to bear upon its nationals in the occupied areas of China and upon the régimes which have been established therein to prevent the importation of opium into those areas, the shipment of opium from one part of those areas to other parts, the manufacture of opium derivatives in those areas, the distribution within those areas of those derivatives, and the shipping out of opium and its derivatives from those areas of China to third countries;
if the Iranian authorities would immediately take effective steps to suppress the illicit traffic in opium from Iran to the Far East, which unfortunately appears to be increasing rather than decreasing; and
if the Portuguese Government would take effective measures to cooperate in the international campaign against the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and to prevent the Colony of Macao from being used as a base for such traffic.

  1. League of Nations document No. C. L. 197.1938.XI.