893.20 Manchuria/43: Telegram

The Second Secretary of Embassy in China ( Smyth ) to the Secretary of State

591. The Embassy received today Mukden’s despatch No. 411 of November 15 to the Embassy with which was enclosed a copy of the circular letter dated November 14 [1]27 addressed by the Foreign Office at Hsinking to “foreign diplomatic and consular officers in Manchukuo”, requesting that such officers inform their nationals of the requirements contained in the “order for the registration of abilities”, promulgated September 23, 1939, that they register with the proper authorities without delay. (This order implements article 25 of the “Manchukuo National Mobilization Law” translations of which were enclosed with Mukden’s despatch No. 215 of March 5, 1938,28 to the [Page 439] Embassy, copies of which were sent by Mukden to the Department). Mr. Langdon states that Manchukuo thus wishes to register foreign residents for national defense. He reports that Americans specifically affected by the Foreign Office circular are those licensed as physicians, pharmacists, nurses and automobile drivers, who number about 12 in all Manchuria. The circular and regulations call for registration by November 30, but they contain no penalties for non-registration.

Mr. Langdon comments that the circular disregards established principles of international law and ignores American extraterritorial jurisdiction in Manchuria. He states that “The requirement of the law that all persons residing within Manchukuo register might well have been ignored as possibly due to carelessness in drafting the law, or as a deliberate gesture to reflect the ideology of the all embracing nature of Manchukuo citizenship, or as intended especially for Japanese lest they claim exemption on the ground that they are aliens. However, the sending of the circular to European and American representatives, by registered mail, suggests that Manchukuo intends every resident in the country, European as well as ordinary, to abide by the letter of the law.”

Mr. Langdon requests instructions and suggests either of the courses of action: (1) to ignore the Foreign Office circular in view of the declaration made to the Hsinking Government on December 2, 1937,29 that the United States rejects claim of the authorities of Manchuria to exercise jurisdiction over American nationals or (2) to acknowledge the receipt of the circular and state that, with respect to American residents who might come within the scope of the law, the United States reserves all its rights under existing treaties and under established principles of international law exempting aliens from compulsory service in national defense.

Mr. Langdon reports that his British and French colleagues have expressed a wish to take parallel action with him, and that his German colleague has also consulted him, stating that his Government would probably oppose registration of German nationals on the grounds of international law and reciprocity.

Department’s instructions by radio will be appreciated. Copies of Mukden’s despatch are being forwarded to the Department in next pouch.

By air mail to Tokyo and letter follows to Chungking.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See telegram No. 800, December 3, 1937, 5 p.m., from the Counselor of Embassy in China, Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iii, p. 946; see also note No. 828, December 1, 1937, from the American Ambassador in Japan to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 154.