811.20 Defense (M)/471/22: Telegram

The Ambassador in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

284. Mr. A. J. Bell, Agent General of the Pekin Syndicate whose company has a marketing agreement for wolfram with the Chinese Government, called on me on the afternoon of June 21 saying that he had been sent by Dr. H. H. Kung24 and Dr. Wong Wen Hoo25 to ascertain whether I could intercede with the Governor General of Indochina to obtain the release by the Indochina Government of an accumulation there of 5,000 tons of wolfram and the same quantity of antimony, which has been held as contraband since last November, and to assist in getting an American vessel to call at Haiphong to ship the ore.

Mr. Bell stated that the French Government had been in negotiation with the Chinese Government since last fall to buy its entire output of wolfram, but had been haggling over the price, trying to buy at the London figure of 60 shillings per ton rather than the New York price of 90 shillings. Recently a cash sale was concluded between the Chinese Government and a former French arms salesman, Jean Audinet, who agreed to purchase the 5,000 tons of wolfram at 85 shillings per ton and left the following day by plane for Hanoi where he was to deposit the cash.

This having occurred over a week ago and the deposit not yet having been made, Chinese officials fear that recent events in France have blocked the deal.

Mr. Bell stated that the Counselor of the British Embassy here had been in communication with London and Hong Kong concerning the question of obtaining the release of the metals but as yet no reply has been received. He said that London had not heretofore indicated a desire to buy them. The Secretary in charge of the French Embassy here had likewise communicated with the Indochina Government but had received no answer as to the position taken by that Government with regard to releasing the metals.

Mr. Bell expected to leave today for Hanoi by plane with letters of introduction to the Governor General to endeavor to secure his agreement to permit the export of the metals to some other country other than Italy, Germany, Soviet Russia or Japan. The metals at present are still the property of the Chinese Government and the antimony is [Page 647] said to be unpledged as will be the wolfram if the cash payment therefor is not produced. The Chinese fear the seizure of the metals by the Japanese and desire to get them shipped out as soon as possible, negotiating details of sale afterwards. I undertook only to report the above to Washington and suggested to Mr. Bell that he inform our Consul in Hanoi of further developments after his arrival there.

Sent to the Department. Repeated to Peiping. By mail to Hanoi.

  1. Chinese Minister of Finance and Vice President of Executive Council.
  2. Wong Wen-hao, Chinese Minister of Economic Affairs.