711.00111 Regis. Lic/2623

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton)

Reference Co’s37 question whether French Indochina should, for the purpose of the control of exports of war materials from the United States, be considered as occupied by Japanese forces.

Japanese armed forces control the forts at Doson (at the entrance of the Haiphong harbor). They have about 600 men in Hanoi and about 1,200 troops at the airport in the vicinity of Hanoi. They also control the northern end of the railway lying between Hanoi and Langson. It is understood that bombing and pursuit planes are taking off daily from the airport at Hanoi and are proceeding toward Kunming. Under these circumstances the conclusion cannot be avoided that the Japanese forces in French Indochina are in position to exert effective pressure upon the Government of French Indochina at Hanoi.

Although there are now no Japanese troops in French Indochina south of the Haiphong-Hanoi area, the situation in central and southern French Indochina cannot but to some extent be affected by the circumstance that the Government which controls that area is vulnerable to pressure from the Japanese and, in an emergency, might also be coerced by the Government at Vichy under German pressure into pro-Japanese action.

On the other hand, this Government recently stopped the shipment of war materials to Thailand because of the possibility that such materials might be used by the Thai forces (in possible cooperation with the Japanese) against French Indochina. There is the possibility that the cutting off of the shipment from the United States of all war materials to French Indochina might tend further to discourage the already discouraged Government of that country in its relations with Thailand.

In connection with the foregoing there should be borne in mind the fact that Mr. Welles has not yet received a reply from the French Ambassador to the question whether the French authorities could offer any practical assurance that war materials shipped from the United States to French Indochina would not fall into the hands of the Japanese.

All things considered, and pending further clarification of the situation in French Indochina, it is suggested that no war materials be licensed for export to the northern part of French Indochina (through [Page 197] the port of Haiphong) but that for the present, unimportant and small shipments of war materials continue to be licensed for export to French Indochina through the port of Saigon which is the point of entry into the southern part of French Indochina.

Since this memorandum was written, the developments in connection with Franco-German relations which are taking place38 suggest the advisability of deferring action upon applications for licenses for a few days pending a clarification of the outcome of the developments under reference.

M[axwell] M. H[amilton]
  1. Division of Controls.
  2. See telegram No. 3537, October 26, from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, and following documents in vol. ii in section under France entitled “Maintenance of Relations by the United States with the French Government at Vichy.”