The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Halifax)20

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the British Ambassador and refers to the British Embassy’s aide-mémoire of April 25, 1942 informing this Government that the British Government has recently been considering the possibility of initiating with the Chinese Government at an early date discussions with regard to the relinquishment of British extraterritorial rights in China, that the British Government has concluded that the present time would not be favorable for such a step but that if the Chinese Government itself should raise the question the British Government would respond sympathetically. Reference was made to the desirability of a parallel course of action being followed by the Government of the United States and of Great Britain with reference to this question and the hope was expressed that the United States Government would be prepared to consult with the British Government in regard to any initiative in this matter which the United States Government might contemplate.

As the British Government is of course aware, it has been this Government’s long-considered policy to move toward the full relinquishment of extraterritorial and related rights in China. It will [Page 278] be recalled that in the aide-mémoire which the American Embassy at London handed to the British Foreign Office on March 30, 1937, it was stated that this Government had for some time been considering suggesting to the Chinese Government a resumption of the negotiations in regard to extraterritoriality which had been interrupted in 1931.21 From time to time since the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese hostilities in 1937, this Government has given thought to the question whether it might not be desirable to enter into discussions with the Chinese Government for the relinquishment of these rights before the return of peace. This Government reached a conclusion in line with the view expressed by the British Government that the present time is perhaps not the most opportune for taking an initiative in the matter but that if the Chinese Government should itself suggest that discussions be commenced this Government would meet the suggestion in a receptive spirit.

This Government will continue to follow closely all factors in the general situation which may bear upon this question and will expect to keep in touch, as in the past, with the British Government in the hope that if it should later appear to be desirable to initiate discussions with the Chinese Government or if an approach should be made by the Chinese Government, the Government of the United States and the British Government may with advantage take parallel action. The Government of the United States would appreciate receiving from time to time any further views in regard to this question which the British Government may wish to communicate.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Ambassador in China in Departments instruction No. 62, May 12, 1942.
  2. For correspondence on this subject in 1931, see Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. iii, pp. 716 ff.