893.24/1377½: Telegram

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

592. The British Embassy has informally supplied the Department with a copy of a telegram from the British Foreign Office3 in which it is stated that, in reply to further representations by the Government of India, Tibet has definitely refused permit for passage of supplies to China on the ground of desire to stay out of the war; that if necessary the British Government is prepared, in association with the Chinese, to speak plainly to Tibet and to threaten economic sanctions in order to change the Tibetan attitude, but feels that prior thereto the Chinese Government should do its part to facilitate Tibetan acquiescence, as Tibetan reluctance is believed to be largely due to fear of Chinese penetration; that the British Government asked Ambassador Seymour4 to suggest to the Chinese Government that it give definite and public undertaking of intention to respect Tibetan autonomy and to refrain from interfering in Tibet’s internal administration; that, if the Chinese would do this, Great Britain would be ready to cooperate with them in exercising joint pressure; that it was pointed out that the British Government was asking no more of the Chinese in relation to Tibet than the Chinese had already strongly recommended to the British in relation to India, namely, free and willing cooperation in the joint struggle against aggression; and that subsequently Seymour reported that he had approached the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs,5 who had seemed at first sight to see nothing contrary to Chinese policy in the proposed declaration and who said that he would consider the matter and communicate again. For your information, it may be added that the telegram refers in two instances to Tibetan “independence” and in another instance to Tibetan “autonomy”. It is not clear whether these words are used interchangeably or not.

We should appreciate receiving such information as you may have or be in position discreetly to obtain with regard to the difficulties of supply via Tibet referred to by the British and such comments and suggestions as may occur to you. We of course desire that a practical solution be found of any existing difficulties. As you are aware, the Chinese Government has long claimed suzerainty over Tibet, the Chinese constitution lists Tibet among areas constituting the territory of the Republic of China, and this Government has at no time raised question regarding either of these claims.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Sir Horace James Seymour, British Ambassador in China.
  3. Foo Ping-sheung.