893.00/9–148: Telegram

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

1611. Following is text of AP Nanking September 1 dateline story:

“Chinese Government in secret order has banned all foreign aircraft—except Soviet—from operating into its far west provinces in what some quarters interpreted as appeasement of Moscow.

First victim this unpublicized regulation was US Minister Lewis Clark whose Embassy airplane was grounded by Defense Ministry officials at Lanchow while en route to inspect and supply American Consulate at Tihwa.

Soviets fly freely over Sinkiang border province under 10-year-old airline agreement with China. One Nanking official said however that Chinese Government already given Moscow formal notification its intention terminate ‘monopoly’ pact when its original term ends September 9 next year.

Asked to confirm China’s denunciation Sino-Soviet air agreement Foreign Office spokesman answered with crisp note ‘no comment’.

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Other Foreign Office sources confirmed knowledge of order barring foreign aircraft from flying west of Lanchow. They denied however any knowledge of reasons for action, apparently taken by Defense Ministry under instructions from ‘highest authority’.

Some observers here said order possibly resulted from Soviet pressure which claimed agreement for Russian operation commercial airline from Soviet Alma Ata to Hami on Sinkiang’s eastern border gave Soviets exclusive right overfly Sinkiang.

Clark and his pilots Lt. Col. A. T. House, Jr., Long Beach, Calif and Major Kearie Berry of Austin, Texas spent 2 days at Lanchow attempting unsnarl orders which halted their previously cleared flight, then returned Nanking.

Embassy sources confirmed that Chinese Government here refused permission for subsequent flight Embassy’s plane to Tihwa and that Clark protested Foreign Office China’s action preventing him inspecting supplying consular offices within his jurisdiction. It intimated any further action on matter would come from Washington.

Persons in Tihwa during previous visits American aircraft there said each flight followed by bitter Soviet charges purpose was to ‘spy and photograph’ areas well within Russian sphere.

It known here Moscow exerting heaviest pressure Chinese officialdom for extension pact which gave them commercial air monopoly over province in which they long held great political economic powers.

Chinese officials been openly unhappy over agreement by which so-called ‘Sino-Soviet Airline Corporation’ formed. These officials said Soviets retained full control airline despite agreement which provided Russian Chinese general managers alternate years.

Agreement signed September 9, 1939 during period Chiang Kai-shek Government leaning heavily on Russian support. Pact is still on Foreign Office secret list and officials declined disclose its exact contents. It known however failure either party denounce pact 1 year before expiration date permits automatic 5-year extension.

This airline only regular link between Sinkiang capital and insurgent held Ining although only passengers acceptable Soviet officials in Tihwa permitted fly route.

Official sources said this complete Soviet control airline prompted Chinese General Chang Chih-chung contract for special by-weekly charter service from Sh[angh]ai to Tihwa by Chinese Air Transport Corp., in 1947. At that time he rejected Soviet protests these flights infringed on ‘monopoly’ with explanation they were Chinese Government charter operations.

With National Government blocking foreign plane flights into Tihwa, American Consulate there can be supplied only by special arrangement permission Chinese officials who control occasional air trips or complete dependence Soviet operated airline.

Despite official denials some quarters here believe sudden meeting Sino-Soviet airline board of directors at Alma Ata and visit Director Foreign Office West Asian Department, Pu Tao-ming, to Moscow directly connected with diplomatic battle over continuance Soviets’ monopoly over Sinkiang flights.”