893.801/6–2449: Telegram

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

1373. Re Cantel 628 to Department June 21,17 repeated Shanghai 359. Foreign Office note 5938 [5138] announcing certain regions and territorial waters “temporarily closed” and entry therein foreign vessels “strictly forbidden” disclosed evident intent avoid declaration blockade which Nationalists possibly unable make effective or conduct according rules on prize courts, rescuing survivors et cetera. At same time Nationalists avoid recognizing Communists as insurgents or belligerents (as noted Cantel 635 to Department June 22). Such recognition would presumably imply admission that Shanghai port lawfully in Communist hands by right of conquest, in which case doubtful if announcement closing Shanghai and other Communist ports would have any legal effect. Moreover, foreign shipping would then be entitled to usual rights neutrals.

At all times characteristic of China that only certain designated ports are open to foreign ships. This characteristic recognized by US in [Page 1106] exchange of notes attached 1943 Treaty,18 article 24 commercial treaty 194619 and elsewhere. We have also acquiesced in action Chinese Government closing to foreign shipping Tsingtao and Yangtze river ports. Such closings effected by official announcement only. Moreover ports now being closed lack of customs, quarantine and immigration offices. Attempts by foreign vessels to use closed ports would seem equivalent smuggling. In past we ourselves have not hesitated use all appropriate means including gunfire to suppress smuggling, rum-running and violation immigration laws.

Two questions connected manner enforcement remain:

Is safety transit passengers and transit freight unnecessarily endangered by aerial bombing and strafing;
Is closing of ports present stage civil war transparent subterfuge in view Nationalists’ supposed inability maintain legal blockade and therefore to be denounced as such?

First question apparently largely disposed of by Department’s press announcement June 2320 that government has notified shipping lines of closure. Presumably few shippers or insurers will disregard notice.

Decision second question seems depend on policy. I feel our attitude should appear passive. A protest against closing Shanghai port plus efforts induce American shipping use port likely to confirm Communists in impression that our trade with China is chief if not sole basis of our political position and in addition so important to US that we prepared run any risk to preserve it. In fact, however, Nationalists have given US opportunity to demonstrate to Communists that Shanghai’s foreign trade is far more important to them than to US.

Moreover, Communists appear helpless to protect port and shipping. Within next few weeks possibly months only pressure which could induce Nationalists to withdraw announcement is pressure which foreign powers might be persuaded exert. This seems obvious time to let Communists approach us. We could then point out that if they wish us to protest closure as illegal blockade under international law, they are asking that one canon of international law be invoked their benefit although they are unwilling concede themselves subject other canons. We can also ask if they wish us recognize them as belligerents, and if so what conditions of ours they will accept. In any case first move seems much best left to Communists. I feel consultations with British highly [Page 1107] important in view stake in Hong Kong. Department may wish discuss matter Washington or London.

Sent Department 1373, repeated Canton 581, Shanghai 763.

  1. Text printed from corrected copy received June 25, 10:30 p. m.
  2. See footnote 14, p. 1103.
  3. Signed at Washington, January 11, 1943; Department of State Treaty Series 984, or 57 Stat. (pt. 2) 767. For correspondence, see Foreign Relations, 1942, China, pp. 381 ff.
  4. Signed at Nanking, November 4, 1946; Department of State, Treaties and Others International Acts Series 1871, or 63 Stat. (pt. 2) 1299.
  5. See release of Chinese note of June 20, Department of State Bulletin, July 11, 1949, p. 34.