Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Butterworth) to the Secretary of State

The attached copies of British and French notes to the Chinese Government34 indicate that neither Government is prepared to recognize the Chinese closure of certain ports and territorial waters to foreign vessels.

The formal British reply (Tab A) contends that the Chinese action does not fulfill the conditions requisite to a blockade, i.e., declaration, maintenance of its effectiveness, and recognition of the belligerent status of the other party. Omitted from the formal text is the following statement which appeared in the outline of the proposed British reply which I forwarded to you on June 27, 1949:35 “According to the [Page 1119]information available to H.M.G. the Chinese National Government have not at their disposal armed forces which will enable them to exercise a real and effective blockade over the territorial waters and ports in question”.

Apparently, in reply to the Chinese warning the British refused further (Tab B) to accept the Chinese disclaimer of responsibility for possible damage to British interests or property in this connection, and hold the Chinese responsible for any “untoward consequences” of exercise by British vessels or ships of their “inherent right of self defence or protection against hostile action”.

This French reply (Tab C) is generally similar to the British and our own, although without mentioning the word “blockade”. It does go further in making express reservations “upon the consequences and responsibilities which might result” from Chinese prohibition.

  1. None printed.
  2. See Annex 2 to memorandum of June 27, p. 1111.