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Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs
(Hornbeck) of a Conversation With the Counselor of the British Embassy (Campbell)
[WASHINGTON,] June 12, 1931. Mr. Hornbeck, with Mr. Castle's : approval, called Mr. Campbell on the phone and stated that we had observed in news reports and we had been informed from other sources that the British authorities at Hong Kong are holding up certain shipments of arms billed to Canton, in the absence of notification from the Chinese (Nanking) Government that that Government desires that the shipments be permitted to be exported, for import into China. Mr. Hornbeck said that this leads us to infer that the attitude of the British Government is identical with that of the American Government, and our practice the same: we are, as we have done for the past two years, insisting on notification that the Chinese (Nanking) Government desires the export, before we approve application for license to export. Mr. Campbell said that he understood and that his Government would be interested to have the information.
S[TANLEY] K. H[ORNBECK]
893.113/1308 The American Minister in China (Johnson) to the Chinese Minister
for Foreign Affairs (C. T. Wang)
PEIPING, June 24, 1931. EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a note dated June 4, 1931, from Your Excellency's Ministry, requesting that American merchants be instructed that no contract providing for the purchase by any local government in China of firearms or any article for military use may be concluded unless a permit is formally issued by the Central Government, and to state that, in accordance with your request, this information is being brought to the attention of American Consular Officers in China for the information of those interested. A copy of Your Excellency's note under reply is also being transmitted to the Department of State at Washington. I avail myself [etc.]
For the Minister:
C. VAN H. ENGERT First Secretary of Legation
William R. Castle, Jr., Under Secretary of State.
* Marginal notation by the Under Secretary of State reads: "I said the same thing to the Ambassador when he called. WRC jr."
Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in China in his despatch No. 1049, June 24; received July 20.
• Not printed.
893.113/1304 : Telegram The Minister in China (Johnson) to the Acting Secretary of State
PEIPING, July 9, 1931–5 p. m.
[Received July 9—10 a. m.] 406. Following telegram has been received from Consulate at Hong Kong.
“July 7, 4 p. m. According to the local agent of L. E. Gale Company eight military planes are expected to arrive in Hong Kong shortly from England and Germany for Cantonese Government. The agent complains that shipments of military supplies of various sorts are being made freely from European countries to Canton whereas the United States Government will not permit the exportation of articles of this sort to Canton under present conditions.
It appears that Hong Kong Government is permitting military supplies to pass through to Canton if satisfied that shipments are direct. Colonial Secretary tells me that this is being done under provision of Barcelona convention of 1921 8 as interpreted by the British Foreign Office, but that no shipments originating in Hong Kong are permitted to go to Canton. From what I can gather considerable quantity of munitions, apparently from Germany and other European countries, are now passing through Hong Kong to Canton.
The Colonial Secretary says he does not know specifically from what countries these supplies originate but it is his understanding that the British regulations respecting the exportation of arms to China are identical with those now in force in the United States. While I do not see that the Gale Corporation has any cause for complaint and have so informed the agent, I have promised to bring the matter to the attention of the Legation.” Canton informed.
893.113/1307 : Telegram
The Minister in China (Johnson) to the Acting Secretary of State
PEIPING, July 11, 1931–4 p. m.
[Received July 11–10:53 a. m.] 417. Legation's 406, July 9, 5 p. m. Following from Consulate General, Canton:
“July 10, 3 p. m. Referring to Hong Kong's July 7, 4 p. m., Canton Aviation Bureau substantially confirms shipment of military airships from England and Germany. According to the agreement delivery is to take place in Hong Kong to Cantonese gunboat. British airships were shipped from factory last week and machines arrive
7 American federal corporation.
Multilateral convention and statute on freedom of transit, signed April 20, 1921, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. VII, p. 11.
within 6 weeks. Bureau states that in [sic] obtaining release of airships from country of origin is seller's business regarding which they have no information.
Bureau also confidentially informed me that an order has been placed with American company, probably L. E. Gale Company, for 12 American military airships to be exported as commercial aircraft to Hong Kong where they are to be armed with Browning machine guns and delivered to Canton gunboat. Local authorities anticipate
no difficulty in obtaining delivery provided seller is able to obtain export license.”
893.113/1307 : Telegram T'he Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Johnson)
WASHINGTON, July 18, 1931–5 p. m. 237. Legation's 417, July 11, 4 p. m. Will you instruct the Consulates General at Canton and Hong Kong to report through the Legation by mail or by telegraph important instances of arms, munitions, and airplanes, whether military or commercial, being shipped from the United States or from other foreign countries to the Cantonese authorities; and likewise to report cases of commercial airplanes which have been found in use for military purposes.
893.113/1309 : Telegram
The Consul General at Nanking (Peck) to the Acting Secretary
NANKING, July 21, 1931–7 p. m.
[Received July 22-10:05 a. m.] Information American Minister, Peiping:
41. 1. In conversation with me today Soong, Minister of Finance, stated that he had reliable information that the so-called Government at Canton had purchased eight Lockheed Vega planes for immediate delivery consigned to Canton by way of Hong Kong. He said sellers had furnished Canton authorities blueprints showing how these commercial planes could be easily converted into prohibited planes by mounting machine guns thereon. I confirmed his impression that no restriction is placed on exportation to China of commercial planes. Minister of Finance stated these planes are capable of speed of 200 miles per hour and in view of all the circumstances it is obvious that the Canton authorities desire them for troop protection. Since Canton authorities are in rebellion against the National Government he asked me to transmit the request of the Chinese Government that exportation of these eight planes be forbidden. He was unable to designate place of export but said order was placed through Meeker E. G. and Company. Planes are manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft Company at Burbank, California. Material, type, market, Lockheed Sirius not Vega.
2. For Department's information. McConnell, Vice President of the United Aircraft Export Company assures me that the British authorities at Hong Kong place no impediment in the way of sales of fighting planes by British merchants to the Chinese authorities at Canton and have even given assurance that military planes consigned to Canton by way of Hong Kong will not be interfered with at Hong Kong 3. Repeated to the American Minister.
893.113/1310: Telegram The Consul General at Nanking (Peck) to the Acting Secretary
NANKING, July 22, 1931—3 p. m.
[Received July 22–2:30 p. m.] Information American Minister, Peiping. 42. My telegram 41, July 21, 7 p. m.
1. On July 21, 10 p. m. I received aide-mémoire from the Chinese Foreign Office regarding same planes. Information same as that given me by Soong but request for prohibition of export is based on regulations for the transportation of war materials (see Foreign Office note of February 11, 1930, paragraph No. 2.'). Referring to last part of my telegram, I have asked acting British Consul General what measures Hong Kong authorities are taking to prevent war materials from reaching Canton and he tells me the British Foreign Office has ruled the British authorities are prohibited under terms of Barcelona Convention from interfering with a cargo passing through Hong Kong under through bill of lading consigned to Canton, but may and should prevent exportation to Canton from Hong Kong of war materials consigned to Hong Kong and resold there. Chinese Foreign Office has been so informed. British Consul General remarked parenthetically that Hong Kong has its own peculiar difficulties and gets into difficulties whatever course it pursues. I am unable to find in this office copy of the convention referred to.
3. McConnell, Vice President of the United Aircraft Export Corporation tells me he gravely doubts whether Gale and Company sold these planes as alleged. Gale represents both United Aircraft Export and Detroit Aircraft Corporation, holding company of Lockheed Aircraft Company, and recently informed McConnell he would not deal with Canton for this would jeopardize Nanking business. McConnell thinks present deal probably concluded by some other agent of Detroit Aircraft- perhaps Bert Hall.
893.113/1310 : Telegram The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul General at Nanking
WASHINGTON, July 27, 1931-4 p. m. 60. Your 41 of July 21,7 p. m. and 42 of July 22, 3 p. m. Department, on the basis of the information communicated by the Chinese authorities, would regard export, if attempted, of the planes in question as involving export of unassembled war material to an ultimate consignee in China and Department is taking steps with a view to preventing exportation unless planes are accompanied by export licenses duly issued by this Department in conformity with the established requirements. Department does not, however, guarantee success of its efforts.
893.113/1314 : Telegram The Ambassador in Great Britain (Dawes) to the Acting Secretary
of State 10
LONDON, July 30, 1931–11 a. m.
[Received July 30—6:24 a. m.] 276. Department's telegram 238, July 27, 4 p. m. 11 Foreign Office states orally British Government's policy is that no arms or munitions of war including military aeroplanes can leave Great Britain without Board of Trade export license given only after consulting with Foreign Office. In the case of China, Foreign Office concurrence is only given to shipments destined for and with the known sanction of the Nanking Government. As regards Hong Kong local Government was requested to conform to British Government's policy as above stated. The Hong Kong Government is doing so. Foreign Office states
10 Quoted to the Minister in China in Department's telegram No. 258, July 31, 6 p. m.
* Not printed.