HC Deb 12 July 1937 vol 326 cc848-50
14. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can say anything about the recent Sino-Japanese fighting near Peking; and whether it is proposed to make representations in respect of the Japanese field exercises taking place in the neighbourhood of Peking?

16. Mr. Chorlton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement on the clash between Japanese and Chinese outside Peking?

21. Major Procter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the serious effect of the fighting in Northern China on the Lancashire export trade in cotton textiles, he can state what possibility exists of re-establishing order at an early date; and whether some action can be taken to avoid this constant tension between China and Japan on Chinese territory?

24. Mr. McEntee

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement as to the fighting in North China; how it arose; and what has happened?

25. Captain Plugge

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the international position in Northern China as the result of which serious fighting has occurred between the Chinese and Japanese; what is the reason for the presence of such large numbers of Japanese troops on Chinese territory; and whether, in the interests of peace and amity, he will ascertain whether the current Anglo-Japanese conversations in London can be used to remove this constant source of friction and hindrance to the restoration of improved international trade?

26. Mr. Banfield

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fighting between Japanese and Chinese troops on the eve of the start of the Anglo-Japanese conversations in London: and whether in any case he will ensure that this outbreak is not used for the purpose of consolidating a new Japanese claim against China?

Mr. Eden

The following is a summary of the information which has so far reached me but which is naturally somewhat incomplete. Japanese troops holding manoeuvres near Lukouchiao, west of Peking, came into conflict during the night 7th-8th July with a battalion of the Chinese 29th Army garrisoning that town. There was considerable firing, Chinese from Nanyuan and Japanese from Tungchow, east of Peking, joining in the fray. Each side charged the other with provocation. The Japanese demanded that the Chinese troops should evacuate Lukouchiao and retire to the west of the river which flows past that town. The Chinese are reported to have done this, and, according to Press reports, have agreed to replace the regular military units east of the river by militia on the understanding that the Japanese troops should withdraw to the neighbourhood of Fengtai further east pending a settlement. Subsequently, both sides accused the other of infringing the terms of the truce and intermittent fighting has taken place. My latest information, received this morning, was that Pekin itself was quiet and that there was no news of further fighting. Under the terms of Article 9 of the Protocol of 7th September, 1901, Japan and other foreign Powers are entitled to station troops at certain points in North China in order to keep open free communication between Peking and the sea. The number of Japanese troops in North China is believed to amount to several thousand—so far as we know, it is about 7,000. The possible repercussions on British interests, and on international trade generally, of tension between China and Japan, is fully recognised. I would add, in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge), that, if Anglo-Japanese conversation develop in London, that would evidently afford an opportunity of discussing these events with the Japanese Ambassador. It is the earnest desire of His Majesty's Government that there should be a settlement not only of the present dispute but of the difficulties existing generally between China and Japan.

Mr. Henderson

May it not be mainly clue to the fact that the Japanese authorities have persisted in holding manoeuvres close to Peking and that that is the source of the provocation; and could not we make friendly representations to the Japanese Ambassador as to the undesirability of carrying out such a policy?

Mr. Eden

It is extremely complicated, and I would rather not pronounce upon it, but I am sure the whole House would agree that we ought to exert ourselves to try to prevent this situation becoming more serious.

Mr. Benn

Is it not a fact that, under Article 9 of the Protocol, international agreement is required in reference to the stationing of these troops, and have the Government been consulted about the excessive quantity and the nature of these exercises?

Mr. Eden

I think the right hon. Gentleman is right about the place of stationing, but not about the numbers. That is one of the complexities.

Mr. Gallacher

Would it not be as well if the Chinese drove all these people out of their country?

Mr. Chorlton

What other special steps have been taken to look after British trade interests in the area, in the present situation?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps my hon. Friend would put that question on the Paper.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider entering into consultation with the United States Government in regard to this incident?

Mr. Eden

The hon. and gallant Gentleman may be sure that that is the kind of consideration which is very present to my mind.

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