HC Deb 06 April 1939 vol 345 cc2988-9
72. Mr. Mander

asked the Prime Minister the position with regard to the Japanese occupation of Spratley Island?

74. Captain Alan Graham

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo to protest against the recent Japanese occupation of Spratley Island and to point out the inconsistency of such action with the more friendly attitude towards the British Empire exemplified by the recent reopening of the commercial harbour and wharves at Tsingtao?

Mr. Butler

Spratley Island is on the western fringe of a large archipelago claimed in full sovereignty by the French Government in virtue of its annexation by decree in 1933. The Japanese Government on 30th March announced that they had placed Spratley Island and the other islands claimed by the French under the administrative jurisdiction of the Government of Formosa. The question of a protest is a matter which primarily concerns the French Government.

Mr. Mander

In view of the fact that we have definite obligations to assist France in the protection of her overseas territory, is it not of the utmost importance that we should associate ourselves with France in any protest at this occupation of French territory by Japan?

Mr. Butler

The House will appreciate that this is a matter primarily for the French Government. His Majesty's Government intend to keep in touch with the French Government in this and in all other matters of common concern.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Has not this island any strategical meaning for us as well?

Mr. Butler

Obviously this island is of great strategical importance.

Mr. Gallacher

May we take it that you are watching events?