HL Deb 24 July 1939 vol 114 cc368-70

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government if they are in a position to make a statement about the progress of the conversations at Tokyo.


My Lords, since July 15 preliminary conversations have been proceeding at Tokyo between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs before starting negotiations for the settlement of the situation at Tientsin. At the outset of the discussions the Japanese Government expressed the view that if progress was to be made in the removal of misunderstandings and the establishment of better relations, it was essential to recognise the background against which the situation at Tientsin should be viewed. This had nothing to do with His Majesty's Government's China policy, but was a question of fact. Hostilities were proceeding in China on a large scale. The Japanese Army had to provide for its own security and maintain public order in the occupied areas, and was therefore obliged to take action to see that these causes were not prejudiced.

In order to clear the way for the Tientsin discussions, His Majesty's Government have accordingly agreed upon the following formula with the Japanese Government:

"His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom fully recognise the actual situation in China where hostilities on a large scale are in progress and note that, as long as that state of affairs continues to exist, the Japanese forces in China have special requirements for the purpose of safeguarding their own security and maintaining public order in regions under their control and that they have to suppress or remove any such acts or causes as will obstruct them or benefit their enemy. His Majesty's Government have no intention of countenancing any act or measures prejudicial to the attainment of the above-mentioned objects by Japanese forces and they will take this opportunity to confirm their policy in this respect by making it plain to British authorities and British nationals in China that they should refrain from such acts and measures."

In the progress of the conversations leading up to agreement on this formula, it was understood between the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and His Majesty's Ambassador that it was no part of the intention of the Japanese Government to preclude His Majesty's Government from making representations on any cases that might arise, and His Majesty's Government made it clear that in their view nothing in the formula affected the position and obligations of other Powers. This view was considered by both parties to be self-evident. His Majesty's Ambassador has represented to the Japanese Government the great importance of discouraging Press recriminations and exaggerated claims which can only prejudice the result of the negotiations on the local issues now about to open. His Majesty's Ambassador has made strong representations on the subject of anti-British agitation. It is to be anticipated that as a result of the agreement which has now been reached this agitation will cease. Meanwhile the Japanese Prime Minister is reported to have said that the Japanese Government, now that they had fixed their policy, could control agitation not in accordance with it. I may add that the conversations on the Tientsin position were to start al 9 a.m. to-day.

3.10 p.m.


I do not know whether your Lordships will allow me to put a short supplementary question with reference to that answer, which is immensely serious and of the utmost possible importance to our interests and the interests of the world. I want to ask my noble friend whether his attention has been called to the statement made by the Japanese Prime Minister in reference to this matter. It is reported in The Times to-day, and I propose just to remind my noble friend of some of the phrases used by the Japanese Prime Minister. Referring to British interests and rights in China, Baron Hiranuma said, the report states: Such British rights and interests may be recognized if only Great Britain will recognize the relations of mutual aid and inter-dependence between Japan, Manchukuo, and China. Great Britain, he thought, would not assist General Chiang Kai-shek's régime by granting it credits or otherwise. If she did her action would be regarded as hostile to Japan. If Great Britain refrains from granting credits to General Chiang Kai-shek's régime, that régime will be deprived of the wherewithal for financing purchases of munitions through dealers willing to supply them. The basic arrangement established between Japan and Great Britain will not only prove a big shock to the Chungking Government, but will serve as a favourable factor in disposing of the China incident. Baron Hiranuma said he trusted and expected the British Government to take the necessary steps to bring home the spirit of the new arrangements with Japan, not only to the British authorities in China, but also to the British nation in general. The question I desire to ask is whether, in view of that statement, the Government are prepared to say that they do not propose to reverse the policy that they have hitherto pursued with reference to General Chiang Kai-shek in China?


My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Viscount as to the importance of this issue. On the actual question that he has raised, in the absence of an official report of what the Japanese Prime Minister said, I should prefer not to be drawn into detailed comments on it, but I would permit myself this observation. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister, last week I think, said with great clarity in another place that it was impossible for this country to reverse its policy at the dictation of any other foreign Power. To that position His Majesty's Government unhesitatingly adhere.


My Lords, I do not want to pursue this question further in the light of what the noble Viscount has said, but the Opposition may require, at very short notice, to raise this question in another form.

Back to