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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

7 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

18 July 1940

Circular telegram. The Prime Minister1 made the following statement in the House of Commons this afternoon:

On 24 June the Japanese Government requested His Majesty's Government to take measures to stop the transit to China via Burma of war material and certain other goods. A similar request was made in respect of Hong Kong. The continuance of the transit of these

1 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom during the war were:

28 May 1937–11 May 1940Rt. Hon. Neville Chamberlain, PC.
11 May 1940–26 Jul 1945Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, PC, OM, CH.
26 Jul 1945–25 Oct 1951Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee, PC, OM, CH.
page 13 materials was represented as having a serious effect on Anglo-Japanese relations. An agreement has now been reached with the Japanese Government as follows:

Hong Kong. The export of arms and ammunition from Hong Kong has been prohibited since January 1939 and none of the war materials to which the Japanese Government attach importance are in fact being exported.

Burma. The Government of Burma have agreed to suspend for a period of three months1 the transit to China of arms and ammunition as well as the following articles: petrol, lorries and railway material. The categories of goods prohibited in Burma will be prohibited in Hong Kong. In considering the requests made by the Japanese Government and in reaching the agreement to which I have referred, His Majesty's Government were not unmindful of the various obligations accepted by this country, including their obligations to the National Government of China and to the British territories affected. His Majesty's Government were, however, also bound to have regard to the present world situation, nor could they ignore the dominant fact that we are ourselves engaged in a life-and-death struggle. The general policy of this country towards the Far Eastern troubles has been repeatedly defined. We have persistently asserted our desire to see assured to China a free and independent future, and we have as frequently expressed our desire to improve our relations with Japan. To achieve these objectives two things were essential—time and a relief of tension. On the one hand it was clear that the tension was rapidly growing owing to the Japanese complaints about the passage of war material by the Burma route. On the other, to agree to the permanent closure of the route would be to default from our obligations as a neutral friendly power to China. What we have therefore made is a temporary arrangement in the hope that the time so gained may lead to a solution just and equitable to both parties to the dispute and freely accepted by them both. We wish for no quarrel with any nation of the Far East. We desire to see China's status and integrity preserved and, as was indicated in our note of 14 January 1939,2 we are ready to negotiate with the Chinese Government after the conclusion of peace the abolition of extra-territorial rights and rendition of concessions and the revision of treaties on the basis of reciprocity and equality. We wish to see Japan attain that state of prosperity which will ensure to her population the welfare and economic security which every Japanese naturally desires. Towards the

1 From 17 July to 17 October 1940.

2 Not published.

page 14 attainment of the aims of both these countries we are prepared to offer our collaboration and our contribution, but it must be clear that if they are to be attained it must be by a process of peace and conciliation and not by war or threat of war.