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China: British Policy

Volume 116: debated on Wednesday 3 April 1940

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4.1 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary a question of which I have given him private notice: whether the policy of His Majesty's Government in China remains unchanged. Perhaps I may be allowed in a few sentences to give a reason for this question. It arises from a statement made by His Majesty's Ambassador in Japan on an important public occasion a few days ago, on March 28. The terms of that speech as reported in the London Press may give rise to misunderstanding. We all desire that the relations between this country and Japan should be placed on a satisfactory footing, and must welcome the efforts of the Ambassador in Tokyo to effect that object. But, as briefly reported, the speech to which I refer might be interpreted as a condonation of the actions of Japan in China in recent years and an acceptance of her present policy. In view of the opinion in regard to the Japanese invasion of China which is generally held in this country, in the United States, and indeed in most countries of the world, I trust that the Foreign Secretary may be able to reaffirm the declarations repeatedly made on behalf of His Majesty's Government as to their attitude towards the legitimate Government of China.

4.3 p.m.

My Lords, my attention has been called to the speech which His Majesty's Ambassador made at a meeting in Tokyo of the Japan-British Society, and I have had an opportunity of seeing more complete details of the speech than it has been possible to obtain, so far as I am aware, from the Press. I can assure the noble Viscount that it was no part of the Ambassador's intention to suggest that the policy of His Majesty's Government had undergone any change or that it in any way diverged from that which has been repeatedly explained in Parliament. It follows that there is no question of His Majesty's Government changing their view as to what they must continue to regard as the legitimate Government of China; nor is there any question of a departure from the general attitude which they have adopted towards the Far Eastern question, or any modification of their desire to see a settlement of the dispute on equitable terms. His Majesty's Government do not, however, regard their policy as thus described as being in any way inconsistent with the endeavour to place our relations with Japan on a more friendly footing. Sir Robert Craigie has rendered very valuable service in this direction, and it was this purpose which he was especially concerned to promote in his speech.