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Wednesday, 1 September 1937

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - On Wednesday last the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) presented an interesting statement on the international situation but omitted to make any reference to any steps which have been, or are being, taken by the League of Nations. With regard to the unfortunate conflict that is taking place in China will the Minister now amplify his statement in order to give the Senate this information?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - When I made the statement last week no approach had been made by either China or Japan to the League of Nations, but I read in the newspapers to-day that such an approach has now been made. I shall inquire whether my department has any official advice on the subject.

By leave.- For the information of honarable senators, I propose briefly to review recent important developments of the Sino-Japanese crisis. On the 17 th August, the British Government made a proposal to the Chinese and Japanese Governments to the effect that if both the Japanese and Chinese would agree to withdraw their naval and military forces from the Shanghai area and would also agree that GreatBritain, the United States of America and France should be responsible for the protection of Japanese nationals in the International Settlement, the British Government would undertake this responsibility, provided that it could securethe co-operation of the United States of America and France. The British Government also made it clear that its sole object in making this proposal was to keep the International Settlement free from hostilities, and the commitments contemplated would be of a temporary nature to hold good- only during the continuance of the crisis. The Commonwealth Government has reason to suppose that the Chinese Government would have favorably considered this proposal if it had proved acceptable to the Japanese Government.

The Japanese Governmenthas now replied to the British proposals in a note which contends that British interests in Shanghai are not being endangered by the Japanese Army, but by illegal Chinese attacks on the Settlement. Japanese troops were landed to protect 30,000 Japanese residents from attack by Chinese forces. The Note concludes by stating that the protection of British lives and property in Shanghai is always a matter of concern to the Japanese Government, whose forces are constantly devoting themselves to this end.

A pact of mutual non-aggression between China and SovietRussia was signed on the 21st August, This consisted of three clauses -

1.   That neither party should commit any act of aggression on the other;

2.   That neither party should assist any third party which might commit an act of aggression on either of the signatories;

3.   That all existing agreements, whether bilateral or multilateral, to which the signatories were parties, should remain in force.

The Chinese Government has informed the British Government thatthis pact is purely negative in character. Itmerely indicates China's fixed purpose to live at peace with its neighbours, and does not signify any abandonment on the part of China of its fixed policy of antiCommunism.

Honorable senators will recollect that the British Government recently addressed a Note to the Japanese Government protesting against the attack on the British Ambassador in China, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, by Japanese aeroplanes, as a result of which he was severely injured. The full text of this Note has appeared in the press, and it is sufficient for me to remind honorable senators of the three requests made to the Japanese Government by the British Government. These were, first, a formal apology to be conveyed by the Japanese Government to the British Government; secondly, suitable punishment of those responsible for the attack; thirdly, an assurance by the Japanese Government that the necessary measures would be taken to prevent a recurrence of incidents of such a character. No reply to this Note has as yet been received, but the text of a statement issued by the Japanese Foreign Office on the 27th August, is as follows : -

It was with profound regret that we heard the news that Sir Hughe KnatchbullHugessen, the British Ambassador to China, was seriously wounded by machine-gun fire from an aeroplane, whilst he was on his way from Nanking to Shanghai. The Japanese Foreign Minister immediately instructed the Japanese Ambassador to China to convey to the British Ambassador his (the Foreign Minister's) sympathy while the Japanese Consul-General in Shanghai called upon the Acting British ConsulGeneral and expressed his regret.

The Japanese Government is now conducting an investigation into the matter at Shanghai. However, it is absolutely unthinkable that a Japanese plane would intentionally attack the automobile in which the British Ambassador was driving.

The Japanese Consul-General in Australia has personally expressed to the Commonwealth Government his sincere sympathy at the wounding of the British Ambassador.

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