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United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1937. The British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East and Africa
(1937)

United Kingdom ,   pp. 1-135 PDF (51.1 MB)


Page 128


FOREIGN RELATIONS, 1937, VOLUME II
  Before proceeding to occupy the Island as you instruct I feel that
I should call your attention to one or two facts with which you may
not be familiar.
  (1) On March 18, 1937, some two months before the Eclipse Expe-
dition reached Canton Island, the British Government issued an
Order-in-Council by which Canton Island and the other islands in
the Phoenix Group were formally incorporated in the Gilbert and
Ellice Islands Colony.
  (2) The British Government has sent us two notes on the subject
recently, the first informing us of the Order-in-Council, the second
asking us to remove the emblems left by the Avocet. Moreover, an
opening for discussion was given by an oral remark made by a member
of the British Embassy in presenting the notes that if we had any
observations to make on the other islands in the group we should do so.
  The alternative courses, then, which may be followed are:
  (1) We can proceed to permanent occupation of Canton Island by
landing settlers, without notification to the British. However, for us
to go ahead in the face of the British notes, particularly without having
answered them, might be so resented as to render final adjustment of
the conflicting claims to the island or islands more difficult than need
be. I feel that we might put ourselves in the position that we could
also be charged with bad faith if we sent settlers without giving an
indication to that effect in the replies which we must make shortly to
the British notes.
  (2) We can proceed to permanent occupation of Canton Island, by
landing settlers, but with advance notification to the British in reply
to their notes of July 16 and July 22, together with a statement that we
did not recognize the validity of the British Order-in-Council but were
prepared to discuss with them the final disposition of all the islands.
  (3) Without proceeding to permanent occupation of Canton Island,
by landing settlers, we can take advantage of the opening given in the
oral statement of the British Secretary and propose the negotiation of
a final settlement of the conflicting claims to the eight islands of the
Phoenix Group.
  In the opinion of the Department's Legal Adviser, our claim to
Canton Island is distinctly weak,-much weaker for instance than to
three other islands in the group. Our best prospect, therefore, of
establishing our right of ownership to at least some of the islands
might be through negotiation. I should like to have your instructions
as to which alternative you wish followed, in order that I may be
guided as to what action I should take in respect to the two British
notes.
  Faithfully yours,                                 CORDELL HuIL
128


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