The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Harvey)
394. Have carefully considered the suggestion in your 579 of July 11 to hold early conference on Far Eastern questions as an essential preliminary to the conference on limitation of armament. Although it is desired to promote convenience so far as practicable, it is considered impossible to have the conference as early as August 15. We could not make suitable arrangements and adequate preparation by that time even approximately and Japan and China could not be expected to have delegations present so early. Appreciate fully responsibilities of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and attitude of Dominion Premiers. However, the following are deemed controlling considerations.
There would undoubtedly be unpleasant reaction of American opinion and considerable feeling that limitation of armament had been sidetracked if it were now announced that conference on limitation of armament was to be postponed until disposition of Far Eastern questions by a preliminary conference. It would at once be asserted by those who are now unable to voice effective criticism that the entire plan had been arranged with this in view. Further, a conference in London would not be regarded favorably here, in the light of relations between Japan and Great Britain. The President’s proposal was distinctly for a conference at Washington. As such it was specifically endorsed in Great Britain before announcement was made, and it has been accepted in Italy and France. Although it is entirely possible that matters relating to Pacific and Far Eastern problems should be first on conference agenda, still the conference would be concerned with all subjects within the call for such disposition as might be practicable. It would be quite a different matter to leave subject of limitation of armament to a second conference the holding of which might be entirely dependent upon success of first. Such chance should not be taken.
British Government cannot fail to realize that it is vitally important to satisfactory settlement of large issues involved and to success of conference that conference should be closely in touch with [Page 29] American opinion and holding of conference in Washington, with sympathetic contacts thus made possible, is of first consequence. This view is not presented especially in interest of United States but because it is important in securing solutions helpful to all of the powers and to assure not only formulation of plans but their final execution. It is believed that it would be a serious mistake to hold the conference in London and nothing could be more conducive to a wholesome cooperation than the holding of the conference here. This is so strongly felt by the Administration that it regards as essential this feature of the plan.
Regarding the time of conference it is of course desired to consult the convenience of all participating powers, and it is not the intention of this Government to be unduly urgent. However, it is hoped that it will be possible to hold the conference at a reasonably early date and that the anticipations which have been raised will not be disappointed.