500.A4/21: Telegram

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Harvey ) to the Secretary of State


585. Replying to your 399 of July 13, 7 p.m. As requested, I have informed Curzon of the situation. This afternoon he talked with Japanese Ambassador respecting topics likely to be considered by the conference but [the Ambassador] declined to indicate for Japanese Government the subjects he considered suitable or likely to arise as this was entirely within the province of the United States, the power which conveyed the invitation. … if you consider essential an immediate reply to Japan, might it not suffice to paraphrase in an expanded form your simple statement of obvious fact that without due reflection presentation of precise agenda of conference could not be made.

Referring to your 394 of July 13, 1 p.m. Curzon appears duly impressed by immediate consequence of the situation in United States but frankly does not consider it as difficult or trying as his own problem, especially respecting the Dominion Premiers. He earnestly reiterates the necessity of their presence and participation in consultation with representatives of the Empire in considering problems of the Pacific and thus clearing the road for proposals of limitation of armaments. The Japanese Ambassador now informs me that there would be no difficulty about representatives of his Government as either the Ambassador at Paris, Ishii, or the Ambassador at Washington, or both would be designated to act. Curzon is convinced, although not definitely assured, that China would authorize her Minister here, Wellington Koo, to act in the same capacity. He thinks it would be desirable for President Harding to designate a specific date in October or [November] to convene [Page 33] the disarmament conference in Washington. He says the British Government will accept for any date proposed.

However, he feels … that there should be held a preliminary conference in regard to the Pacific. By reducing to a minimum the number of essential subjects to be considered, he thinks this could be successfully accomplished to satisfaction of the Premiers. The memorandum he is to prepare will contain what in his judgment these essential subjects would comprise. Curzon says, however, that if such problems as opium traffic are to be considered it would be completely hopeless as it would take at least two months to reach an agreement on that alone. If therefore all the questions even as you enumerate should be designated in the agenda for determination as a matter of first consideration, the time necessary would preclude possibility of attendance of Lloyd George and himself. In point of fact he plainly indicated that if you should regard this method as the only feasible one, he feared that it would be impracticable if not indeed impossible for the British Government to take part in the conference. He desired me to impress this situation very strongly upon you, feeling that you would recognize the [importance?] of the case.

He thinks these obstacles are not insurmountable by any means. However, I must confess my own impression that he seriously doubts whether they are surmountable except by the procedure he proposes. The chief question now seems to be whether or not in these circumstances you should consider it desirable to announce date and place of disarmament conference in conformity with Curzon’s expressed willingness to assent, thereby establishing in the public mind the certainty of a meeting, and leave the preliminaries open to quiet negotiations. The British Government, however, realizes fully the intensity of public approval of the President’s proposal and that if they should put themselves into a position of obstruction they would invite disaster. Lloyd George and Curzon seem eager to have the complete plan go through to a successful conclusion …

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  1. Telegram in two sections.