500.A4/21: Telegram

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


415. Referring to your 585 of July 15 and 591 of July 19. Opinion in the United States is decisive against a preliminary conference at London. It would not be possible for President Harding to acquiesce in such a radical departure from the published announcement. If terms of announcement are adhered to, conditions are [Page 38] most favorable to conference. This must be regarded as this Government’s final attitude.

I do not have objection to proposed consultations to facilitate preparation for the Conference but I consider it wholly inadvisable that Great Britain and Japan should, without our participation, make an agreement in advance of the Conference. Of course, whatever may be discussed or proposed in consultations must be subject to the President’s approval so far as our action is concerned. Consultations may be very helpful subject to these limitations.

I have conversed informally with Shidehara41 regarding nature and scope of discussion of Far Eastern questions and assume that the Japanese Government has been advised of views expressed. However, I have not yet formally answered Japanese Government’s inquiry cabled to you, as I first desired to have the British Government’s views.

I approve Curzon’s suggestion that discussion should embrace the following questions: (1) open door for commerce with China; (2) administrative and territorial integrity of China (see circular of John Hay of July 3, 190042); (3) Shantung and questions pertaining to it;43 (4) leased territory in and around Pacific Ocean. I approve also omission of questions concerning immigration and opium traffic. However, I consider that questions relating to Siberia should be included in discussion, since if a common declaration of policies and principles could be framed, it would naturally involve both Russia and China and we might profitably discuss together fundamental principles applicable to both.

Regarding German possessions in the Pacific, hope that problems in regard to Yap and mandates and cable communications may be settled before the Conference meets. If this were not accomplished, however, it would be necessary that these problems should be threshed out at some time by the interested powers, and if this were not done at the Conference presumably it would have to be done through diplomatic negotiation or at meetings of the Supreme Council. I see no reason why these questions regarding German possessions, if not earlier settled, should not be discussed at Conference, as in the near future they must be settled in the interest of all the powers and as they are essentially questions of international concern in the Far East.

Please take up these matters immediately with Foreign Secretary and reply, …

[Page 39]

Regarding date of the Conference, the President has in mind November 11, Armistice Day, for sentimental reasons, but would be pleased to consider convenience of the British Government. Consider, however, that the Conference should be held not later than November. If it will suit convenience of Dominion Premiers, presumably returning by way of America, to hold the Conference early in October or even at the end of September, would endeavor to arrange it.

Belgium represents that she is entitled to be invited because of the moral position she has won through the war. It was explained that it was not practical to invite all powers of the world and that the only feasible selection for Conference on Limitation of Armament was that of the nations known as the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, but that in discussing Far Eastern problems, in which China was invited to participate, there was no reason to exclude powers with special interests in the East. This may open a way to include in that discussion not only Belgium, which has large interests in China, but also Portugal and the Netherlands, who have approached us regarding their Far Eastern interests.

As stated above I do not object to inclusion of (4), leased territory in and around the Pacific Ocean, but I do not understand reasons why British proposed this. Would it be possible for you to find out what is back of it?

  1. Baron Kijuro Shidehara, Japanese Ambassador at Washington.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1900, p. 299.
  3. For papers on the Shantung question, see pp. 613 ff.