500.A492/176a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the, Ambassador in Japan (Warren)

199. Your telegram 390, November 17, 9 p.m. In yesterday’s press appears what purports to be an official announcement of the Japanese position with respect to naval limitation given out by Admiral Baron Kato:—“Because of her geographical position, Japan deems it only fair at the present time that the other interested countries should agree that she maintain a proportion in general tonnage slightly greater than 60 percent, and, in a type of vessel of strictly defensive character, she might desire even to approximate that of the greater navies.” You should in your discretion do the utmost to influence the Japanese Government not to insist upon an alteration of the proposed ratio of 10 capital ships each for the United States and Great Britain to 6 for Japan, which this Government regards as essential.

This Government finds the alternatives to be either competition in production or stopping where we are. We have not selected a [Page 65] ratio for Japan but have taken the existing naval strength as it stands, after proper inclusion of the extent of construction already effected in the case of ships in process. The basis of measurement as advised by our experts is the tonnage of capital ships, that is, of battle ships and battle cruisers, and we do not understand that the propriety of taking this measure is contested. Auxiliary craft, including the lighter craft, and submarines can form the subject of separate consideration as these may have proper relation to the capital ships allowed. We have not made the calculations narrowly for the purpose of obtaining an advantage over Japan, but, on the contrary, have made the estimate liberal. On the basis of existing strength of capital ships, including the extent of construction of ships in process, the ratio would be nearer 10–5 than 10–6, but we suggested 10–6 to be very liberal. To suggest a greater ratio than this on general assumptions of national needs is simply to go back to competitive building and it is virtually a rejection of the entire proposal. The proposal is manifestly not unfair to Japan.

In opening the Conference on November 12, I had occasion to state as follows the basis of the American Proposals:

“Four general principles have been applied:

That all capital-ship building programs, either actual or projected, should be abandoned;
That further reduction should be made through the scrapping of certain of the older ships;
That in general regard should be had to the existing naval strength of the Powers concerned;
That the capital ship tonnage should be used as the measurement of strength for navies and a proportionate allowance of auxiliary combatant craft prescribed.”

After this statement Baron Kato informed the Conference that the American proposals were accepted in principle. As soon as there is agreement as to capital ships, we can take up for suitable arrangement the whole question of auxiliary craft.