Note by the Secretary to the British Empire Delegation of a Conversation between the Secretary of State and Mr. Balfour, of the British Empire Delegation, December 1, 1921, 3:30 p.m.66a


After Mr. Hughes and Mr. Balfour had seen the Conference of the Chinese and Japanese Delegations on the subject of Shantung started,67 they passed into an adjoining room at the Pan-American Building in order to discuss the question of the Japanese proportion of capital ships. Sir Maurice Hankey was also present.

Mr. Balfour began by giving a very full account of the conversation he had had with Baron Kato in the morning, which has been described in a separate note.68

Mr. Hughes then expressed his views. He began by discussing the Mutsu, and pointed out that to allow this particular ship to be included would make a bad hole in the American proposal. The Mutsu had probably been 98 per cent, completed at the beginning of the Conference. America, however, had several ships in an advanced stage of completion, which, in the event of war, could undoubtedly have been finished off in a month or two. If Japan were allowed to retain the Mutsu, America could put in an equally strong claim to retain certain ships in an advanced stage. The British Empire, however, would suffer most, since she would have to lay down and build a new ship.

Mr. Balfour did not deny this.

Mr. Hughes then proceeded to discuss Baron Kato’s suggestion for a cessation of fortification in the Pacific. He said that naval and military opinion would be very strongly against this proposal. Naval and military opinion had a way of becoming reflected in Congress and the Senate, as well as in the Press of America. A case would very rapidly be worked up against the proposal,… The American people would probably refuse to fetter themselves in regard to their right to fortify their own Possessions. In this connection Mr. Hughes differentiated between the establishment of a base which might be regarded as an offensive work, and the mere fortification for defensive purposes. He then proceeded to outline a plan of his own, explaining that it was a purely personal idea, which he had not laid before his colleagues or the President. This plan was that America and Japan should reciprocally agree that if either one or the other were to desire to erect fortifications in the Pacific, the opposite party should be notified, and should then have the right to terminate the whole of the naval agreement. If, for example, the American public were to insist upon the fortification of Guam, Japan should have the right to denounce the whole arrangement and would be free to build ships. Mr. Hughes [Page 75] seemed to think that the American people could be induced to accept an arrangement on these lines. He said, however, that he did not think in fact that they would ever wish to erect these fortifications, and indicated that the proposal was rather a political safeguard than one which was ever likely to be put into effect.

Mr. Balfour pointed out that, nevertheless, such an arrangement would react on the other nations which were a party to the agreement, and would introduce a certain element of instability into it.

Mr. Hughes repeated that the question was never likely to arise.

In the course of the conversation it was pointed out that under Article 2 of the proposed tripartite or quadruple arrangement to replace the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, it was provided that if there should develop between any two of the contracting parties controversies likely to affect the relations of harmonious accord subsisting between them, they would invite the other contracting parties to a joint Conference to which the whole subject-matter would be referred for consideration and adjustment.69 The suggestion arose that a desire on either side to erect fortifications might be dealt with under this Article, and that a Conference would therefore probably take place before the arrangement came to an end.

Eventually, however, it was agreed that Mr. Hughes should sound the President and his colleagues in regard to the proposal, and that in the meantime no mention of it should be made by Mr. Balfour to Baron Kato.

M. P. A. Hankey

  1. No agreed official minutes of this conversation were made. The American delegation used the note prepared by Sir Maurice Hankey.
  2. See pp. 339342 and 934970.
  3. Not found in Department files.
  4. See the undated draft by Ambassador Shidehara, p. 4.