500.A15/487: Telegram

The Chief of the American Representation on the Preparatory Commission ( Gibson ) to the Secretary of State

230. My 229, April 11, 10 p.m.39 Without any previous warning to me, Cecil injected the subject of the forthcoming Three-Power Naval Conference squarely into the Commission’s discussions at the outset of this morning’s session. While stating that he was prepared to abandon the British contention that only shore-based aircraft should be limited, he made the expressed proviso that this should not prejudice any discussions to be had or decisions to be reached at the forthcoming Conference and the general tone of his remarks in this connection at least laid them open to the interpretation that in naval matters the three powers in question were more concerned with what might happen at the said Conference than with the present labors of this Commission. In his reply Boncour took note of this and although he did not overemphasize the point, referred to “the approaching Conference which hovers above all our work here.” Saito40 [Page 200] said that he would not have permitted himself to refer to this subject if Cecil had not already done so but that he now felt that he might properly do so. He then spoke in laudatory terms of the Washington Conference, the way it had been carried out, the complete appreciation in his country of the high purpose of President Coolidge in calling this new Conference and the independent and unconflicting nature of the latter with respect to the work of this Commission.

In a brief speech I declared that although I could not believe that my colleagues were under any misapprehension, yet as the matter is such a vital one I wished if any such misapprehension existed completely to dissipate it. I quoted from the memorandum annexed to the President’s message of February 10th41 showing that our delegation was under instructions to work wholeheartedly for the success of this Commission and that the conception of a further Naval Conference was as stated “in addition” thereto. I assured my colleagues that our delegation had never deviated from these instructions and that its efforts to contribute to the conclusion of a satisfactory agreement here were not in the remotest degree subordinated to preoccupation over what might eventuate in the forthcoming Conference. I added that we were judging every question that comes before us here strictly on its merits but that I should be lacking in frankness did I not make it clear that our deep-rooted conviction of the essential soundness of the principle of limitation by categories necessarily constituted for us a dominant factor in considering the merits of methods of limitation of naval armaments.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Japanese delegate on the Commission.
  3. Memorandum transmitted in telegram No. 25, Feb. 3, 7 p.m., to the Ambassador in France, p. 1.