The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Wilson)
32. For Gibson and Wilson. The following aide-mémoire was left by the British Ambassador, who called on me this morning;
[Here follows the text of the aide-mémoire printed supra.]
Inquiry was made by Sir Esme regarding the attitude of this Government on the question of the reduction in size of battleships and the extension of the life of such ships. In reply I informed him that there was no difference in the present attitude of this Government and its attitude last summer, and that, in view of the fact that until after 1931 no battleships could be replaced, no agreement at [Page 246]this time seemed necessary, especially in view of the fact that Italy and France were under no obligation to attend a conference until that year, and since they had not been represented at the Naval Conference at Geneva. The Ambassador’s attention was recalled to the fact that you had been authorized by me last summer to state that a conference would be called by the United States on the first of January 1931, so that ample time would be given for any contemplated plans for changes. The Ambassador asked whether any hostility to the general idea would be felt by this Government and was told that while I could not commit the Government in this matter I did recall that the Secretary of the Navy had felt that a substantial saving might be made by the extension of the life of battleships, although the saving brought about by such means would not be as great as stated. In my opinion, the Ambassador understood that no such proposition would be considered without the inclusion of some compensations intended to bring about absolute equality. The Ambassador further stated that his Government desired to ascertain whether other signatories to the Washington Treaty would give sympathetic consideration to this subject in order that plans, based on a reasonable prospect of the acceptance of the proposition, might be made before 1931. In reply I said that, of course, if the British decided to sound out other governments on this question it was their affair but that since it did not concern the Preparatory Conference I saw no reason why it should be taken up during the sessions of that body. On this point the Ambassador concurred. In my opinion, the considerations set forth in your instructions during the Naval Conference and those indicated in this conversation will adequately cover any contingencies likely to arise on this subject.