500.A15a3/670: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Stimson) to the Acting Secretary of State

41. Having learned this afternoon that garbled reports of our plan were in the hands of hostile newspapers, in order to place the advantages of the American proposal in the public eye as soon as possible and to prevent all leaks which would concern themselves only with its alleged disadvantages, I have decided, after consultation with the Prime Minister and Mr. Wakatsuki, to issue the attached statement to the press tonight for release for tomorrow (Friday) morning’s papers.

At the opening of the Conference the United States delegation made no statement of its position or the needs of its country beyond the historical fact of the agreement in principle for parity between Great Britain and the United States. We are now in a position where we can go further. Following discussions among ourselves and negotiations with the British and Japanese which have clarified the limits of possible agreement, our delegation has made suggestions as follows:

First, with Great Britain immediate parity in every class of ship in the Navy. The gross tonnage of these two fleets is substantially 1,200,000 tons apiece. The negotiations last summer between President Hoover and Prime Minister MacDonald32 practically reduced [Page 20] the discussions of parity between them to the comparatively insignificant difference in their respective cruiser class tonnage of 24,000 tons. We propose to settle this difference as follows: Of the larger cruisers armed with 8-inch guns, Great Britain will have 15 and the United States 18, an advantage to the latter of 30,000 tons. In this case our advantage in large cruisers will be compensated to Great Britain by a lesser tonnage on our side in smaller cruisers of 12,000 tons, but under the arrangements stated below this can be equalized at our option.

Of the smaller cruisers armed with 6-inch guns, Great Britain will have an initial advantage; but, in order to insure exact equality of tonnage, the United States makes the suggestion that each country will have the option of duplicating exactly the cruiser fleet of the other. Thus Great Britain would have the option, by reducing its number of small cruisers, to increase its large cruisers from 15 to 18 so as to give it a total tonnage of 327,000 tons, the exact amount of tonnage which the United States now asks. On the other hand, the United States would have the option, by reducing its large cruisers from 18 to 15, to increase the number of its small cruisers so as to give it a total cruiser tonnage of 339,000 tons, the exact amount of tonnage which the British now ask.

In battleships we suggest by reduction in number on both sides to equalize our two fleets in 1931 instead of in 1942. At present the British battleship fleet contains two more vessels than ours. In destroyers and aircraft carriers we suggest equality in tonnage, and in submarines the lowest tonnage possible.

As is well known we will gladly agree to a total abolition of submarines if it is possible to obtain the consent of all five powers to such a proposition, and in any event we suggest that the operations of submarines be limited to the same rules of international law as surface craft in operation against merchant ships so that they cannot attack without providing for the safety of the passengers and crew.

Second, our suggestion to the Japanese would produce an over-all relation satisfactory to us and, we hope, to them. In conformity with our relations in the past it is not based upon the same ratio in every class of ships.

We have not made proposals to the French and Italians whose problems are not so directly related to ours that we feel it appropriate at this time to make suggestions to them. A settlement of the Italian and French problem is essential, of course, to the agreement contemplated.

The United States delegates do not feel at liberty to discuss any further details in figures, and it is obvious that the announcement of hypothetical figures by others is calculated only to provoke argument.

Our delegation is in agreement on every item of our program and we are in the most hopeful spirit that in cooperation with the other delegations the primary purpose of the Conference, namely, the termination and prevention of competitions in naval armament and such reductions as are found consistent with national security, may be accomplished.

This is all that we deem it helpful to state until our suggestions have been considered by the delegations to whom they have been sent.

  1. Telegram in five sections.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.