500.A15a3/689: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Castle) to the Acting Secretary of State


27. Your telegram No. 36, February 13, 5 p.m. Please repeat to London.36

I think that certain thoughtful Japanese regret that demand for 10–7 ratio in auxiliary ships was made practically a sine qua non of the Japanese program. They must now face the fact, however, that a large proportion of their people have been taught to look upon this ratio as essential to national safety; that being so, they feel that they cannot surrender. The ratio has become a political doctrine of major importance. The fact that the United States refused to consider this ratio is taken as an indication that we foresee the possibility of war. I have pointed out repeatedly that Japan having accepted the 10–6 ratio in Washington, the belief is general in the United States that Japan’s demands for a higher ratio may equally be taken by the [Page 25] American people as proof of belligerent intentions on the part of Japan. Baron Shidehara37 told me this afternoon that the press has just been asking him urgently whether America could possibly think that Japan could attack either the mainland or the Philippine Islands because of this larger ratio. He told them that whatever America might think, an attack was impossible since even if it were immediately successful with regard to the Philippines it would be only the beginning of a war in which Japan would in the long run be completely ruined. I reminded him that it was nevertheless true that the man in the street in America, believing Japan to be already fully protected, would inevitably think some such thing, all the more so as no precise or technical reasons had ever, as far as I knew, been advanced as to why Japan needed this 10–7 ratio for defense. Shidehara said that it would be as difficult to give technical reasons as to give convincing technical reasons why the United States must have parity with Great Britain; that all the Navy would say was that Japan might have a sporting chance with this ratio against the United States, whereas with the 10–6 ratio it would have no chance at all. Shidehara added that even with this chance the final result for Japan must be disastrous.

It is also said in Tokyo that no attempt is being made in the London Conference to maintain the Washington ratio with France or Italy, that this proves that the Washington Conference ratios were not intended to cover smaller craft, and that the American attempt to hold Japan to them is unfair. That we have no particular interest in France and Italy is admitted, but this very fact is noted to prove England’s greater generosity, in view of her keen interest in European armament.

I have tried to give you in my cables the exact Japanese point of view in the belief that knowledge of it may assist our delegates to suggest compromises if any are possible along the lines of least resistance. I was told yesterday by the French Chargé that he believed no compromise possible on submarines either with France or with Japan. My thought that he might be urging the Japanese Government to stand firm on this point was confirmed by Shidehara who said that the Chargé had told him that Japan and France should stand unwaveringly together on this issue as their interests with regard to it were identical. Shidehara told him that Japan would not make agreements of this sort with anyone, as it would not do to divide the Conference into opposing groups; that each nation must stand on its own feet. I am sure he was sincere in this and that Japan will not make any private agreement.

  1. Transmitted to the American delegation as Department’s telegram No. 103, February 14, noon.
  2. Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs.