Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck)

Mr. Torr85 called by appointment.

Mr. Hornbeck said that he wished informally to explore the ground with regard to the British Government’s attitude in reference to questions raised in the British Embassy’s aide-mémoire of August 22, 1929, referred to in the Ambassador’s letter to the Secretary of May 23, 1930. The communications in question conveyed inquiry whether the American Government, if officially approached, would be disposed to exert its “good offices on behalf of the draft Convention with the other Governments interested”. He would like to know how great importance the British Government attached to this matter at this time.

Mr. Torr said that he must base his opinion on the views expressed in the aide-mémoire of August 22, 1929. There the British Government stated that it considered it very desirable that every effort be made to secure the adoption of the Convention “since that alone would enable the problem of oil pollution to be dealt with by international agreement”. Mr. Torr said that he did not know what was the situation in British territorial and adjacent waters, whether it had improved or whether it was worse than in 1926 and before, but that he knew that the Board of Trade frequently brought up the question of the desirability of having an international agreement.

Mr. Hornbeck said that the situation in American coastal waters, in relation to oil pollution, appears to have improved materially in recent years and that there is not the amount of complaint that there formerly was and not the amount of agitation in reference to legislation and/or international agreement. He explained that certain parties particularly interested in both questions have apparently concentrated on the question of domestic legislation and have advanced the view that it would be well for the United States first to get the matter regulated in reference to its own waters by domestic legislation and then, thereby being in better position to enter or take the lead in international action, to revert to discussion of an international agreement. Therefore, it was the thought of the Department that it might be best to let the matter of the draft agreement continue to lie on the table.

Mr. Torr inquired whether we knew anything about the views of Canada. Mr. Hornbeck replied that we did not. After some discussion, [Page 279] Mr. Torr said that he thought he might endeavor informally to see whether the views of Canada could be ascertained.

Mr. Torr said again that he thought his Government attached quite a little importance to the matter and asked what countries were standing out or indifferent. Mention was made of Japan, Italy and Germany. Mr. Torr advanced, tentatively, the view that the subject might be one which might be taken up by the League of Nations as a question susceptible of practical solution by and among the countries of Europe, inasmuch as the United States and Japan are remote from European waters. But, he said, that did not dispose of the question of acts in the neighborhood of European waters by vessels of countries not party to such agreement as might be concluded. There followed some discussion of the possibility that the United States and Japan would find it convenient to become parties to an agreement first concluded by and among European states.

Mr. Hornbeck said that we had also had inquiries from the Danish Legation, and that we would like to get such information as could be had with regard to the view of the Danish Government. Mr. Torr suggested that inquiry might be made with regard to the view of the Japanese Government. Mr. Hornbeck said that he would endeavor to discuss the matter informally with an officer of the Danish Legation and an officer of the Japanese Embassy.

The conversation then turned to the question of extraterritoriality (see separate memorandum of even date).86

  1. C. J. W. Torr, Second Secretary of the British Embassy.
  2. Not printed.