The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Bingham)
284. Yesterday the Japanese Ambassador called and stated that his Government had received word from the British Government that they were discussing with us the pros and cons of a conference. The Ambassador asked to be informed with regard to (1) our attitude toward a conference and (2) our attitude toward qualitative limitation. I told the Ambassador that as far as our position was concerned we had made no change from the attitude we had taken generally in the bilateral conversations in London and there were no new developments since then with respect to a conference which the other interested Governments did not know. On further reflection, however, it appeared to me to be wise to give the Japanese Government perhaps a slightly more definite reply to their queries and I have this morning asked the Japanese Ambassador to come to the Department and have given him the following information with regard to his two questions:
“We have learned from our Embassy at London that it is the desire of the British to hold a naval conference before the end of the year. We are inclined to concur in the desirability of such a conference, particularly in view of the fact that both naval treaties provide for a conference before the end of this year. We recognize that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to reach at the present time a comprehensive naval agreement along the lines heretofore followed. It is, however, very important for all naval powers concerned not to permit the naval treaties to terminate completely with the result that the whole naval situation would be thrown open again. It would therefore be the part of wisdom to seek agreements on those elements of the naval question for which a solution can now be found for the purpose of avoiding an unrestricted naval race. We should at least be able to tide the situation over for a brief period in the hope that by that time circumstances will be more favorable for a more comprehensive agreement.[Page 278]
“As to qualitative limitation, it is still our view that both quantitative and qualitative limitation should be continued. In view of the fact that the questions that have arisen between the naval powers relate more to quantitative limitation than to qualitative limitation, it should not prove particularly difficult to work out for a limited period a mutually satisfactory understanding for continuing existing types with such reductions or modifications as might be found desirable and mutually agreeable.”
You may convey to the British Government my reply as given above to the Japanese Ambassador, as I told the Ambassador that I was today informing the British Government of my response to his inquiry.