500.A15A5/617: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis) to the Secretary of State


47. This morning a meeting was held at the Foreign Office between the British and the American delegates at which the British informed us of their conversation with the Japanese, the substance of which was transmitted to you in my telegram No. 46, today, 1 a.m. While they could not reach any naval agreement after the rejection of the common upper limit, the Japanese had also said they would like beforehand, [Page 293]with a view to perpetuating the terms of Part 4 of the London Naval Treaty,30 to discuss rules of submarine warfare. After disposing of the common upper limit the British said they would be very glad to do so. Under the circumstances, the Japanese repeated, they would be unable to remain for any negotiations and they again suggested that the Conference take up first Part 4 of the London Naval Treaty. Everything possible had been done to meet the Japanese wishes, the British replied, but they were not willing to depart to that extent from the procedure.

The Japanese had questioned the legality of continuing the Conference once Japan withdraws, the British then told us, since the Washington Treaty envisages only a conference of the five powers and not a four-power meeting and since the Conference was called under this treaty. In disagreeing with this the British told the Japanese that they could see no reason why the other participating powers should not continue to negotiate a naval agreement since without some sort of new agreement there would be chaos and such an agreement could not become effective until after the expiration of the Washington and London Treaties. The British told the Japanese, furthermore, that the other powers would have in mind the possibility and hope that Japan might ultimately become a party to any agreement they might negotiate. The British definitely expressed the view that the obligation of article 28 of the Washington Treaty was fulfilled by the convocation of the present Conference.

They would have no objection to two or three Japanese observers, the British told the Japanese. (This morning, after some discussion, it was agreed that the Japanese should be allowed to have observers but they would have no right to sit with the expert committees for technical discussions. However, they could be kept informed of the results of these discussions.) We then asked the British for their views with reference to later invitations to Russia and Germany. They were keeping both of these nations informed of what is taking place, they replied, but that Italy and France wished to include Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey, in which case it would be necessary to invite also Spain, Holland, and Sweden, and perhaps the South American countries. If once you go beyond the major naval powers, the British said, they were of the opinion that it would be better to include all naval states and that this might be after all of considerable advantage from a practical and psychological viewpoint. Were an agreement to be entered into by all the other naval powers, with the exception of Japan, the effect would be so overwhelming that they believed Japan would desire to join within a short time. With the Japanese out of the Conference the British [Page 294]recognize that many difficulties would arise; but, on the theory that Japan will ultimately want to come in, they believe we should proceed. As a counterpoise to Japan’s freedom, an adequate escape clause should be provided in the meantime.

Except perhaps insofar as it might result from the operation of agreed building programs, the British who desire above all qualitative limitation now state that without Japan the last hope of achieving quantitative limitation has gone. This desire on the part of the British for qualitative limitation without quantitative is no doubt partly determined by their wish to bring into agreement France and Italy and their realization that it is now impossible to have a quantitative agreement between France and Italy and also by the fact that the way would be left open for later adherence by other powers by qualitative limitation.

  1. Department of State Treaty Series No. 830, p. 27.