500.A15A4 Naval Armaments/157: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

101. From Davis. I give below my comments on your 231, November 4, 6 p.m.

I fully appreciate importance of doing nothing to give Japan an excuse for upsetting delicate adjustments reached at Washington and London. However, the development of the work of the General Disarmament Conference and the Hoover and other naval proposals have brought up the naval problem in an acute form. Our hope of dealing effectively with the claims of Japan for modifications after 1936 lies in securing a united front of the other four naval powers for the gradual reduction and continued limitation of naval forces.
I agree that the immediate objective is to complete the London Treaty but would point out that to include France and Italy in a treaty which terminates in 1936 presents difficulties which might not [Page 549]arise if we were dealing with an instrument of longer duration. Further there seems little prospect of completing this treaty and at the same time securing the Hoover reductions. To effect such reductions we must contemplate an agreement that will remain in effect for a considerable period of years over which reductions could be effected. However, I am of course exploring the possibility of completing the London Treaty up to 1936 as a most desirable objective in itself.
The present naval discussions are related to the general disarmament negotiations. If these negotiations are successful the provisions of the resultant treaty would be effective well beyond 1936 and any naval agreement must be of a similar duration since the land powers would undoubtedly refuse to binding [sic] themselves unless the naval powers were bound for a similar period.
Hence for the reasons suggested above we must take into account the possibility that the present naval negotiations should have a broader basis than the completion of the London Treaty. If these negotiations are successful there would be no naval conference in 1935.
With reference to your comment on the London memorandum we had no thought of leaving cruisers and destroyers categories untouched. I appreciate the importance of reduction in these categories and shall do everything possible to this end. However, it will be difficult to bring others to scrap under-age tonnage where we are not called upon to make similar cuts either because we have not built up to our ratio or because of age of existing tonnage. Further, I feel that we should avoid being jockeyed into a position where the land powers could use our arguments as to the necessity for further naval reductions to justify inaction regarding land armaments if such naval reductions are not eventually brought about. Even if no immediate naval reductions could be obtained we could justifiably take into account the treaty reductions and limitations effected over the past 10 years as a valid reason for not permitting the general disarmament negotiations to fail through lack of further immediate naval reductions. Even the London memorandum program would effect substantial reductions over the period of any proposed disarmament treaty.

Am sending separately certain technical considerations which are pertinent to the problems considered in your cable 231 and this cable. [Davis.]