Memorandum by the Secretary of State

I sent for the British Ambassador. He told me that he had heard very little about my trip and was anxious to have me tell him all about it.

  • First, I reminded him of my letter to him a year and a half ago17 when he approached me on the subject of an American vice chairman [Page 20] for the Disarmament Conference;18 of the position I had then taken as to the difference between this Conference and the previous naval disarmament conferences, and I also reminded him of my warning that political questions must be settled first before a successful disarmament was possible. In short, that this Disarmament Conference, unlike the others, was really a European peace conference with European political questions to be settled, and that the necessary preliminary work of settling them must be done by the leaders of Europe. He remembered it all. I told him that when I got over there I found that none of this had been done, either before or after the Conference met; that Mr. MacDonald, when he arrived, received the same impression that the meeting thus far had been futile, and I told him of the efforts which Mr. MacDonald and I had made to get it underway until we were stopped by the French election and Mr. MacDonald’s second operation. I also told him of my talks with Mr. MacDonald and Sir John Simon on the Far Eastern question and of the agreement which Simon and I had made to go in step with each other and to each personally keep track of all major decisions. I told him for that reason I wanted to go over with him certain matters, although not very important, which were now before me relating to China and Japan.
  • Second, I took up the question of the removal of the 31st Infantry on the next transport, probably in about a month, telling him that some weeks ago when the question was first broached I thought it was premature but I knew no reason now why, provided there was no relapse, they couldn’t be taken away, but I wished to let them know how my mind was working. The Ambassador told me that he talked with Mr. Castle about it; that thus far Sir Miles Lampson, the British Minister to China, had opposed removing the British units as premature, but that he, Lindsay, thought the time might now arrive. I told him that I had heard the British had already removed one battalion and that the 31st Infantry represented only two battalions.
  • Third, I brought up the question of the suggestion recently made at Tokyo by Yoshizawa to the British, French and Italian Ambassadors and our Chargé for a round table conference in Tokyo from which the Chinese should be, for the present, excluded on various political questions relating to China. We discussed this at some length, I reviewing the decisions which we had already taken on similar questions in the past. I had the memorandum of the Far Eastern Division of May sixteenth19 in my hand and I told the Ambassador that it had been suggested that we might (1) express approval in principle of the whole of such conference; (2) raise the question of whether it would [Page 21] not be preferable, if and when such conference was held, to include the Chinese, and (3) say that we would consider it essential as a condition of our participation to have it understood that no feature of the present Chinese problem, so far as it concerned foreign powers, should be excluded from the agenda. I told him also of the recommendation of the four powers in Tokyo that no conference should take place until the withdrawal of the Japanese troops and that I thought Tokyo was an objectionable place for the conference. I pointed out that our general policy from the beginning was based upon the proposition of being absolutely neutral between China and Japan and avoiding any steps which might seem to put pressure upon China. I also pointed out the danger of letting Japan draw these powers into a position where we would share with Japan the hostility of China. At different times during our conversation the Ambassador indicated that he agreed with each of these propositions. I asked him to let his Government know the way we were thinking and asked him in turn what they were thinking. I pointed out particularly that the four neutral powers had always been careful to avoid any attempt by Japan to segregate the question of Manchuria from the question of the rest of China and I pointed out that where any question relating to China is concerned, the Nine Power Treaty20 provided an already agreed upon method by which such topics should be brought up and discussed and that that treaty seemed to preclude any exclusion of China herself from such a conference. I told the Ambassador that I had adhered pretty stiffly to these principles because I believed that if we all adhered to them faithfully sooner or later Japan would come to a conference for a solution of the whole question, including Manchuria.
  • Fourth, the Ambassador told me that he was in process of receiving by cable a report from London as to making a protest on the salt revenues in Manchuria which he would present to me in due time. I told him that I had discussed that matter with Sir John Simon in Geneva and he had promised to send it to me and that I would be very glad therefore to receive it from Sir Ronald when it had all come in.
H[enry] L. S[timson]
  1. See telegram No. 11, January 13, 1931, 5 p.m., to the Ambassador in Great Britain, Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. i, p. 481.
  2. See memorandum by the Secretary of State, January 6, 1931, Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. i, p. 478; for correspondence on the General Disarmament Conference, see ibid., 1932, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 276.