The British Embassy to the Department of State


His Majesty’s Government have noted with some concern the proposal of Japan to lay down further 8,500 ton six-inch gun cruisers and the proposal of the United States Government to proceed with the construction of four 10,000 ton six-inch gun cruisers under the National Recovery Act.2a
Whilst fully appreciating that this construction conforms entirely with the provisions of the London Naval Treaty, it was the hope of His Majesty’s Government that during the Disarmament Conference3 and until, under the provisions of Article 33 of their draft convention, the question of future qualitative limitation had been explored, there would be no construction of what amounts to a large new expensive type, exceeding considerably any six-inch gun cruiser now in existence.
At the London Naval Conference His Majesty’s Government reluctantly agreed not to press for a limit of 7,000 tons, as first proposed by them. Records of conversations show that in view of the [Page 383]United States concession to reduce their number of eight-inch gun ships from twenty-one to eighteen Mr. Stimson considered that to attempt to go further by placing a limit lower than 10,000 tons on the cruiser class would at that time be quite impossible.
According to His Majesty’s Government’s records Mr. Stimson, at a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Adams and Mr. Reed4 on February 11th, 1930, while explaining that his Government could not agree to accept a lower maximum displacement than 10,000 tons, said that “he thought that in practice it was very unlikely that the United States would actually build a six-inch gun 10,000 ton cruiser”.5
That the United States Government are now departing from this attitude is to be attributed no doubt to the fact that the Japanese Government in 1931 laid down two 8,500 ton cruisers and are now contemplating laying down at least two more such vessels.
The four 10,000 ton cruisers now contemplated by the United States Government are doubtless intended as a reply to the Japanese vessels but it is instructive—and discouraging—to note that, according to his Majesty’s Government’s information, since the announcement of the United States programme the Japanese Government have proposed to hasten the laying down of their ships, and there is the possibility that a fifth and sixth 8,500 ton ship will be laid down for completion in 1937. His Majesty’s Government are making further enquiries on this point.
We are in fact witnessing the first steps in competitive building in a new type in which His Majesty’s Government will be compelled to follow suit. The effect of this on future British total tonnage requirements will be obvious.
A new expensive type of large cruiser will thus become actually established and the prospects in regard to future naval limitation will be gloomy in the extreme.
His Majesty’s Government fully realise that no question arises as to Treaty rights being scrupulously respected and they also appreciate the position vis-à-vis Japan. They feel however that, with the Disarmament Conference sitting and pending a future decision on qualitative limits, it is undesirable now to proceed with the construction of large six-inch gun cruisers.
They would therefore be glad to learn whether the United States Government would, in the light of the foregoing, be prepared, pending a discussion between the three Powers, to suspend the laying [Page 384]down of cruisers of this particularly large type, if Japan would agree to do the same. His Majesty’s Government would be glad to join such a discussion and would be prepared at once to approach the Japanese Government.
  1. 48 Stat. 195.
  2. For correspondence concerning the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, see pp. 1 ff.
  3. David H. Reed and Charles Francis Adams, American delegates to the London Naval Conference, January–April 1930.
  4. For Mr. Stimson’s comments on this report, see his memorandum of November 3, p. 389; see also telegram No. 60, February 12, 1930, from the Chairman of the American delegation, Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, p. 23.