Memorandum by the Naval Attaché in Japan (Rogers)

Report No. 219

Japanese Policy at the Naval Limitations Conference—Latest Developments

Japan’s disarmament policy has been decided. The details of this policy, which has been the subject of so much speculation for the last few months, have been submitted informally to the Throne and today (7 September) will be laid before the Cabinet for formal approval. After the Cabinet has given its approval, in view of the important nature of the naval problem the Government will endeavor to secure the approval of the Privy Council.

The details of this much discussed policy are a closely guarded secret, at least as far as the technical details are concerned. The broad points of the basic policy are probably as follows:—

The naval ratio system, that is the assigning of an inferior ratio to any power, must be abolished. The principle of the right to equality in armaments must be recognized.
The Japanese Government will, prior to 31 December 1934, announce its abrogation of the Washington Treaty.30
The new naval agreement must be concluded in a spirit of conciliation. The Japanese Government is willing to enter into a new treaty, provided Japan’s just claims are recognized.
While the technical details must be worked out by the powers concerned, Japan favors the global tonnage system of limitation of naval armaments, and will insist on its adoption.

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When this basic policy has been approved, it will be sent out to all naval ships and stations in order that the personnel of the Fleets will know that the Government is supporting the Navy and thus remain quiet.

The technical details of the Japanese proposal will be formally decided on at a meeting of the Supreme War Council to be held in the near future. Based on the above, it will not be necessary for them to be submitted to the Government. In case they are ready in time, the Minister of the Navy31 will give them to Rear Admiral I. Yamamoto to take to London with him. In case they are not complete by the time he leaves for London, they will be sent later. The Naval Attaché has learned nothing which leads him to believe, that in general, the previous reports on the subject of the Japanese plan are not correct.

The decision to abrogate the Washington Treaty comes as another proof that the military still dominate the country, although they have consented to allow the Foreign Minister32 to determine the most appropriate time for the formal notification to the other signatories. There is no doubt some truth in the rumor that the Foreign Minister was warned that unless he gave his approval to the plan to abrogate the treaty before the end of the year he was in danger of being assassinated by some hot headed naval officer who resented his opposition to the Navy Minister’s views.

Note by O. N. I.:

Since above report was written the Japanese basic policy was unanimously approved by the Japanese Cabinet and by the Supreme War Council and Rear Admiral Yamamoto is enroute to London with the plan in his possession.

  1. Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament, signed at Washington, February 6, 1922, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 247; for correspondence concerning Japan’s denunciation of the treaty, see pp. 405 ff.
  2. Admiral Mineo. Osumi.
  3. Koki Hirota.