The Chairman of the American Delegation to the Preliminary Naval Conversations (Davis) to the Secretary of State
[Received October 19—11:40 a.m.]
3. Simon,46 whom I saw late yesterday afternoon at his request, told me they do not know to what extent the Japanese are going to propose modifications in existing naval agreements; that we must wait until they show their hand before deciding how to deal with the questions raised; and that he thought we should as agreed last June and July, first listen to what they have to say and ask for full explanations.
He said that Matsudaira had brought Yamamoto47 to make a courtesy call but that the Japanese had told him they would not be ready before Monday or Tuesday to begin the talks, but that no definite time as yet been fixed. He assumed the Japanese would no doubt wish to begin conversations with us at about the same time or shortly thereafter.
I told Simon that if the Japanese were going to raise such fundamental issues as a change in the ratio and an alteration in the basis upon which the navies had been reduced and limited, it seemed to me it would be advisable, if not necessary, to have trilateral conversations. Simon replied that it was very possible that it would be better to have joint meetings shortly after the first preliminary talks. I approached it in this way because in a press conference the day before yesterday Yamamoto, on being asked if Japan would agree to tripartite conversations, replied that Japan had been invited to London for bilateral conversations and that if the question arose he would have [Page 312] to get fresh instructions from his Government. Under the circumstances I think it better that the three-cornered talks evolve in a natural way as soon as possible rather than to make an issue of the point. If Japanese think we are trying to force trilateral conversations they will be suspicious and reluctant. Since the British Government invited us for bilateral conversations it would be difficult for them to oppose the Japanese view, if the latter should be unwilling to enter trilateral talks. Simon told me that Matsudaira had called to see him after Yamamoto’s announcement48 in America of an intention to denounce the Washington treaty and had said that Yamamoto’s statement must not be construed too literally; that the Japanese would wish to propose certain modifications but that only in case of a failure to arrive at some agreement would the question of denunciation arise.