500.A15A5/229a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis)

12. (1) The press today devotes considerable space to interview given by Ambassador Saito yesterday on his return from Tokyo. The gist of his remarks was that Japan would be satisfied with achieving naval equality with America and Great Britain over a period of years instead of immediately, but that it must be a real, not a theoretic equality.

(2) Press despatches from England during the past few days have progressively stressed the role of England as mediator between the American and Japanese positions. For instance, Kuhn in New York Times today writes “The British standing between the two sides can claim credit for bringing the Japanese and the Americans together again. It is understood that Prime Minister MacDonald suggested a further effort after yesterday’s talks had failed.…62 The prospects of a new naval treaty are remote but if a breakup come[s] the British naturally want as little irritation as possible between the Japanese and the Americans.” There have been few indications in the press that Great Britain is as unwilling as we to accept the Japanese demands.

(3) Grew reports from Tokyo63 as follows:

“Since the opening of the naval conversations in London the Japanese press has constantly given the impression that the alleged lack of harmony in the proceedings is caused by American opposition to other points of view. The headlines stress American intransigence and little is published to indicate that any obstacles of importance have arisen beyond American unwillingness to agree to Japan’s reasonable proposals. The English are reported to be more willing to consider Japan’s claim for parity. It is not clear whether this is due to the character of the news reports sent out from London or whether the Japanese press is acting on hints from the authorities here. In any [Page 322] event, it seems likely that in case the meetings prove fruitless or do not end to the satisfaction of Japan, the blame in Japan will be thrown squarely and probably exclusively on the United States.”

(4) Yesterday’s press despatches from London featured an alleged warning by the American Delegation that if the Japanese scrapped the Washington Treaty, the United States might be forced to fortify its possessions in the Pacific. This was attributed to “reliable American quarters”. Other references to future American plans have been attributed to an “American spokesman”. We incline to the belief that in any comment or guidance that is given to the press, it would be good tactics not to discuss our future policies in the event of failure, particularly if they could be construed in any way as an implied threat. I fear anything of this sort would be seized upon by the Japanese press and serve further to particularize animosity against the United States.

  1. Omission indicated in the original.
  2. Telegram No. 239, October 31, 11 a.m.; not printed.