500.A4B/592a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Bingham)

61. For Davis. I am cabling herewith a draft statement which I am considering making shortly after receiving the Japanese denunciation [Page 412] of the Washington Treaty which it now appears will probably not take place before Saturday.58 I should appreciate your frank comments and any suggestions for improvement. I have endeavored to keep the text in line with your speech of December 659 and to maintain a tone that is firm but entirely nonprovocative:

“The American Government has just received the Japanese Government’s notice of intention to terminate the Washington Naval Treaty. We, of course, realize that any nation has the right not to renew a treaty; also that any movement toward disarmament to be successful must rest on agreements voluntarily entered into. Japan’s decision is none the less a source of genuine regret to us, believing as we do that the existing treaties have safeguarded the rights and promoted the collective interests of all of the signatories. Coupled with other recent events that decision has raised in clear relief the question whether a movement of international cooperation and disarmament can rest on the principle of equality of armament rather than on the principle of equality of security.

Each nation naturally desires,—and we stand unalterably for that view,—to be on a basis of absolute equality with other nations in the matter of national security. Experience teaches that conditions of peace or measures of disarmament can not be promoted by the doctrine that all nations, regardless of their varying and different defensive needs, shall have equality of armaments. What has been achieved up to the present time toward insuring conditions of peace has been based on a community of objective, a community of conception of the general interest and a community of effort. The treaties thus far concluded have involved no invasion of the sovereign rights of the participating governments and they have provided, with all proper respect for such sovereign rights, that the armaments of the participating nations be established by voluntary undertaking on a proportionate basis.

Notice by one power of intention to terminate the Washington Naval Treaty does not mean that that Treaty ceases to be in effect as of the date of notification: the provisions of that Treaty remain in force until the end of 1936. There consequently remains a period of 2 years within which the interested nations may consider the situation that would be created by the abandonment of the naval treaties; and the American Government is ready to enter upon negotiations whenever it appears that there is prospect of arrival at a mutually satisfactory conclusion which would give further effect to the desire of the American Government and the American people—and, it is believed, that of the other Governments and peoples concerned—that the nations of the world shall not be burdened by avoidable or extravagant expenditures on armament.

The question presented, when the Washington Treaties were negotiated and which prompted each delegation to the signing and each country to the ratifying of those treaties, was that of promoting peace through disarmament. The objectives then and there envisaged are [Page 413] still fundamental among the objectives of the foreign policy of the United States. To this high purpose the people of this country, in a spirit of sincere friendship toward all other peoples, will continue unswervingly to devote their own efforts, and earnestly invoke like efforts on the part of others.[”]

  1. December 29.
  2. Delivered at a luncheon given by the Association of American Correspondents in London to members of the American delegation in the preliminary naval conversations; for text, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 269.