500.A4B/596: Telegram

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

86. After further consideration of your 61, December 26, 5 p.m., I have modified the views expressed in my 85, December 27, 10 p.m. for the following reasons: [Page 414]

The reply which would be made to the Japanese note of denunciation would depend largely upon the character of the Japanese note, which probably will be such as to preclude the use of the substantive portion of the draft statement as our reply.
I think it inadvisable to issue such a statement immediately upon the receipt of notice of denunciation because this in itself would be regarded as more or less provocative.
If the Japanese note of denunciation is brief and formal, it seems to me that it should be answered by an equally brief and formal note of acknowledgment, with arrangement, perhaps for the immediate publication of the texts of the two notes.
Instead, therefore, of incorporating the draft statement in a note, or of issuing it immediately upon denunciation I would recommend that you wait a few days and in a press conference at the beginning of the new year:
Review the naval conversations of 1934 taking occasion to state that the American attitude and policy have been fully set forth in those conversations, and more specifically in my speech of December 6th. You might express regret over the Japanese decision to withdraw from the existing treaties, but state that in your opinion the conversations, and American participation therein, have served a useful purpose through a frank exchange of views and the preparation of the ground upon which it is hoped it may be possible later on to negotiate a new agreement embodying the essential principles upon which the present naval limitation rests. You might also stress the fact that the anticipated denunciation of the Washington Treaty had necessarily changed the scope of the conversations from what was originally intended and had influenced the three powers concerned in reaching the unanimous decision that it would be advisable to discontinue the conversations, as indicated in the communiqué that was issued.60
You might then give out at such a press conference all or such portions of your statement as you see fit. I would, however, particularly emphasize the fact that the naval treaties remain in force until the end of 1936 and express the hope that the signatories will find it entirely consistent with their national policies to conclude during the remaining life of the treaties a mutually satisfactory agreement which would preserve the principles that have proved to be mutually beneficial during the past 13 years, and I would certainly include the last paragraph of your draft with the change I have already suggested.

[Page 415]

We are all of the opinion here that notwithstanding our deploring Japanese denunciation, once that is an accomplished fact, we should not jeopardize the future by tying a can on Japan for doing something she has a legal right to do. The illegal thing she did was to violate the Nine Power Treaty,61 but we are not dealing with that aspect of the Pacific problem now. I suggest you read this in the light of my No. 87, December 28, 10 p.m.62

  1. Issued on December 19, 1934, upon adjournment of preliminary naval conversations between American, British, and Japanese delegations; for text, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 272.
  2. Treaty between the United States, Belgium, the British Empire, China, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Portugal, signed at Washington, February 6, 1922, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 276.
  3. Ante, p. 404.