Press Release Issued by the Department of State, December 29, 1934

Statement of the Secretary of State, Mr. Cordell Hull, Relative to the Japanese Government’s Notice of Intention To Terminate the Washington Naval Treaty

The American Government has today 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. This notification 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.

The recent conversations at London which have been carried on in a spirit of friendship and goodwill have revolved around 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 cannot 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 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 two 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.

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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 and cooperative effort along certain defined lines. The objectives then and there envisaged are 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.