The French Ambassador (Laboulaye) to the Secretary of State 72


Mr. Secretary of State: As a result of the communication on December 30 last, by the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States in [Page 422] Paris73 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic, of a copy of the letter in which the Ambassador of Japan gave notice in Washington of the denunciation by his Government of the Naval Treaty, my Government has instructed me to transmit to Your Excellency the following communication:

“On December 30, 1934, the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States, acting under instructions from his Government, was good enough to communicate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs a copy of the letter by which, on December 29, the Ambassador of Japan in Washington announced the intention of his Government to terminate on December 31, 1936, the Naval Treaty signed at Washington on February 6, 1922.

Mr. Laval has taken cognizance of this communication. At the same time he has noted that an authenticated copy of the Japanese note will later be sent to him through the Embassy of the United States.

At the time of the deposit of the instruments of ratification of the Washington Treaty on August 17, 1923, France made the following declaration:

‘The French Government considers and always has considered that the ratios of total tonnage in capital ships and aircraft carriers allowed to the several Contracting Powers do not represent the respective importance of the maritime interests of those Powers and cannot be extended to the categories of vessels other than those for which they were expressly stipulated.’74

Moreover, the French Parliament, in considering the Treaty with a view to its ratification, clearly indicated its intention that this instrument should come to an end on December 31, 1936.75

Finally, during this past year experience has again shown to what difficulties the system of quantitative limitation adopted in 1922 has given rise.

The French Government would not have been able in any case to agree to its continuation.

In addition, since 1922, the situation has developed in such a way that, in a settlement of naval questions it would be necessary to take into account the position and the interests of certain Navies which were not represented at the Washington Conference no less than the present position of Powers the naval programs of which had been regulated by previous treaties.

Therefore, the French Government, which does not wish to give up the hope that an international arrangement will be made to take the place, after December 31, of the Treaty which has just been denounced, considers that the necessary understanding to this effect should not be limited to the Five Powers which, under the terms of Article 23, are under an obligation to meet in conference during the year 1935.

Regarding the solution which it contemplates the Government of the French Republic reserves the right to make known its views in more detail at the opportune moment.

On the present occasion it wishes to emphasize that, under penalty of preparing the way for an armaments race detrimental to the interests of all the Powers, it will be necessary that the new convention [Page 423] maintain the principle of qualitative limitations which it would willingly see more strict than those at present in force.”

Kindly accept [etc.]

André de Laboulaye
  1. Copies transmitted to President Roosevelt, to the Secretary of the Navy, to the Embassies in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and to the American delegation to the General Disarmament Conference.
  2. J. Theodore Marriner.
  3. 43 Stat 1685.
  4. See Journal Officiel de la République Française, Débats Parlementaires (Chambre des Députés), July 7, 1923, pp. 3228 ff.