Memorandum of Meeting in the Office of the Secretary of State With Returned Members of the American Naval Delegation2


The Secretary Admiral Standley
Mr. Phillips3 Commander Schuirman
Mr. Moffat4 Commander Duncan
Mr. Hornbeck5 Mr. Dooman
Mr. Davis Mr. Field

Mr. Davis gave a summary and analysis of the developments during the conversations in London, particularly during the last fortnight before the Delegation sailed. He described in some detail the latest suggestion of the British, namely, that each country state its building program over a period of six years, such programs, while in themselves constituting no contractual obligations, to be annexed to a treaty containing a provision that the programs can be modified only upon twelve months notice and following consultation.6 Mr. Davis expressed the view that this suggestion offered constructive possibilities in that it would, if generally agreed to, make it possible to preserve present ratios in fact while still giving the Japanese the [Page 65] satisfaction of an appearance of having rid themselves of a contractual obligation in this respect. On a question by the Secretary, Mr. Davis added that the Japanese had neither definitely accepted nor rejected the last British suggestion. Admiral Yamamoto,7 the day before the Delegation sailed, had spoken to Admiral Standley after a luncheon and told him that the Japanese Government had decided that Japan must continue to insist on her original demands, but in discussing with Admiral Standley the actual programs exchanged between the British and Japanese Delegations, Admiral Yamamoto showed himself as considerably more conciliatory. Mr. Davis considered that Yamamoto had been deeply impressed by the impact of meeting face to face with the two greatest Naval Powers and that he would return to Tokyo either to convert his Government to a more reasonable stand or to lose his head.

Mr. Davis added that the authority given to Yamamoto to return to Tokyo must be considered as a very favorable development. Matsudaira8 very confidentially had intimated his belief that within a not distant future the tide of militarism in Japan would begin to recede so that a delay of at least six months in further naval discussions might permit the resumption in an improved atmosphere. Mr. Hornbeck at this point stated that, in his opinion, too much reliance should not be placed on statements of this sort as to an impending change since predictions of this nature had been made already by Debuchi9 to Mr. Stimson and had been repeated on subsequent occasions. He also emphasized that it was a mistake to consider that Japan was at present ruled by a small military clique who did not have the support of the people as a whole. Mr. Dooman, while agreeing that the militarist trend in Japan at present was based on popular support, pointed out that nevertheless there had been two occasions in recent Japanese history when public opinion had brought about and supported a more pacific and cooperative policy and he felt that a return to such a policy as a result of a change in public opinion might well take place at some future date, although it might be a long process.

The discussion then turned to the evolution of British policy in the course of the conversations and it was brought out that the only group which had a clear program at the beginning was the section, both inside and outside the Government, which favored a closer understanding between Great Britain and Japan. The larger section favoring Anglo-American cooperation had not thought out the [Page 66] naval problem to any logical conclusion and was inclined to regard it as a purely technical question. One of the principal benefits of the conversations, Mr. Davis thought, had been the clarification and crystallization of the views of this group and particularly its realization that the problem was primarily political and involved the whole issue of peace and stability in the Far East. As a result the group favoring going along with the United States had been tremendously strengthened and Mr. Davis was satisfied that it would, in the long run, control British policy, although the small but powerful pro-Japanese group would still have to be reckoned with. One thing which had favorably affected British policy was the oil dispute which had led the British to appreciate that Japan was faced with the alternatives of acquiring the oil she needed as a great Power either in cooperation with the other Powers or through conquest. Mr. Hornbeck here made reference to the fact that Japan was completely at the mercy of the British Empire and the United States for the three raw materials most essential in carrying on war, namely, iron, cotton and oil.

In considering the best policy for the United States to follow during the coming months, agreement was expressed with Mr. Davis’ suggestion that the policy of building our Navy up to full strength should be continued without, however, publicly tying this building up with the failure of the Naval Conversations or with Japanese denunciation. It could easily be explained, on the contrary, that the United States was merely keeping up its Fleet strength and that it had no intention of initiating a naval race and hoped that no other Power would start one.

In conclusion, the propaganda activities engaged in by the Japanese Embassy here were touched upon and Mr. Dooman summarized the conversations he had had on the subject with Yoshida.10

  1. Members of the American naval delegation who attended the preliminary naval conversations, London, second phase, October 17–December 19, 1934, were: Norman H. Davis, head of the delegation; Adm. William H. Standley, adviser, Navy Department; Comdr. Roscoe Schuirman and Lt. Comdr. J. H. Duncan, assistants, Navy Department; Eugene H. Dooman, First Secretary of Embassy (London), adviser, Department of State; and Noel H. Field, assistant, Department of State.
  2. William Phillips, Under Secretary of State.
  3. J. Pierrepont Moffat, Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs.
  4. Stanley K. Hornbeck, Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs.
  5. See telegram No. 68, December 11, 2 p.m., and telegram No. 70, December 12, 10 p.m., from the Chairman of the American delegation, Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. i, pp. 393 and 395.
  6. Vice Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, technical adviser to the Japanese delegation at the preliminary naval conversations, London, 1934.
  7. Tsuneo Matsudaira, Japanese Ambassador in the United Kingdom and Imperial representative at the preliminary naval conversations.
  8. Katsuji Debuchi, Japanese Ambassador in the United States, October 24, 1928–February 13, 1934.
  9. Shigeru Yoshida, Chief Secretary of the Japanese Cabinet and “roving Ambassador”.