The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Bingham ) to the Secretary of State
[Received June 26—11:35 a.m.]
288. Your 149, June 24, 6 p.m., and last sentence my 200, May 3, 4 p.m.26 “The present concept” of the British Government is to hold [Page 72] a naval conference this year with emphasis placed on qualitative limitation and programs rather than ratios.
In the French note recently handed to the British commenting on the Anglo-German conversations (see my 259, June 7, 4 p.m.27) the French Government “turned sulky” and playing for time stated inter alia that the Anglo-German agreement might cause considerable modifications in the French naval program. Over the week end the British Government replied to this note and stated that as the result of the most recent Anglo-German conversations the Germans had given at considerable length the details of their future building program; that this information by express condition of the Germans could only be communicated by the British to other powers on condition of receiving reciprocal information on the future building programs of those powers. The British note then proposed early Anglo-French conversations, and expressed the British hope for a naval conference later this year as foreseen by the Washington and London naval treaties.
On June 17th the British informed the Soviets in the sense of the Embassy’s telegram 259 and explained that the British were embarking on a series of bilateral conversations, and expressed the hope for early Anglo-Soviet discussions to the end that if possible these various naval discussion in London might form the basis of a naval conference.
The Prime Minister stated in the House of Commons last evening that it was proposed to invite representatives of the French, Italian, and Soviet Governments to visit London to take part in discussions relating to naval armaments.
It is conceivable that it may be better policy at the end of these preliminary conversations to hold a European naval conference and obtain a general European agreement before attempting a meeting of the five-power conference. In other words, the British have not decided yet whether it may not be better to hold two conferences, and still have this under consideration, thereby they believe first to reach a European agreement before calling a five-power conference (such a course incidentally would avoid a Soviet-Japanese issue).
In the course of discussion today it was pointed out that the United States had never formally transmitted its naval building program, but the British were prepared to submit the German building program to representatives of the United States Government whenever the United States Government might be prepared, in compliance with the Anglo-German agreement, to furnish this reciprocal information.
I venture in conclusion to point out that there is increasing evidence of the suspicions with which the British Government view [Page 73] Soviet diplomacy at the present time as of doubtful sincerity in an endeavor for European peace.
I am having further conversations on naval matters tomorrow and will telegraph again if any further information is available. The First Lord of the Admiralty stated in Parliament last night that in the recent Anglo-German discussions “Germany is prepared to adhere to the rules regarding submarine warfare as set out in part IV of the London Naval Treaty and to accept them for herself irrespective of whether they are adhered to by all other powers.”