500.A15A5/457: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Atherton ) to the Secretary of State

374. In spite of Foreign Office denials last night that there was no truth to a Reuter telegram from Tokyo alleging Great Britain had approached Japan with a view to a naval conference in October, today’s Times contains the following statement:

“The British Government have communicated their views and aims in regard to a naval conference to the other signatories of the Washington and London naval treaties—the United States, Japan, France and Italy. The proposal of the British Government is that a conference should be held in London in October in accordance with the intention of the earlier naval treaties.

For this purpose it will be necessary that the preliminary conversations with certain powers—notably France, Italy and Soviet Russia—should be undertaken and concluded as soon as possible.

No further conversations with Germany are necessary in view of the agreement reached in June. While these suggestions have been conveyed to the other Washington Powers, nothing in the shape of an invitation to a conference can be issued until a further exchange of [Page 93] views has proved that the conference could usefully meet at the proposed date.

The Washington and London Treaties both expire at the end of 1936.”

In answer to further oral queries from American press correspondents today Foreign Office replies have apparently been somewhat ambiguous, presumably due to the fact that every one particularly concerned with naval negotiations is away on holiday, both from the Foreign Office and the Admiralty. This may be apparent by comparison of today’s Associated Press and United Press stories. I am informed the Foreign Office, however, clearly made following points:

(1)
It is the British intention that multilateral five-power conversations, in October in London, should follow the bilateral conversations.
(2)
In these multilateral five-power conversations the calling of a formal naval conference envisaged under the Naval Treaty will be discussed from the point of view (a), whether such a formal conference would be productive, (b), if summoned whether it must be confined to the five powers, or at some point it might not be enlarged to include Germany and Soviet Russia.

The Foreign Office was of the opinion that although a formal five-power conference, if summoned, would probably meet in London, the invitations might well be issued by the American Government as inaugurator of the original Washington Conference.

I have asked that my previously postponed interview with Craigie shall be arranged for early next week.

Atherton