500.A15A5/821: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

172. Department’s 101, August 1, 3 p.m.

The British Ambassador on coming down to Tokyo from his summer residence called on me yesterday and discussed the situation outlined in the Department’s telegram.
Sir Robert Clive and his Naval Attaché think it doubtful if the Japanese Navy has yet come to a decision concerning the future building of capital ships or the caliber of future guns. The Vice Minister of the navy stated yesterday to our Naval Attaché that the navy was “investigating” and that no decision had yet been reached. The Minister of the Navy recently said to Captain Rogers that the navy had much to do but very little money with which to do it. On the one hand it may be said that the tremendous outlay already envisaged in the budget for the armed forces of the nation would seem to dictate economy in this direction. On the other hand, it was Japan who first adopted the use of 16-inch guns; amour propre is a powerful force in Japan and a feeling of inferiority must exist owing to the fact that the United States and Great Britain together at present have the marked superiority of six ships with 16-inch guns as against Japan’s two.
My British colleague and I believe that the only practical method of obtaining information concerning Japan’s plans in connection with the caliber of guns would be eventually to ask the question point-blank and officially although it is impossible to forsee whether a frank answer would be given. Fairly strong reasons could be adduced why it would be in Japan’s own interest to communicate the desired information. Indirect approach would be futile.
From the local angle there seems to be no reason for haste in making the [inquiry]. At present the reply would almost certainly be that no decision had yet been reached. If our own Government should desire that the question be broached it might be well to take the action in my initial talk with the Foreign Minister after my return from the United States in the middle of November on the basis of direct conferences in Washington.
In this general connection the Vice Minister of the Navy recently said to the Naval Attaché that owing to unsettled conditions in Japan and in the world at large, especially in Europe, it would be out of the question for Japan to enter any naval limitation treaty for probably the next 10 years.