500.A15A5/841a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Bingham)

434. 1. In view of publicity here regarding the new capital ships and the short time remaining for the completion of final plans for these ships, it has become most urgent for the Navy Department to [Page 115] have the matter clarified of Japan’s position with regard to Article 4, Paragraph 2, of the London Naval Treaty, 1936, relating to the calibre of guns on capital ships.

2. You will recall that in August Clive informed British Foreign Office that only a direct approach on this subject might elicit a definite statement as to the Japanese intentions21 and that such an approach might appropriately be made after Grew’s return from leave of absence in November. The Foreign Office replied that in their view the matter should be taken up more promptly. Whereupon we understand Clive recommended that the subject be broached not in Tokyo but in London.

3. The Foreign Office then, on October 15,22 requested the British Embassy at Washington to obtain an expression of our views. We replied that we were agreeable in principle to their putting the question to the Japanese, that, however, it should be put in the name of the British alone, that, in view of the internal domestic situation in Japan, the man on the spot would be in the best position to decide since we would wish to avoid any action which might have an adverse effect on the development of major policies in Japan.

4. In your despatch No. 2613 of October 27, 1936,23 you reported Craigie as stating that he had discussed this matter with Yoshida24 who had indicated Japanese might be prepared to give an official assurance in writing that they would bind themselves to 14 inches, with a face-saving clause. Now Grew telegraphs that Clive has been informed Craigie had second conversation with Yoshida on November 11 in which Yoshida said it would be unwise for him to take the subject up with Tokyo himself and recommended that the Admiralty discuss the question directly with his Naval Attaché. Clive, however, has no information indicating whether the Admiralty actually did make the approach to the Naval Attaché.

5. Before considering taking any action ourselves we wish to ascertain precisely where the question lies as between the British and the Japanese, whether Craigie actually agreed with Yoshida that the Admiralty should approach the Japanese Naval Attaché and whether this approach has been made. Please investigate and report by telegraph.

  1. See paragraph 3, telegram No. 172, August 27, from the Ambassador in Japan, p. 106.
  2. See instruction No. 1141, November 16, to the Chargé in Japan, p. 111.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Shigeru Yoshida, Japanese Ambassador in the United Kingdom.