500.A15A5/842: Telegram

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

599. Department’s December 3, 6 p.m. Foreign Office informs me they are reluctant to proceed until British negotiations with the Soviets and Germans have been completed.25 Foreign Office understands the same applies to Paris as well. The Soviet and German negotiations are now practically only concerned with the Russian reservation for the placement of 16-inch guns on the two first capital ships to be constructed. British Government can ratify the contract since no Parliamentary sanction is necessary, but regretful as the Foreign Office would be to have a lapse it seems possible British ratification may not take place until early next year.

Foreign Office point out the outcome of the Russian reservation regarding 16-inch guns referred to above also has bearing on the position of Japan, referred to in Department’s telegraphic instruction 434 December 3, 8 p.m. This matter was discussed by Craigie and Yoshida on Friday last and the Japanese have been told that the British must have an answer before the end of the year.

As regards paragraph 4 of the Department’s instruction last above referred to, Craigie now talks of a Japanese “semiofficial” assurance which might read that the Japanese Government have no plans for the construction of ships carrying guns larger than 14 inch and agree not to undertake any steps preparatory to the construction of vessels carrying guns of larger caliber without previous notification to the British Government. As regards the second part of paragraph 4 Craigie says there is a misunderstanding in that Yoshida was entirely willing to take up the matter with Tokyo himself and that the proposed technical discussions between the British Naval Attaché in Tokyo and the Japanese Admiralty supplementing Yoshida’s reports have been negatived.

I stressed to Craigie the importance of this caliber question to the United States and he again urged a tolerant attitude towards Japan in this connection at least through the remaining days of this month.

  1. Bilateral naval agreements on the part of the United Kingdom with the Soviet Union and Germany were concluded on July 17, 1937; see British Cmd. 5518 and 5519, respectively.