500.A15A5/850: Telegram

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

20. In today’s press conference Foreign Office reported Italy has agreed to a 14-inch gun providing Japan falls in line with all the [Page 619] other principal powers. This public statement was made purposely I am informed for Japanese consumption.

In discussing your 11, January 14, 7 p.m., today Craigie stated Yoshida5 had honestly attempted but unavailingly to obtain his Government’s reply on this matter for the last 3 months but the Japanese Ambassador himself now agreed with the Foreign Office it was best that a formal representation be made by Ambassador Clive6 to the Tokyo Foreign Office. At the same time Yoshida confidentially told Craigie his opinion that Admiral Nagano7 was the main obstacle since, Nagano having achieved home popularity by walking out of the Naval Conference, he was fearful of this personal prestige should the Government now take any steps that seem to go back on Nagano’s position. Consequently the Foreign Office has drafted a telegram of instruction to Clive to go forward this week to inform the Tokyo Foreign Office that the Governments of the United States, France, Italy, Germany and Soviet Russia with a number of other smaller governments have agreed to the 14-inch gun (apart from question of two capital ships mounting larger guns). Every deference has been paid to Japanese susceptibilities in not pressing this matter but the moment has come when the Japanese Government must decide whether they are going to be the one nation standing out against the 14-inch gun. Clive is instructed to point out that in the British view Japan is paying too much attention to the technical side of this question and not enough to the political. Clive is then instructed approach the Japanese Government in the foregoing sense “(a) to give the necessary assurances to permit the London Naval Treaty coming into force with the 14-inch gun as maximum caliber; (b) to take no action in practice that would entail invocation of escalator clause by other powers and so bring the whole treaty system to the ground”. In conclusion Clive is instructed to state that if Japan is unwilling to join the other naval powers of the world in this general accord the British Government will find it difficult to reconcile such an attitude on the part of the Japanese Government with recently expressed professions of friendship.

Craigie assured me Clive would be instructed to keep in close touch with Grew but Foreign Office looks for no reply before 2 or 3 weeks.

  1. Shigeru Yoshida, Japanese Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  2. Robert Henry Clive, British Ambassador in Japan.
  3. Osami Nagano, Japanese Naval Minister, who had been delegate to the Naval Conference, London, 1935.