500.A15A5/851a: Telegram

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

9. 1. For your confidential information, British tell us Clive will be instructed this week to inform the Japanese Government (1) that the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Soviet Union, and a number of lesser naval powers have agreed to limit the caliber of guns on capital ships to 14 inches (with the exception of two capital ships which the Soviets may build with guns of larger caliber); (2) that the moment has come when the Japanese Government must decide whether it is to be the only one opposing the 14-inch gun limit; (3) that it is hoped that the Japanese will approach this problem more from the political than the technical viewpoint. Clive will then be instructed formally to request the Japanese Government (1) to give the necessary assurances to permit the London Naval Treaty, 1936, to come into force with the 14-inch limit on capital ship gun caliber; (2) to take no action in practice that would entail invocation of the escalator clause by other powers and so bring the whole Treaty system to the ground. In conclusion, Clive will be instructed to state that if Japan is unwilling to join the other naval powers 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.

2. The British have decided upon this course after the failure of Yoshida to obtain a response from his Government due, it is believed, to the opposition of Nagano.

3. We think it best for the British to make this formal inquiry of the Japanese without action on our part. Clive will be instructed to keep you posted on the outcome of his initiative. Please keep the Department currently informed by telegraph.