500.A15A5/891: Telegram

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

161. Department’s 75, June 4, 8 p.m.;32 Embassy’s 152, June 7, 3 p.m. Following is the official English translation of the Japanese text of the aide-mémoire marked “confidential” dated today handed to me this afternoon by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Aide-Mémoire. The Japanese Government have taken note of the proposal of the Government of the United States regarding the limitation of the calibre of guns for capital ships which was contained in the aide-mémoire handed on June 7 this year to the Foreign Minister by the United States Ambassador in Tokyo.

The fundamental policy that guides Japan in providing for her armament is, as has been made clear on many previous occasions, based on a consistent regard for the principle of non-menace and non-aggression. It follows, therefore, that so long as the other powers also adhere to the same principle and are content with maintaining the minimum force required for their strictly defensive needs, Japan entertains no intention at all of embarking, on her own initiative, upon the building up of a naval force which could be a menace to other countries.

While the limitation of the gun calibre for capital ships constitutes one important aspect of qualitative limitation, the Japanese Government, in elucidating at the last London Naval Conference their basic attitude concerning the means calculated to bring about just and fair state of naval disarmament, made it clear that they could not subscribe to qualitative limitation alone, if not accompanied by a simultaneous restriction in quantity. The Japanese Government still hold the same conviction as regards the matter of qualitative limitation. Stated briefly, it is their belief that a mere limitation in quality alone will only induce a tendency to make up for the deficiency caused through such limitation, by resorting to quantitative augmentation, thus ultimately leading to a competition in naval armament in quantity. The Japanese Government, therefore, are not, at this juncture, in a position to adopt, apart from quantitative restrictions, a mere limitation of the gun calibre for capital ships, a matter which properly [Page 635] belongs to the most important phase of qualitative limitation and hope that the United States Government will understand the above mentioned position of the Japanese Government.

It may be added for the information of the United States Government that this position of the Japanese Government as regards qualitative limitation was communicated towards the end of March to the British Government, when the Japanese Government responded to the British proposal of January this year regarding the limitation to 14 inches of the maximum calibre of guns for capital ships.

June 18, 1937.”

  1. See footnote 22, p. 630.