811.0141 Phoenix Group/24½
Memorandum by the Counselor of the Department of State (Moore)
At my request this morning Sir Ronald Lindsay, the British Ambassador, called at my office when I brought him up to date on what has occurred with reference to the Pacific Islands situation. I mentioned the note of August 9, 1937, delivered to him containing our proposal that the two governments discuss conflicting claims to any of the islands, and then I took up with him the note of his Chargé of October 20th indicating a willingness to discuss all claims except those pertaining to Canton and Hull Islands in the Phoenix group. I said that only a discussion had been suggested and that it seemed to us entirely illogical that any islands to which there are conflicting claims should be omitted from the discussion. I said furthermore that it would seem to be a simple process for each government to list the islands it claims, and following that engage in an interchange of evidence in the effort to reach some satisfactory conclusion. I repeated to him what I said to the Chargé about Canton Island, indicating the possibility that it might be found that neither government has any perfect claim of ownership and that the island might conceivably be used by both governments for civil aviation purposes. I did not hesitate to tell him in a very friendly way that we find that ordinarily the British incline to claim everything. I think he fully realized the strength of my statements and promised that he would at once send a pouch communication to London in order perhaps to bring about a reconsideration of the decision in the note of October 20th. Incidentally he said that he was sorry that he had failed to take the matter up while he was in London and was quite satisfied that it was taken up with subordinate officials instead of being referred as a matter of real importance to those high in authority. The conversation with the Ambassador left me very hopeful that within a reasonably short time he will inform us that a discussion can be carried on without any island being excluded.[Page 134]
He remained in my office some length of time and there was a good deal of talk not necessary to be rehearsed about the situation in Europe and the Far East, the Brussels Conference34 and the possibility of a trade agreement being negotiated between our two governments.35 He revealed that he had attended a committee meeting at which the only member who sharply opposed an agreement was the Minister of Agriculture, who took the same position that had been taken by quite a large number of the members of the House of Commons who are against any agreement because of the fear the agricultural interests of the United Kingdom may be sacrificed. He is firmly of the opinion that the Prime Minister is extremely anxious to bring about an agreement if the difficulties due to the opposition of some of the dominions can be overcome.