793.94 Conference/198: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis) to the Secretary of State

19. For the President and the Secretary. It is now possible to give a somewhat better picture of developments in the Conference. There has been present a far greater degree of defeatism than I had anticipated and the dominant attitude of nearly all the continental powers has been to appoint a negotiating committee and adjourn.

Italy is openly playing Japan’s game though by no means effectively.

France is interested in the Conference only if she can get out of it a guarantee by the United States and England of her Far Eastern [Page 158] possessions against attack or if she can use it as a means of building up a political front of the great democracies. Delbos even suggested to me that President Roosevelt should call a new world conference to organize this democratic front and to solve all outstanding problems. Meanwhile he suggested that America, England and France should proceed to discuss what steps they might be forced to take in the Far East outside the framework of the Conference which I, of course, declined to discuss.

Belgium has made no secret of her desire to free herself as soon as possible of the responsibility of the Conference.

Litvinov is arguing to me in favor of close cooperation and understanding between Britain, the United States and Russia on the ground that if Japan were confronted with such a combination she would agree to stop hostilities and make peace and that a mere appeal to reason will have no effect.

The Netherlands is remaining in the background as much as possible being afraid to take a very active part.

China has made a good impression but instead of withdrawing temporarily from the Conference merely offered to withdraw in case the Conference asked her to, which of course was not done.

Most of the powers, with the exception of Belgium, Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Portugal and to some extent the British Dominions, have played inactive roles and have favored leaving the work to a small committee. Nevertheless, yesterday a more active interest was manifested and with the exception of Italy there was a united opinion in favor of refuting the Japanese contention that the present conflict only concerns herself and China. However, since we have not as yet been able to agree on the make up of a committee that idea has been temporarily shelved, while the Conference as a whole is proceeding with a formulation of a reply to Japan which it is hoped can be agreed upon and despatched today. In substance, the reply will refute the Japanese thesis, point out the obligation of Japan to confer in accordance with article 7 of the Treaty and asking whether, since Japan has refused to attend the Conference and objects to conferring with such a large group of powers, she would be prepared to confer with a smaller number of delegates chosen for that purpose. We are hopeful that it will be possible to agree upon a reply which will make a strong case and help to orient public opinion.

While there is as yet less appreciation than we had hoped of the larger issues involved and a decided tendency to try to push us out in front and while the European press has been suggesting that this is an American Conference, none the less the atmosphere is improving. The British at least seem to realize the inadvisability of trying to pass the buck to us and the importance of exploring every possibility of [Page 159] a peaceful solution and building up a strong case and working along constructive parallel lines.

Delbos left for Paris yesterday, Eden for London yesterday afternoon but Eden will return Sunday unless we have in the meantime agreed upon the communication to Japan in which case he will return when the reply is received or at any time we feel his presence is needed. Litvinov is confident the Japanese are going to declare war and the British are becoming very apprehensive. For this reason we are hoping to get off the communication to Japan today and that this may help deter her and at least put her in a still less tenable position.