793.94 Conference/201: Telegram

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

23. Following the approval at today’s session of the text of the Conference’s note to Japan,76 I urged, over French objection, that the Conference meet again on Tuesday for the purpose of considering what other steps might be taken. I did this to prevent the impression that the Conference could not function until Japan chose to reply as there were other things which we could usefully be discussing and doing and which would tend to hasten the Japanese answer. This was agreed to. MacDonald77 and I both felt it would be good strategy to have Eden return soon, if possible tomorrow afternoon, and for him to suggest that Delbos do the same.

Meanwhile two points have come up which are causing me some concern. The first is the composition of an eventual “negotiating committee”. In principle everyone agreed that this should contain no more than three members and with the exception of France the consensus of opinion favored a membership composed of Belgium, Great Britain and ourselves. The French however under orders from Paris insist upon being included. We have all felt that a larger committee would be less effective. I have told the French and British that I am fearful that if the committee consisted only of the United States, Great Britain and France it would look to our public too much like a [Page 165]revival of the old World War lineup and also that I thought there should be at least one small power on the committee. To add to our difficulties if France is chosen Italy insists on being included and if Italy is selected Soviet Russia demands membership.

The British are not in favor of French participation because they think it would make the committee too large and also because in practice the French are difficult to deal with and their purpose in wishing to be on the negotiating committee is not primarily to solve the Far Eastern problem. They have tried to persuade the French to drop their demand for a place on the committee but in view of their relations with France in the European field they have hesitated to strongly oppose French membership. I offered to let the French have our place on the committee so as to keep it down to three and so did the British but that doesn’t suit them because they want us both on and out in front. I have not wanted to oppose the French but have indicated that if France goes on committee Holland should be added so as to avoid appearance of World War front. It looks at present as though we would probably be able and have to agree on a committee of five composed of the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands unless we take a definite stand against such a large committee. If you have any definite opinions as to the size or composition of the committee I would appreciate receiving them by Tuesday morning.

The other problem is related to the above, namely, whether or not we should welcome or oppose Italian participation. While I realize that a too closely defined democratic front might militate against successful dealing with Japan yet on the other hand I fear that the public at home might react adversely to including Italy, whose record with regard to treaty observance has been so poor, as a member of a committee set up for the purpose of persuading Japan to observe her own treaty obligations. Please let me have the benefit of your views. The question of German participation has been for the moment sidetracked and while there is still agreement that she could play an invaluable role there is growing doubt as to whether she would cooperate in the right spirit.

Spaak said yesterday that he would have their Ambassador in Berlin informally sound out the German Government. It is thought, however, if and when a committee is agreed upon with power to add to its membership it could then be best decided what to do about adding Germany. That is another reason in favor of a small committee.

  1. For text, see The Conference of Brussels, p. 51.
  2. Malcolm MacDonald, British Secretary of State for Colonies.