793.94 Conference/3: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

640. 1. Reference Dunn’s telephone conversation this afternoon. The Foreign Secretary has left for Balmoral. The message therefore was delivered to Vansittart.86 He told me the British Chargé d’Affaires had reported a conversation with Assistant Secretary Wilson. Based on the report of the conversation, an instruction was sent late this afternoon to Mallet in the following sense:

Mallet is to say the British Government is in agreement with the views expressed by Mr. Wilson. They think the meeting should be held as soon as possible. Regarding the character of the invitation and the choice of place, the British [Foreign Office?] suggests The Hague and has already sounded the Netherlands Government secretly and informally; if the Dutch demur they will try Brussels; when they get an answer from either they suggest sounding the other governments who received the League invitation, with a view to a joint invitation being sent to the United States. If the United States accepts they suggest those governments together with the United States should then consider inviting Soviet Russia and Germany. The British think these two countries should be invited together of course with any others whom the United States might desire to have invited.

As regards representation, the British think it depends to some extent on the place, but they think the delegates should be of the highest standing. The Foreign Secretary would probably attend and certainly would if the American Secretary of State came.

The British do not know the attitude of Germany and Russia but they will let us know if they get any idea. They strongly desire preliminary contact in London with the American delegation.

2. Vansittart said that with both the Prime Minister87 and the Foreign Secretary away he naturally could make no definite commitment. He explained however that as Mr. Hugh Wilson had mentioned both The Hague and Brussels to Mallet in that order, they had approached the Dutch at once as they felt no time should be lost. A reply from the Dutch may come tomorrow and Vansittart is quite uncertain [Page 70] as to what it will be. I pointed out the difference in the method suggested by the President in point 1 of Dunn’s conversation, for the invitation being extended to non-members of the League who are signatories of the Nine Power Treaty, to that suggested in the instruction to Mallet outlined in section 1 of this telegram; I likewise pointed out that their proposed method apparently took no account of extending an invitation to Japan.

3. Following enumeration refers to the four points of Dunn’s message:

The British would agree entirely to Belgium but having already sounded the Dutch feel they must await the reply. I gather there would be no objection to the suggested method for extending invitations to the United States and Japan but Vansittart said nothing definite about this.
No comment necessary.
They agree entirely with the necessity for convening the meeting at the earliest practicable moment and that the time factor is of the essence.
Vansittart’s personal view is that once the meeting has been agreed upon we should consider at once and decide upon what other nations, outside the purview of the Nine Power Treaty, are to be invited without waiting until the meeting is convened. I suggested personally as a possible interpretation that the President’s point 4 did not purport to preclude a prior decision of the question but rather suggested a final time limit for its consideration.

  1. Sir Robert G. Vansittart, British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Neville Chamberlain.