Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) of a Conversation With the British Ambassador (Lindsay)

The British Ambassador called to see me this morning. The Ambassador gave me first copies of some confidential information transmitted to him by his Government with regard to recent developments within Russia. I told the Ambassador I was most grateful for the information he thus gave me, although he said that he was afraid there was not much that we would find of value in it.

The Ambassador then said that he had just received a cable from his Foreign Office stating that the incident which occurred yesterday, involving the beating of four British police officers within the International Concession by Japanese soldiers, was regarded as extremely grave by the British Government. The Foreign Office had as yet received only preliminary information. If this preliminary information was confirmed, the British Government would probably find it necessary to do more than merely accept an apology from the Japanese Government. The British Government was considering “an announcement of the completion of naval preparations”. I asked the Ambassador what interpretation was to be given to this phrase. He said that it was to be regarded as a step prior to mobilization and as implying that the British Navy was on a war-footing, save for the completion of naval complements, which latter was a step that would be undertaken solely as a result of mobilization. The British Ambassador desired to know whether in the event that such an announcement was made by the British Government, the Government of the United States would be prepared to make some similar gesture, which [Page 8] might, the Ambassador said, in the opinion of his Government be some move such as the announcement that certain units of the United States Navy were proceeding towards Hawaii in the course of naval maneuvers, or that certain units of the United States Navy were being moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

I replied to the Ambassador that the inquiry was one which could necessarily only be answered after the Secretary of State or I had consulted the President in the matter. The Ambassador said that he fully understood, but hoped that we could give him a reply the first days of next week.21 He emphasized that the inquiry was, of course, a hypothetical question, contingent upon whether the British Government considered the incident in Shanghai as sufficiently serious to warrant such a move.

The Ambassador spoke in a general way about recent developments in Italy and said that he had learned from his Government that an agreement in principle had been reached between Count Ciano22 and Lord Perth, the British Ambassador in Rome, whereby the broadcasting to the Near Eastern countries now being pursued both by the British and Italian Governments would be restricted solely to the announcement of factual news items with the elimination of inflammatory propaganda. The Ambassador said his Government felt that if this agreement was adhered to, the tension between Italy and Great Britain would be relieved to a very considerable extent.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. See memorandum of January 13, p. 19.
  2. Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.