Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
The Ambassador of Great Britain23 called at his own request. He said he came in to inquire about that feature of the present Pan American meeting relating to a so-called safety zone around this hemisphere. He said that, of course, his Government stands for the well-established principle of international law relating to the freedom of the seas and the rights of both neutrals and belligerents to utilize the sea as a public highway open to all alike, and that, therefore, his Government is naturally interested in this pending proposal at Panama. I replied that the matter at present is in the developing stage; that whatever our attitude may later be, it was my understanding that the present plan contemplates a patrol system similar to the present patrol system of this Government from opposite the Canadian border to the lower end of the Caribbean Sea; that, in addition to this patrol plan, the Pan American proposal at Panama probably contemplates that the 21 American republics, after declaring a purpose jointly to patrol the sea a considerable distance from shore and entirely around this hemisphere to the Canadian border, will request belligerent governments to agree not to engage in any act of hostilities within this so-called safety zone of the ocean; that if either or both belligerents should refuse thus to agree, the 21 American republics would go forward with their patrol work, and, in the event there should be acts of hostilities on the part of any belligerent within the so-called safety zone, the American republics would proceed to confer, with the view to determining what step or steps they might take to deal with such a situation; that no specific method of so dealing with such hostile acts will be discussed or agreed upon in advance by the American republics. I added that, of course, if one belligerent should agree to the request aforementioned it would do so oh condition that an opposing belligerent would likewise agree and would carry out this promise; that if the opposing belligerent should violate its promise and if the 21 American republics should fail to deal effectively or satisfactorily [Page 30] with such violation, then Great Britain might feel constrained to come into the safety zone and deal with it herself. I stated that, of course, the request would contemplate that both sides must agree to comply and both sides must carry out the agreement in order for it to be operative; that this proposal would except, from the safety zone plan, British possessions in this hemisphere. I then added that, of course, the 21 American republics would be specially interested in keeping submarines from Europe away from this hemisphere and away from any base of supplies in this hemisphere; that in harmony with this spirit it was not improbable that Congress might prohibit submarines from coming into harbors of the United States for any purpose. The Ambassador seemed satisfied with this general proposal provided both sides agree to it and carry out their agreement and provided it does not interfere with British access to British colonies and other possessions lying and situate within this proposed so-called safety zone. I stated that the proposal would naturally make an exception with respect to access on the part of the British to British possessions in this hemisphere.
- Lord Lothian.↩