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500.A15 a 1/c: Telegram The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Herrick)
WASHINGTON, February 3, 1927–9 p. m. 27. Referring to Department's telegram 25. The Department desires that, in presenting its memorandum to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, you impress on him that this Government has tried to formulate its proposals in such a way as to make them acceptable to the Government of France. You should point out especially that the United States Government has avoided proposing any detailed plan in the memorandum, because it does not wish to preclude free discussion later of any such detailed plans which the French Government might be inclined to bring forward in its own interest. The French Government's often-expressed desire to bring about an early limitation of armament has impressed the United States Government by its sincerity. The difficulties of treating with three categories of armament simultaneously are, on the other hand, so great as to cause serious apprehension lest a deadlock prevent any real progress in the direction of the common goal. These proposals have been made by the United States Government in the hope that such an unfortunate conclusion of the Preparatory Commission's labors may be avoided. The earnest hope of the United States Government should be expressed to the Foreign Minister that his Government will agree respecting the desirability of a special effort being made to accomplish at least one type of limitation, thereby contributing to the Preparatory Commission's work and facilitating the task of the final Conference, in the calling of which the Government of France has taken the lead. As your personal opinion, you may have the chance to point out that the French Government's unconditional acceptance of this American proposal would very happily affect public opinion in this country.
You should add that the United States Government believes the negotiations contemplated by its memorandum, while not necessarily beginning on the date of the Preparatory Commission's convening, should be started at the earliest possible date thereafter as generally agreeable to the five interested Governments.
500.A15 a 1/3a : Telegram
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Chile (Collier) o
WASHINGTON, February 7, 1927-1 p. m. 5. A memorandum to be presented by the Ambassadors in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan on Thursday, February 10, making
See third paragraph for instructions to repeat to Argentina as Department's No. 6; a similar telegram was sent to Brazil as Department's No. 4.
certain suggestions regarding naval limitation, is given below. You are desired to present a copy thereof to the Minister for Foreign Affairs not earlier than noon, Eastern Standard Time, on Thursday.
When you present it, you should orally explain that, although for obvious reasons it is addressed only to the Washington treaty signatories, the United States Government is so appreciative of the friendly cooperation at Geneva received from the Chilean delegation that President Coolidge wishes as a matter of courtesy that the Government of Chile have the memorandum in order that it may be informed fully regarding developments which this Government hopes may lead to definite achievement as to further naval limitation.
Please repeat the foregoing, mutatis mutandis, and the following, as No. 6, to Buenos Aires.
[Here follows the text of the memorandum transmitted in telegram No. 25, February 3, 7 p. m., to the Ambassador in France, printed on page 1.]
500.A15 a 1/22: Telegram
The Ambassador in France (Herrick) to the Secretary of State
Paris, February 15, 1927—2 p. m.
[Received February 15—5:25 p. m.10] 66. Briand has just handed me the French reply to your memorandum of which the following is a translation:
“The American Government has been good enough to address to the signatories of the naval convention of Washington of 1922 and, as one of them, to the French Government, a memorandum proposing to negotiate at Geneva between the five powers, without disinteresting themselves from the general work of the reduction of armaments carried on for the last 10 months by the Preparatory Commission on Disarmament, an agreement with a view to limiting from now on naval armament for the categories of vessels which are not included in the treaty of Washington.
The French Government wishes first of all to say how much it appreciates the lofty aim of the American note. The generous idealism which inspires it is in accordance with its own views. No power could be more appreciative of the noble initiative of President Coolidge than France which never ceases to give proofs of her resolutely pacific will.
It desires equally to show how much it has appreciated the friendly attention of the Federal Government in leaving its proposals flexible in an endeavor to take into account the special conditions and requirements of the continental powers. The American Government has thus shown that it is quite aware of the very clear position taken by the French Government in the question of naval disarmament. It will
10 Telegram in five sections.
therefore not be astonished to see French opinion preoccupied with its duties as a member of the League of Nations and with its moral obligations towards all the powers which form part of it.
On its part the Government of the Republic would have been happy to be able to adhere to these proposals without reserve and the entire French nation would have congratulated itself on seeing the two countries again associated in an enterprise so consistent with their common traditions. But an attentive study of the American proposals has convinced the Government of the Republic that in their present form they risk compromising the success of the task already commenced at Geneva with the active help of the representatives of the American Government.
Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations has made the general limitation of armaments one of the essential duties of the League. Without doubt in 1921 the powers to whom the United States are today appealing already united their efforts to realize by themselves a limitation of naval armaments. At the time it took place the calling of the Washington Conference was fully justified, but circumstances today are different. The League of Nations has begun its task: the conclusion of an arms traffic convention, the elaboration of a convention on the private manufacture of war materials, the convocation, finally, of a Preparatory Commission with a view to the meeting of a Conference for the General Limitation of Armaments, a commission to which all the countries of the world have been invited and in which the greater part of them participate, mark so many decisive stages towards the aim fixed by the Covenant. Without doubt the American Government is not thinking of withdrawing from the task undertaken the efficient collaboration which for nearly a year its delegates have contributed; it promises, on the contrary, to continue it. But its proposal has nevertheless for practical result to divest the Preparatory Commission of an essential question which figures on its program; to constitute, on the side, a special Conference in which only a few powers should participate and whose decisions, under penalty of being vain, must at least in their principles be later recognized as valid by powers which would not have been admitted to discuss them.
To decide today, without consulting the League of Nations, [a change of] method and to seek a partial solution of the problem, in preoccupying one's self with maintaining the actual existing situation (rather) than in determining the conditions proper to ensure the security of each one, to limit communicating, besides,] this effort to a few powers, would be both to weaken the authority of the League of Nations so essential to the peace of the world and to injure the principle of the equality of States which is at the very base of the Covenant of Geneva and to which on its part the French Government remains firmly attached.
The principle of the equality of the powers, great or small, is one of the recognized rules of the League of Nations. Technical committees have met; all the maritime powers have participated in their labors; they have pointed out the necessities for their defense. How could one admit that at the moment when the Preparatory Commission is called upon to formulate the conclusion of its discussions the five most important maritime powers should take cognizance of the question and as far as it concerns them give it a definitive solution
of a nature to prejudice the final decisions for the entire naval problems?
In fact, besides, the categories to which the new limitation should apply are those which for the majority of powers present the greatest interest. An agreement limited to a few navies could be explained for battleships; practically, they are the only ones to possess any. It is otherwise when the question of light vessels is considered. All the navies of the world have an interest in being associated with the deliberations on this important problem.
As for the French Government, which in the question of limitation of armaments is only interested from the defensive point of view, as Mr. Briand declared to Mr. Hughes on December 18, 1921,11 and which in this respect must interest itself both in the protection of its coasts and in the safety of its maritime communications, its delegates at Geneva have defended and caused to prevail in the technical commissions two general principles: On the one hand, that one cannot undertake to limit naval armaments without taking into consideration the solutions proposed for land and air armaments; on the other hand, especially from the naval point of view, that the limitation of armaments can only result from the attribution to any one (each] power of a global tonnage that it remains free to divide according to the sense of [sic] its necessities.
The American proposal sets aside immediately these two principles which would have for consequence that the French Government, which has taken its stand before all the nations represented at Geneva, could only adopt it by abandonment its point of view. It would thus contradict itself while publicly recanting.
The method proposed : Would it be at least of a kind to obtain the looked-for result? The precedent of the Rome Conference in 1924 does not permit of hoping so. This Conference in fact did not succeed in having adopted by the powers not represented at Washington the principles which there had been established for battleships, still less in having them extended to the other categories of vessels. These powers would not be less mindful of their own interests the day that they were asked again to accept principles resulting from decisions which would have been decided upon without them.
This last objection has without doubt been considered by the American Government and if it has thought necessary to set it aside it is by reason of its opinion that if the problems of disarmament are not disassociated there is no hope for a practical result in the near future. The French Government thinks on the contrary that in the present state of the surveys with which the Preparatory Commission is charged the latter can, at its next session and on condition that the nations represented bring like itself a firm resolve to succeed, make the decisions which would permit the meeting, with serious [good?] chances of success, of the general Conference on disarmament.
The French Government having envisaged the different aspects of the American proposal, conscious of the duties imposed on it as a member of the League of Nations, fearing any undermining [of] the authority of the latter, and convinced that no durable work of peace can be built without the common consent of all the powers called, on the same grounds, to defend their rights and interests, thinks that
* Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. I, p. 135.
it is at Geneva and by the Preparatory Commission itself, in which we have been so happy to see the delegates of the United States participate, that the American proposal can be effectually examined. Paris, February 15, 1927”.
500.A15 a 1/54
The Japanese Embassy to the Department of State
The Japanese Government have given careful consideration to the Memorandum of the American Embassy at Tokyo, dated February 10, 1927, defining the attitude of the United States on the general problem of disarmament, and suggesting that the representatives of the five Powers Signatories of the Washington Naval Treaty, about to participate in the forthcoming session of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, shall be empowered to negotiate and to conclude an agreement among those five Powers for the limitation of armament in the classes of naval vessels not covered by the Washington Treaty.
The Japanese Government fully share with the American Government the views expressed in that Memorandum on the desirability of an agreement calculated to complete the work of the Washington Conference. They cordially welcome the initiative taken by the American Government for the institution among the five Powers of negotiations looking to such desirable end. They will be happy to take part in those negotiations through their representatives invested with full powers to negotiate and to conclude an agreement on the subject.
In view, however, of the supreme importance of the problem to be discussed and determined, the Japanese Government find it essential that at least a part of the Japanese Delegation shall be specially sent from Tokyo. Considering the length of time required for the necessary preparations, as well as for the journey from Tokyo to Geneva, it will obviously be impossible for the Japanese representatives to assist at the negotiations, should that meeting be held simultaneously with or immediately after the forthcoming session of the Preparatory Disarmament Commission, which is scheduled to be opened on March 21 next. Accordingly, the Japanese Government desire that the meeting of the Powers Signatories of the Washington Naval Treaty, now suggested, shall take place on a date not earlier than June 1.
The Japanese Government are further gratified to learn that it is not the intention of the American Government at this time to put forward rigid proposals on the ratios of naval strength to be