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Egerton for the British Empire, Saburi and Captain Hori for Japan, met last night. Following discussion took place:
British indicated willingness to study cruiser-building programs and, as far as [sic] 10,000-ton vessels, to take as a basis of construction prior to 1931 either 10, 12 or a higher number. If we insisted on the basis of 10, they would scrap 3 on which work was just starting. We indicated we conceived a limitation of building programs as one method of arriving at a definite total tonnage during the life of the treaty and not as an end in itself and asked British to explain how, on any of foregoing bases respecting 10,000-ton vessels, they would come within 400,000 tons in 1936. British explained that they had received new instructions from London to reduce their number of cruisers from 75 to 66 and if necessary to fix a maximum of 6,000 tons for other than 10,000-ton vessels. On this basis and assuming only 10 or 12 new 10,000-ton cruisers constructed, they could accept a total tonnage limitation of about 400,000 tons for 1936. If we desire a larger number of 10,000-ton vessels the total tonnage would be correspondingly raised or it would be necessary to have the treaty end in 1934.
We suggested that real difficulty in our discussions was caused by British effort to force other navies to accept same standard of type as themselves even though conditions vary and we felt that if we could get away from this insistence on their part, rapid progress could be made. We felt that it was most unlikely that any program of construction would be adopted by the United States which Great Britain could consider as a menace even though full liberty were given to the construction of 10,000-ton cruisers within a reasonable total tonnage limitation. It was tentatively suggested that if the British really feared such a contingency it might be possible to cover this by an article contemplating the case of a building program of powers not party to new treaty; such an article might provide that if at any time any of the powers considered their safety threatened by the building programs in 10,000-ton vessels by any of the contracting parties a Conference should be called and if agreement not reached reasonable provision be made for termination of the treaty.
It was stated frankly to the British and Japanese that in our opinion we were now in a position where we might be able to find basis of agreement with either the British or the Japanese but that no one had yet suggested a basis on which those two powers could get together; that naturally we preferred the Japanese basis which corresponded closely to our own.
In the discussion between the British and Japanese which followed, the British seemed surprised at the firm stand the Japanese took on a total tonnage limitation for all surface craft of 450,000 for the United States and Great Britain, and British again reiterated that this was entirely unacceptable to them.
Conversations are being continued today.
500.A15 a 1/417 : Telegram
The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, July 12, 1921–9 p.m.
[Received July 13–6:42 a. m.] 83. Group mentioned my 82, July 12, 8 p. m., continued discussion today. Upon examination of Japanese tonnage in surface craft including tonnage under construction or projected it was found that this would total approximately 315,000 tons. On basis 5–5–3 ratio this would give 525,000 tons of cruisers and destroyers for the United States and the British Empire. British representatives indicated that they felt that this total tonnage of 525,000 for the United States and Great Britain and 315,000 for Japan held out some hope of offering a basis for negotiation and said that they would investigate whether there were any conditions under which they could accept it. This afternoon they produced the following draft:
"The British Empire to agree not to exceed 550,000 tons of auxiliary surface combatant craft under the following ages: cruisers 16 years, destroyers 12 years, subject to the following conditions:
(a) The right to retain in addition 20 percent of this total tonnage in vessels over the age limit referred to above.
(6) Limitation of 10,000-ton cruisers to 12-12-8.
(c) York, Hawkins, Frobisher, Effingham, Vindictive, 4 Furukatas and 10 Omahas not to be retained beyond the year 1945 or some other year to be agreed upon.
(d) Subject to the right to complete up to the agreed number of 10,000-ton cruisers no auxiliary combatant surface vessels to be constructed of greater displacement than 6,000 tons (standard
displacement) or to mount a gun exceeding 6 inches in caliber.” The Japanese when they saw that British had raised the figures tentatively suggested in the morning said that proposals were unacceptable and immediately reverted to the discussion of 450,000 tons for the United States and Great Britain. Saburi added that Viscount Saito had said to him that of course if Great Britain and the United States wish to reach an agreement along the lines indicated Japan
would be happy to see it but could not go to any such tonnage figures as proposed.
As you will appreciate, the suggestion quoted above is highly unacceptable to us in many particulars, particularly in fixing the limit of one class of cruisers at 6,000 tons. Further, the scheme of retaining vessels over the low age limits proposed by the Japanese while ingenious is really nothing more than a disguised attempt to increase total tonnage. However, a slight advance has been made in that the British even with unacceptable provisos proposed to consider tonnage figures considerably below what they have heretofore been discussing.
In all combined tonnage of surface craft we of course make it clear that it would be necessary to separate cruiser and destroyer class in any treaty.
Discussions described in my July 12, 8 p. m., and in this telegram were entirely informal and are not in any sense binding upon any of the delegations. The results of these meetings will however shortly be considered by the delegates to see whether they offer any possible way out of the difficulty. Mailed to London.
500.A15 a 1/414 : Telegram
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain
WASHINGTON, July 12, 1927–11 p. m. 159. Your No. 162, July 12, noon. I am in entire agreement with Chamberlain not to attempt to fix for all time maximum overhead tonnage based on theoretical needs, but to limit agreement to total tonnage in each class beyond which, up to the date on which Washington treaty can be terminated, namely 1936, each party should not build. The whole subject can be reconsidered in 1931, under the Washington treaty.
By each class, I assume that Chamberlain means cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Our delegation already has instructions along these lines as they are basis of our original proposal. I am sure that our delegation has not failed to make clear in some way during Conference necessity for our having 10,000-ton cruisers in view of long cruising radius which is necessitated by lack of naval bases, a fact which affects capacity to carry sufficient defensive armor and armament. The 7,500-ton cruiser is not the most useful type to the United States for the reason that to obtain cruising radius without
naval bases, armor must be sacrificed and if equipped with 6-inch guns the smaller cruiser is approximately on parity with a converted merchantman, a class of vessel of which the United States has relatively few.
The United States does not object to smaller-size ships for Great Britain if the latter deems them necessary to her needs, provided they come within reasonable total tonnage limitation to be agreed on.
The Government of the United States is pleased at evident desire of British Cabinet to endeavor to find some basis of agreement; their desire is reciprocated here, and American Government feels that brief adjournment at Geneva to allow for proper analysis of various schemes and for mature consideration by Governments might serve a useful purpose. I have twice suggested to Mr. Gibson the desirability of a brief recess of that kind. After such recess as suggested, time might be ripe to decide further steps which would be necessary in accordance with Chamberlain's suggestions. The wide divergence between the British and the Japanese demands is one of the essential factors which the British Government and this Government should keep in mind; I have every reason to believe that Japanese are very anxious to have a low tonnage limitation. Substance of foregoing may be conveyed to Chamberlain. Copy sent to Geneva.
500.A15 a 1/421 : Telegram
The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the American Delegation
WASHINGTON, July 13, 1927—5 p.m. 45. I have received following telegram from Houghton dated July 13, 6 p.m.:
"Your No. 159, July 12, 11 p.m. I hesitate to transmit substance of your message to Chamberlain for following reasons: (1) As result of conversation with Chamberlain, British Cabinet has transmitted through me for you a definite proposal which I think ought not to be either accepted or declined. I have no way of knowing whether proposal possesses any merit, but on its face at least it constitutes offer to modify original instructions to the British delegation; (2) if I now tell Chamberlain that you think brief recess advisable he will probably act on suggestion, although you also say you have twice already made same suggestion to Gibson who has not, apparently, felt
Last two paragraphs telegraphed to Great Britain as Department's No. 160, July 13, 5 p. m., after an introductory sentence reading: "Have repeated your message to Gibson and added the following."
it wise; (3) it is my belief that if adjournment takes place and Bridgeman is called home for consultation, Admiralty will again obtain command of situation and we shall lose whatever gains we have made by intervention in London. It is wholly within range of possibility tħat the British will then take the position that as result of our position any further Conference at this time is useless."
Only definite proposition suggested by Chamberlain is to agree on maximum tonnages each class of ships until 1936. No proposition regarding tonnages of each class was made, so I am unable to understand what is meant by "definite proposals”.
I have no desire whatever to take from the delegation the authority to decide whether or not it is advisable to take short adjournment at this time. One would certainly be preferable to having Conference break up in deadlock. I have already apprised Sir Esme Howard of substance of my telegram to Mr. Houghton. Howard asked me if he might say to Chamberlain that I had suggested adjournment to you. I said he could, but that decision would wholly rest with delegation. Please telegraph Houghton any suggestions you have in mind to make about my message and on possible adjournment.
500.A15 a 1/422 : Telegram
The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, July 13, 1921–5 p.m.
[Received 5:22 p. m.] 86. Houghton's telegram No. 162, July 12, noon. See my telegram No. 87 to follow. Chamberlain's first proposal, as we understand it, is precisely what we have consistently urged, to wit, the fixing for a period concurrent with the life of the Washington treaty of a total tonnage for each class, reserving to each of the signatories the right to construct in accordance with its requirements. Chamberlain may, however, have intended to suggest a limitation as to types of cruisers which would have the result of forcing upon us certain kinds of vessels unsuited to our needs.
With respect to the four assertions made by Sir Austen, I desire to make the following observations:
1. It is perfectly well understood by the British delegation that because of the requirements for extensive cruising radius and the greatest protection obtainable in conjunction therewith, the largest sizes of cruisers are of the most value to us.
2. There can be no advantage in discussing the matter of restricting the number of cruisers of maximum size until the British shall have