« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Debuchi said that the Japanese Government had not however given its assent and that the proposals were still subject to tripartite discussion. He intimated that the Japanese Government still hoped to bring the maximum combined cruiser-destroyer tonnage down to 450,000 tons and stated that the British 6-inch gun proposal had not received the approval of the naval experts here. He said that the Japanese Government also realized that the obsolete cruiser tonnage clause presented difficulties. As regards submarine tonnage, he said that the Japanese had hoped for 70,000 tons. The Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs reiterated, however, that no decision had been reached by the Japanese Government and that they especially wished our Government to understand, as he having [had] made and felt sure Saito had made plain, that they have no intention of placing us in a difficult position by reaching a preliminary accord with the British. He said that this was a three-power Conference and would remain so.
500.A15 a 1/486a
The Secretary of State to President Coolidge
WASHINGTON, July 22, 1927. MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I have not written you of late about the Geneva Conference, as I thought the paraphrase of telegrams we are forwarding would keep you fairly well posted, that is, if you
have time to go through them. I know it is quite a job and the discussion is often more or less technical. Everything that comes from Geneva is taken up with the Navy Department and I am keeping in close touch with the Secretary and with Admiral Eberle and his Assistants. I cannot say that I am very hopeful of any practical result from the Conference. As you will notice, there seems to be very little trouble about an agreement so far as submarines and destroyers are concerned, although no definite understanding has yet been reached by the Conference, but there are very grave difficulties over the question of cruisers. The principal points raised are, first, the total tonnage of cruisers, and second, the size of cruisers and the gun caliber of their armament. As to the first proposition, as you know much to the surprise of everybody, Great Britain's demands as to the tonnage of cruisers were exorbitant. Japan would not think of agreeing to anything of the kind and so far as the United States is concerned it would be perfectly useless, in fact, injurious to make such an agreeiment.
Admirals Jones and Long and Mr. Gibson, who had been in touch with the British during the Preliminary Conference and with the British Admiralty in London, were very greatly suprised and disappointed. We had, in fact, no reason at all to think Great Britain would demand any such thing.
You will notice that they started in with a suggestion of about 600,000 tons. One of their experts even suggested 750,000 tons. They then came down to 562,000 tons and finally stated they would be willing to accept 462,000 tons up to 1936, but should build to 562,000 tons after that. Of course neither Japan nor the United States was willing to agree to any such proposition and after a long time I think the British Government came to the conclusion that it was useless to negotiate on that basis. Finally the British, after discussing it with the Japanese, suggested that they might agree to 500,000 tons of cruisers and destroyers, under sixteen years of age for cruisers and twelve years of age for destroyers, provided they were permitted to keep twenty-five percent of their total tonnage (500,000 tons) in addition to this in vessels over these ages. Why this was put in this form I cannot understand and neither do the Navy, and I am awaiting detailed explanation from Geneva. We could agree to 500,000 tons which could be divided, say 200,000 tons for destroyers and 300,000 tons for cruisers, and, in fact, I suppose we might make an agreement for 625,000 tons divided between the two. But it all depends on what we can build in the place of our old cruisers, all of which are over twenty years of age except 75,000 tons, and whether we would have to scrap a large number of modern destroyers. On this subject we have not yet received any information.
Second, the question of the size of cruisers and armament is a more difficult problem. Great Britain insists that the three powers agree on the number of 10,000 ton cruisers which the countries shall reserve the right to build during the life of the treaty and the number of smaller cruisers and the size of guns. Great Britain would like to have 6,000 ton cruisers or 7,500 ton cruisers, armed with six inch guns. Our experts in Geneva and the Navy here insist on the right to build 10,000 ton cruisers armed with eight inch guns, their reasons being that we need cruisers of wider cruising range than a 6,000 or 7,000 ton cruiser can have, and that Great Britain has a large number of merchant ships, over fifty I believe, which are fast and can be armed with six inch guns, while we have but few. Great Britain has many naval posts all over the world, which enables her to use smaller cruisers with shorter cruising range.
In answer to this the British say that if we build all our cruisers hereafter 10,000 tons, they will be compelled to build a large number. Great Britain already has something like seventeen cruisers between 9,750 tons and 10,000 tons, mostly the latter. Geneva has asked instructions as to whether we insist on the right to build all our tonnage in 10,000 ton cruisers armed with eight inch guns. After a long session yesterday, the Navy concluded that as we already had ten 7,500 ton cruisers that we could agree that during the life
of this treaty we would not build over about seventy percent of our total tonnage in 10,000 ton cruisers. I take it from all that was said yesterday that we probably could not do it anyhow, and this would be a perfectly safe agreement, at least the delegation at Geneva and the Navy authorities here agree so, but they insist that if they build cruisers less than 10,000 tons they shall have the right to arm them with eight inch guns. Of course this is a technical question on which I am not qualified to speak and I am governed by the opinion of the Navy officials. However the fact that we have 75,000 tons of these modern cruisers makes it safe for us to agree on the percentage I have suggested. I think the Navy would be willing, if we desired to build more than seventy percent of our total tonnage, to build 7,500 or 8,000 ton cruisers if they could arm them with eight inch guns. Personally, I am under the impression that if we desire more cruisers we could use some smaller cruisers at home bases, I mean by that in the neighborhood of the United States and Hawaii, just as well as the British Government would do, but I do not feel competent to decide this question myself.
We sent a telegram yesterday authorizing them to agree that we would not build over about seventy percent of our cruisers in 10,000 ton size before the expiration of this treaty in 1936, but insisted on arming all our cruisers except those we already had with eight inch guns. Of course, there is absolutely nothing in Great Britain's claim that the building of small cruisers is an economy, because taking a certain tonnage, say 300,000 tons of cruisers, of course it is more expensive to build small cruisers than large cruisers and it is just the same with battleships if you wish to maintain the same total tonnage. This economy program which Great Britain is putting forward is without the slightest merit and is put forward in my judgment to camouflage a demand for an enormous tonnage of cruisers.
The British delegation have been called home to consult the Cabinet. What the result will be I cannot say, but I doubt very much whether Great Britain will be willing to make any agreement which our Navy officials would be willing to make and which we could get ratified by the Senate. I told the British Ambassador yesterday that the American delegation had made great concessions in raising the total tonnage of cruisers, that we did not believe that the Japanese would even come up to this basis, that if the British Government was trying to force the United States to build a major portion of its cruisers in small tonnage armed with six inch guns they might as well understand that we would not do it, that Britain must not only make a limitation in total tonnage to which we could agree, with the right to arm with eight inch guns, or no treaty could be made. I am doing, of course,
everything I can to make the Conference a success, practically spending all my time at it, but I am somewhat disturbed by the situation over there and by the insistence of the British Government on its demands. I cannot understand against whom Great Britain feels it necessary to have such sized armament. There are no other navies in the world which could possibly endanger her commerce or her colonies, or could possibly threaten her present navy and we have offered to put a clause in the treaty which would release all parties if any country laid down a building program which would threaten the building program of any of the signatory powers.
It is hard to keep you posted from day to day as things change so rapidly and the flood of telegrams is so great I do not feel justified in sending all of them to you by telegram. Faithfully yours,
FRANK B. KELLOGG
500.A15 a 1/469 : Telegram The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, July 22, 1927—4 p. m.
[Received 7 p. m.75] 112. Point 4, your 55, July 20 , 10 a. m. [4 p. m.] Memorandum quoted my 105,768 should not be construed as a Japanese suggestion. It represents points discussed by British and Japanese delegations and indicates a method the British hope may serve to reconcile differences between British and Japanese regarding total tonnage.
Following is in explanation of heading 2 respecting retention of an additional 25 percent over and above 500,000 tons of surface craft for the United States and Great Britain and approximately 300,000 tons for Japan. In executive committee meeting July 9th Viscount Ishii said that the Japanese delegation were prepared to consider favorably a suggestion made by Mr. Bridgeman that if a number of ships were allowed to be retained after they had reached their replacement age this would facilitate discussing the questions of total tonnage and total number of smaller cruisers. This idea of retaining over-age vessels has previously been incorporated in various proposals presented by the British (see my 83, July 12, 9 p. m.; 101, July 17 noon; 76 also see comment thereon in my 105 and 106). The essence of the proposal is:
*5 Telegram in three sections.
First, neither the United States nor Great Britain shall maintain more than 500,000 tons of auxiliary surface craft including cruisers and destroyers which are under the age limits of 16 and 12 years;
Second, the two powers may each maintain an additional 125,000 tons of ships which have passed the ages of 16 and 12 years;
Third, as ships pass from the first to the second group they may be replaced in the former by completed new construction; but in the event that the tonnage of the second group had already been entirely taken up by over-age vessels an equivalent tonnage from the second group would have to be scrapped;
Fourth, the total tonnage of the first group could be filled up to its limit by new construction and thereafter new construction could only proceed as vessels of the first group passed the age limit.
Insofar as our present situation is concerned such a proposal would not require immediate scrapping. In the allowed 500,000 tons of surface craft we could retain 10 Omahas, 60,000 tons, also approximately 50,000 tons of old cruisers and all our 307,000 tons of destroyers. In the over-age tonnage of 125,000 we could place our remaining 115,000 tons of very old cruisers or we could maintain such other subdivision of cruisers and destroyers as appeared desirable. As new cruisers are completed we could fill up the first group to the allowed 500,000 tons and thereafter transfer over-age vessels to the second group as required and scrap the oldest vessels when the 125,000-ton limitation is reached. (All figures in Washington standard tons.)
This proposal as advanced is of advantage to Great Britain in that the total tonnage figure is camouflaged and permits her to build up to a total of 500,000 tons of cruisers and destroyers below their proposed age limits of 16 years for cruisers and 12 years for destroy
Great Britain is in a position to fill the supplementary group of 125,000 tons during the life of the treaty with efficient vessels which are now less than 16 years old (which we could not do) and gives them a clear advantage over the United States of all vessels placed in the second group. Before we could discuss such a plan we should have to devise modifications which would give us adequate compensation in second group.
The Japanese do not desire a total tonnage limitation which will lead to new construction on their part, as they have stated that their people would force them into building if the treaty permitted it. On the basis of approximately 300,000 tons of surface craft in first place they would not have any free tonnage available for construction other than that tonnage required for the completion of the 10,000-ton cruisers now building or projected by them. Further they would not have any considerable number of vessels which would