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auxiliary vessels of the Washington principles, yet they could consider any matters in regard to naval armaments by virtue of their full powers. They had, however, requested instructions from their Government, since they were uncertain as to whether the latter desired a consideration of modifications in the Washington treaty as suggested by the British. Viscount Ishii, in view of his superior knowledge of English, was the chief spokesman, and gave it as his opinion that, while he was unable to predict his Government's attitude in the premises, the economy effected if the British proposals were adopted seemed rather desirable.
To this I remarked that it was not wise to consider the British proposals at the present time, however meritorious they might be, and that the subjects covered by them would, under the stipulations of the Washington treaty, be considered in 1931, at which time France and Italy were bound to participate. Moreover, I pointed out that any agreements that might be made now would be largely academic, and might have to be changed in 1931, and that anyhow no replacements would take place until that year or even later; it therefore appeared desirable to postpone discussion of the Washington treaty until 1931, and to bend our entire efforts to the application of the established Washington treaty principles to auxiliary craft.
In reply, Viscount Ishii stated that apart from the question of economy, it should be remembered that the Conference in 1931 would not be held until August, and that since the Japanese Diet would not convene until the close of the year, any agreements made at the Conference would not be immediately put into effect. This would embarrass the Government by forcing it either to lose a certain amount of time after the Conference before making its estimates, or making appropriations from the former session of the Diet; that clear estimates for the earlier session were difficult of preparation, since appropriations would have to be asked for vessels of maximum size should no further limitation be arrived at, while, on the other hand, were the duration of capital ships to be extended, the only appropriations necessary would be for making repairs, etc. These were considerations which he thought justified to some extent the British proposals. Upon receipt of instructions from Tokyo, he will again discuss these questions with me.
A clear definition of our position will have to be made should the Japanese delegation be directed to support the British proposal, and I am accordingly submitting to you separately a draft statement 47 which might, without weakening our fundamental stand, surmount the difficulty indicated by the Japanese delegate.
See telegram No. 25, June 23, 7 p. m., from the chairman of the American delegation, p. 50.
500.A15 a 1/314: Telegram The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, June 22, 1927—5 p. m.
[Received 9 p. m.] 23. During the conversation which was the subject of my telegram No. 22, June 22, 5 p. m., Ishii said that he desired to discuss in all frankness the difficulty with which his Government was faced, and to find out what our attitude would be in regard thereto. Whether justified or not, there existed in Japan a widespread feeling that the ratio of the Washington treaty imposed a position of inferiority upon that country, and that if the figure could be slightly modified in a favorable sense, 3.5 for instance, although 4 would be preferred, it would be of the greatest value.
In reply, I gave it as my understanding that the ratios were not arbitrary, but were the result of translating into proportions the naval requirements of the signatory powers, and that these figures were arrived at by agreement among the parties. He countered by stating that at the present time Japan was faced with delicate situations in regard to Soviet Russia and to China. I thereupon made the suggestion that Admiral Jones should confer with Admiral Saito and that he would demonstrate the grounds which we had for our belief that Japan was not placed in a position of inferiority by the present proportion.
500.A15 a 1/316 : Telegram The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, June 23, 1927–7 p. m.
[Received 10:25 p. m.] 25. With reference to the proposals for the modification of the Washington treaty which have been brought forward by the British and the receptive attitude which the Japanese have shown thereto, see my telegram No. 22, June 22.
It is my opinion that the most advisable attitude for us to take towards the British proposals is that they should not be considered at the present time by the three powers, but in 1931 when the five signatories of the treaty would be present.
If you deem it appropriate, we could suggest to the British that we are ready to sustain the adoption by the Conference of a decision somewhat as follows: 48
"In view of the fact that the Washington treaty provides for a Conference in 1931 of the five powers parties to that treaty and in view of possible developments during the next four years which might have an important bearing upon the consideration of future policy with respect to the construction and armament of capital ships and of aircraft carriers, the Conference deems it wise that the British proposals relating to these subjects should be taken up for consideration at the Conference provided under that treaty for 1931 at the time when the first capital ship replacement tonnage may be laid down by the three powers." Instructions are requested.
500.A15 a 1/317: Telegram The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, June 23, 1921–8 p. m.
[Received June 24–2:04 a. m.] 26. This morning during a conversation with Cecil and Bridgeman, I explained with great care our objections to discussing the subjects covered by the Washington treaty at the present Conference. Cecil and Bridgeman were inclined to insist most vigorously that it would be necessary to have some definite decision for the construction of capital ships before 1931; that it would mean a great saving in the naval budgets of the various countries if the British ideas were carried out, as they believed that the decision of the three powers to refrain from building maximum size ships would have great weight in causing Italy and France to do likewise, and so forth and so forth.
Bridgeman asked whether the United States actually insisted upon parity in each class of vessel and made the suggestion that we might not care to construct up to the limits which the British considered were their actual requirements. In replying, I stated that these were matters which we would have to determine when we decided upon our building programs; that, of course, the right of parity was fundamental.
Cecil and Bridgeman did not indicate any definite views regarding the total tonnage limitations in the various classes of vessels, but they both were insistent upon the importance of placing limits on the
* Quoted paragraph not paraphrased.
maximum size of cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. The desirability of two classes of cruisers, one of which would be considerably under 10,000 tons, was particularly emphasized by them.
No satisfactory common ground for discussing the specific questions before us has been supplied either by our conversations with the British or by their various proposals. Tomorrow there will be another meeting of the executive committee when, with the idea of getting the work started along definite lines, we will suggest the formation of technical committees to study various matters.
500.A15 a 1/322 : Telegram The Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary
GENEVA, June 23, 1927–9 p.m.
[Received June 24–4:24 a. m.] 27. The British naval delegates and Bridgeman have expressed the view repeatedly that the best way in which to have work initiated on a sound basis is for the delegations of the United States, Japan, and England to make a frank and full public statement of the needs of their respective navies with an explanation justifying the figures claimed. Bridgeman seems anxious to have a plenary meeting called soon and we assume that it is for this very purpose. We think that he will discuss later the burdens, etc., resting on the English Navy because of England's island position and her consequent vulnerability. At the same time he will, we expect, dwell upon England's entire dependence upon food supplies from overseas; the necessity that England police individual scattered units of the British Empire and trade routes; the lengthy coast lines of the various dominions and numerous colonies, etc. This is in accord with the British idea to get away from a strict application of the ratio fixed by the Washington Conference and endeavors to prove the necessity for a preponderant British strength. It seems obvious that the demands of the British will be very high, judging from Jellicoe's indication to Admiral Jones last evening that England would require 500,000 tons of cruisers and considering Bridgeman's remarks to me this morning that the United States would not need as much in the line of cruisers as would Great Britain. The idea of such a public statement is apparently to lead the United States and the Japanese to make a statement of a similar character as to
their respective needs which the British can then comment on and criticize so as to obscure the issue. I feel that if we were to follow tactics similar to those of the British we would be led into an inconclusive argument as a result of which the British could readily distort our statements and we would then never succeed in clarifying the issue. To me it appears that the only way clearly to maintain the simplicity and clarity of our proposals is for us strictly to adhere to the principles of a fundamental nature which were laid down in the Washington treaty. I think that by adhering closely to those principles there will not be any danger of their distortion and we shall also be on safe ground. Thus should the statement to be made by Bridgeman be of such a nature as we anticipate, I desire in the most simple terms to reiterate the proposition that naval requirements depend upon the vital strength of other powers and are thus purely relative; that the American proposals are clear and comprehensive and demonstrate our willingness to adapt our tonnage figures to the minimum amount as regards auxiliary craft which the other members of this Conference can accept; that our faith in the practicability of the theory of relative requirements is thus plainly evidenced and that our suggestions in regard thereto remain open; conversely, that if a figure higher than that proposed by us is felt to be necessary by the other powers for their needs, our own requirements would have to be increased proportionately and would be on an equality with the higher figure. This appears to us to bring out in bold relief our willingness not only for real limitation but for reduction as well, so that should the tonnage levels be scaled upwards, it is my understanding that the power contending for the greatest tonnage would bear the responsibility therefor. An objective and clear indication of this in our statement may be necessary.
500.A15 a 1/316 : Telegram
The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the American Delegation
WASHINGTON, June 24, 1927—1 p. m. 10. Your No. 25, June 23, 7 p. m. The action which you suggest taking is in accord with your instructions. I approve your supporting adoption of decision by Conference along lines set forth.