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if the larger Powers should agree to limitation, the international fear which was the basis of all naval building would be obviated and that there would then be no purpose for the smaller powers to proceed with extensive building. If they should do so, the greater Powers would then be in a far stronger position to protest. Sir Esme Howard and Mr. Matsudaira both concurred in these views.



600.A15 a 1/72c: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Italy (Fletcher)


WASHINGTON, March 5, 1927-4 p. m. 17. On March 2, in conversation with the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs, the Japanese Ambassador expressed opinion that conversations between the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan would result in real accomplishment if it were to be understood in advance that any agreement reached should be flexible and subject to revision. The Ambassador said that his Government would be relieved to know that idea of Three-Power Conference had not been wholly given up as press reports seemed to indicate. He agreed that if three-power conversations were initiated and if France and Italy were invited to be represented in any way they found suitable (e. g., by observers) both nations might finally be brought into actual participation.

Also on March 2, the Italian Ambassador informed the Department orally that he had received a cable message from Mussolini who had noted with pleasure that there was nothing in the President's proposal to prevent Italo-French naval parity, which, he stated is a sine qua non for Italy. Mussolini stated further that Italy could not be limited in any class of ship, by reason of possibility that Greece, Russia, and Yugoslavia might build large fleets. He was in agreement, therefore, with his technical experts that account must be taken of “global tonnage.” The Ambassador felt that Mussolini personally wished to accept the President's proposal but that his technical advisers had forced him to refuse.

The Ambassador mentioned the interdependence existing between naval, land, and air armament, and was told that no reason was apparent why such an interdependence should prevent taking up different categories singly, as limitation in any one class should simplify problem of limitation in other classes instead of making it more difficult. Regarding building programs of other nations, the Ambassador had it pointed out to him that whatever arrangements were reached, signatory nations would, obviously, have to consult frequently, and that therefore ... no particular crisis would be likely to arise. Selfimposed limitation should have, moreover, a calming effect; Italy's neighbors and others would be much less likely to go in for extensive building if they were relieved of fear of sudden Italian building programs. Main purpose of program of the suggested Conference was to increase mutual trust and to do away with senseless competition. The Ambassador agreed, and said he would transmit these ideas to his Government.

On March 4 the Italian Ambassador again discussed question at Department, stating that he had received impression that Japanese Government would not approve of three-power conversations and that he was glad to learn that was a mistake. He stated as his belief that there was much desire in Rome to get into the Conference and that the stumbling block was difficulty of obtaining assurances in advance in regard to parity between Italy and France. Impossibility of deciding such a question in advance of Conference was once more pointed out to him. He again expressed fear that smaller Mediterranean powers might suddenly start a building program which would be dangerous to Italy. In reply it was stated that the arrangements which might be made would be subject to revision under a contingency of that nature, and that in such a circumstance the blame for increase of armaments would, in world opinion, not lie with the great powers thereby forced to reconsider the agreement but instead would rest on the small nation which had made the reconsideration imperative. The Ambassador felt that this was a very strong point which had not been taken into consideration, and he expressed the hope that he might be able to persuade the Italian Government to reconsider its answer; he personally, he said, was now entirely in favor of the proposed Conference.

In talking with the British and Japanese Ambassadors today I said that the United States desired to proceed to hold proposed conversations on naval limitation at Geneva on three-power basis in spite of refusal of French and Italian Governments to take part therein and I requested them to ascertain if this procedure would be agreeable to the British and Japanese Governments respectively. I said also that if replies were favorable we would then reply to French and Italian notes and express hope that those two Governments might see their way to be represented at Conference at least by observers.20


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Last paragraph cabled Mar. 5, 4 p. m., to Great Britain, as Department's No. 47, and to Japan as No. 19.

500.A15 a 1/79a : Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain




WASHINGTON, March 8, 1927—4 p. m. 49. Department has received reports from the Embassy at Tokyo which indicate that the Japanese Government wishes to obtain some idea of British attitude towards proposal for Three-Power Naval Armament Conference before replying in regard to it. Department believes that if Japanese Government were informed of views the British hold on this subject, they would be inclined to reply favorably. You may intimate to Chamberlain, informally, that it would be most helpful were he to cause indication of above-mentioned views to be given Japanese.


500.A15 a 1/83: Telegram

The Ambassador in Great Britain (Houghton) to the Secretary

of State


LONDON, March 9, 1927—4 p. m.

[Received March 9–2:30 p. m.] 59. Department's No. 49, March 8, 4 p. m. Chamberlain is in Geneva. I saw Tyrrell,22 who showed me a copy of cable sent yesterday to British Embassy at Washington; he said a copy had been forwarded to Tokyo and would in all probability remove any doubts there in regard to British acceptance.


500.A15 a 1/86

Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Grew)

[WASHINGTON,] March 10, 1927. The British Ambassador called and read to me the reply of his Government to the President's proposal for a three-Power naval limitation conference in Geneva, as follows:

"If other Powers represented at Washington Conference are unwilling to take part in new conference suggested by the President, we are still ready to join in a conference of three Powers as soon as convenient to the United States and Japanese Governments. But His Majesty's Government would welcome inclusion of France and Italy if it were still found possible.

21 Not printed.

» Sir William George Tyrrell, British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

"In the meantime discussions of Preparatory Committee must continue in der that we may see in what way we can usefully arrange conference proposed by President and how if possible that conference can be fitted in to larger questions of disarmament."

The Ambassador said that he gathered from this message that it was merely an informal reply to our informal proposal and that his Government would probably expect a formal note from us in due course conveying the proposal officially. The Ambassador said in reply to my inquiry that he thought the normal procedure, as long as the conversations had been carried on here, would be for us to address our note to him. I said that we should have to consider whether it would not be well to await the Japanese reply to our informal proposal before addressing formal notes to both Governments. The Ambassador said he fully understood this and he thought that no further step was necessary until we should have heard from Japan. I then asked the Ambassador whether he thought it would be desirable to give publicity to the British reply at once. He answered in the affirmative and said he thought it would be well to say to the press that in view of the apparent failure of the five-Power proposal the British Government was now ready to join in a conference of three Powers as soon as convenient to the United States and Japan.


500.A15 a 1/94

The Japanese Embassy to the Department of State


The Japanese Government gladly accept the invitation of the American Government to hold a discussion at Geneva among the United States, the British Empire and Japan on the question of the limitation of naval armament. They feel that the definite adjustment of the question would be greatly facilitated, if the willing and active cooperation of France and Italy could be secured. Should it, however, be found impossible to count on such cooperation, the Japanese Government will nevertheless be ready to take part in the proposed discussion among the three Powers, and to assist in the endeavours ior the furtherance of the desired end.

[WASHINGTON,] March 11, 1924.

500.A 15 a 1/94


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The Acting Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador


WASHINGTON, March 11, 1927. EXCELLENCY: With reference to the Memorandum handed by the American Ambassador to the Imperial Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, February 10, 1927, regarding the possibility of the initiation of negotiations at Geneva concerning the limitation of naval armament between the representatives of the Powers Signatories of the Washington Treaty of 1922, my Government is pleased to learn as the result of informal conversations that the Imperial Japanese Government is willing to participate in negotiations with the United States and Great Britain.

The American Government regrets that France and Italy should have formally refused the President's invitation and shares the opinion of the Imperial Japanese Government that their presence would be most welcome at such a conference. This Government sincerely

. hopes, therefore, that they may decide to be represented at least in some informal manner at the conversations contemplated.

These conversations, it now appears, could most advantageously and conveniently begin at Geneva on the first day of June, or soon thereafter. Accept [etc.]


500.A15 a 1/1034 : Telegram
The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France


WASHINGTON, March 12, 1927–4 p. m. 72. Please deliver as soon as possible the following memorandum concerning the proposed conference for the limitation of naval armament to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the same time personally urging Department's point of view:

“With reference to the Memorandum of the French Government of February 15, 1927, in reply to that of the American Government, of February 10, inquiring whether the French Government was disposed to empower its representatives at the forthcoming meeting at Geneva of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference to enter into negotiations looking toward an agreement providing for limitation in the classes of naval vessels not covered by the Treaty of Washington of 1922, the Government of the United

* The same, mutatis mutandis, on the same date to the British Ambassador.

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