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38 Report for Imperial Conference of Technical Committee on Pacific Pact

E (37) 33 LONDON, n.d. [between 2 and 8 June 1937]



United Kingdom
The Hon. Sir Alexander Cadogan, Deputy Under-Secretary of State,
Foreign Office (in the chair)
Sir Harry Batterbee, Under-Secretary of State, Dominions Office
R. A. Wiseman, Assistant Secretary, Dominions Office
J. M. Troutbeck, Foreign Office
G. G. Fitzmaurice, Foreign Office
Dr O. D. Skelton, Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
Loring C. Christie, Counsellor, Department of External Affairs
Commonwealth of Australia
Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of the Department of External
Affairs New Zealand
C. A. Berendsen, Permanent Head of the Prime Minister's Department
C. W. Orde, Foreign Office (Secretary to the Committee)

1. The Committee have assumed that the question under
consideration was that of a general treaty of non-aggression
covering territories in or bordering on the Pacific Ocean, or at
least the northern and western Pacific, to which all Powers owning
such territories, including China and the Soviet Union, might be
parties, and that the Committee were expected to examine from a
technical point of view the main specific considerations which the
Principal Delegates might have to take into account in coming to
their decision.

2. The Committee recognise that a treaty covering only island
possessions or island dominions, as in the case of the Four-Power
Treaty of Washington [2], though it would have some value if it
consolidated for a further fixed term of years the obligations
imposed by that Treaty, might be regarded as less valuable than a
wider treaty and would be unlikely to attract the signature of
either China or the Soviet Union.

3. A reaffirmation of the undertaking not to make war an
instrument of policy, already contained in the Treaty of Paris
[3], might have some value. It is, however, for consideration
whether it might not be rendered more effective by the addition of
an article providing for mutual consultation in the event of a
violation or apprehended violation. This brings us to one of the
difficulties, namely, that of the relations between China and
Japan. A stringent provision for mutual consultation of the kind
embodied in Articles I and II of the Four-Power Treaty of
Washington (Annex I) might be regarded by the United States
Government as involving them in an undesirable commitment on the
mainland of Asia. An analogous situation, viz., the Japanese
occupation of the Chinese province of Shantung, was an obstacle in
the eyes of the United States Government in 1922 to a treaty
covering the mainland and was the cause of China being dealt with
at that time in a separate document, the Nine-Power Treaty. [4]
Such a provision might also be regarded by Japan with suspicion,
as affording other Powers an opportunity to interfere in Sino-
Japanese relations. For these reasons alone, if for no others, the
Committee consider it would probably be necessary to be content
with a looser article on the lines of Article VII of the Nine-
Power Treaty (Annex II).

4. There are indeed difficulties arising from the position on the
mainland of Asia to which the Committee feel bound to draw
attention, since they affect the question of the contents of the
proposed treaty, and its attractiveness for one or other of the
prospective parties to it.

5. China has been the victim of aggression on the part of Japan
notwithstanding the provisions of the League Covenant, the Nine-
Power Treaty and the Treaty of Paris. Until the relations between
the two countries have been stabilised a treaty which did not
provide better guarantees to China might seem worthless to her,
while one which satisfied her would be likely to alarm Japan and
might put difficulties in the way of the participation of the
United States of America.

6. There is a further particular difficulty in the case of
Manchukuo. The situation in North China may sooner or later be
liquidated, but the existence of Manchukuo must, for our present
purpose, be treated as permanent. A treaty affecting the mainland
cannot avoid dealing with Manchukuo. Japan would presumably wish
to secure the benefit of the treaty for her protege, with whom she
has a defensive alliance, and might seek to secure her recognition
and inclusion as a party. But there is no immediate prospect of
China agreeing to recognise Manchukuo, and as regards the League
Powers there is the League Assembly resolution of 24th February,
1933. If Manchukuo were excluded, however, Japan would be at
liberty to organise an attack on China, Russia or Outer Mongolia
under cover of Manchukuo. A treaty which did not provide against
this would have little attraction for China or Russia. It might be
possible to meet this danger in part by a provision similar to
Article II of the Four-Power Treaty relating to 'the aggressive
action of any other Power,' though this again would bring us face
to face with the difficulty about the recognition of the separate
existence of the State of Manchukuo, and would still not impose in
respect of Manchukuo any direct obligation of non-aggression. It
seems therefore almost equally difficult to include or to exclude
Manchukuo from the scope of the treaty. Another difficulty, which
may be only transitory, relates to the unsettled state of the
Manchukuo-Soviet and Manchukuo-Mongolian frontiers.

7. A further consideration arises from the relations between Japan
and Russia. Japan rejected a Russian offer of a non-aggression
pact in 1932, and has not yet departed from that attitude; one
reason for the rejection was the degree of control of Japanese
policy at that time exercised by the military and the aggressive
spirit of the latter. The situation is perhaps now changed,
largely owing to the increased military power of Russia in the Far
East, and in these circumstances it can no longer be said for
certain that Japan would refuse to entertain the proposal of a
pact of non-aggression. Another factor that might be unfavourable
to the signature of a pact by the Soviet Union and Japan is the
recently concluded Japanese-German agreement directed against the
Communist International. [5]

8. According to present dispositions, the Philippines will receive
their independence in 1946, but discussions are understood to be
proceeding between the United States and the Philippine Government
with a view to the advancement of the date. It is possible,
therefore, that the Philippines will become an independent State
within the next year or so. In any case it would seem desirable to
consider provisions for the inclusion of the Philippines. This
could be done either by including in the pact an article providing
for their accession when they attain independence, or,
alternatively, by the United States Government signing the pact
both on their own behalf and on behalf of the Philippines, in
which case it may be presumed that the Philippines would, on
achieving independence, continue to be covered. There is no reason
to suppose that the United States Government would object to some
provision on these lines. Indeed, quite the contrary, as they
might hold it to constitute a less embarrassing method of
providing for the protection of the Philippines than is
foreshadowed in their present legislation which contemplates the
negotiation of an international treaty for 'the perpetual
neutralisation of the Islands.'
9. If a treaty covering mainland possessions, or at least mainland
Powers as parties, is to be aimed at, the following would fall to
be considered as signatories: the United Kingdom, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, the Soviet
Union, China, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Siam. The
Committee were without guidance as to including other countries on
the mainland of America or as to whether the eastern seaboard of
the Pacific is to come within the scope of the Treaty. If the
Canadian and United States seaboard is to be covered, it would
seem difficult to exclude Mexico and the Central American
countries. It is possible that the South American countries which
border the Pacific might also wish to be included as certain of
them have apprehensions as to Japanese policy. The Committee
presume, however, that the intention would be to cover only the
northern and western Pacific. The area might be defined
geographically (as was done in Article XIX of the Washington Naval
Treaty for the purpose of stabilising the position in regard to
fortifications and naval bases) or by implication, by reference to
Powers having possessions on or in the northern and western
Pacific. It is to be understood that possessions include mandated
territories as was made clear in the Declaration accompanying the
Four-Power Treaty.

10. As regards the matters not included in the Four-Power Treaty,
which have been suggested for inclusion in the new Treaty, the
Committee see, as already indicated, no difficulty about non-
aggression (subject to the difficulties already mentioned if the
Asiatic mainland is covered) or about reiteration of the
provisions of the Treaty of Paris.

11. Signatories also Members of the League would probably desire
to include a clause saving their rights and obligations under the

12. The Committee were fully impressed with the important bearing
of economic questions on political appeasement, but they consider
that this matter is outside the scope of a pact of the nature
which they have been discussing, and would require separate study.

13. As regards procedure, the first step would presumably be to
sound the United States and Japanese Governments. In view of the
conversations already in progress between the United Kingdom and
the Japanese Governments for an understanding between the two
countries, the Principal Delegates will doubtless consider whether
the United Kingdom Government should be invited to undertake the
soundings and whether they should have discretion as to the time
and manner of doing so.


1 On 2 June 1937 the Principal Delegates to the Imperial
Conference agreed that a committee should examine technical
aspects of the Australian proposal for a regional pact in the
Pacific. (See Document 36.)
2 See Document 33, note 9.

3 The Kellogg-Briand Pact, 27 August 1928.

4 See Document 33, note 9.

5 25 November 1936.

Annex I

Four-Power Treaty of Washington-Articles I and II


The High Contracting Parties agree as between themselves to
respect their rights in relation to their insular possessions and
insular dominions in the region of the Pacific Ocean.

If there should develop between any of the High Contracting
Parties a controversy arising out of any Pacific question and
involving their said rights which is not satisfactorily settled by
diplomacy and is likely to affect the harmonious accord now
happily subsisting between them, they shall invite the other High
Contracting Parties to a joint conference to which the whole
subject will be referred for consideration and adjustment.


If the said rights are threatened by the aggressive action of any
other Power, the High Contracting Parties shall communicate with
one another fully and frankly in order to arrive at an
understanding as to the most efficient measures to be taken,
jointly or separately, to meet the exigencies of the particular


Annex II

Nine-Power Treaty of Washington-Article VII

The Contracting Powers agree that, whenever a situation arises
which in the opinion of any one of them involves the application
of the stipulations of the present Treaty, and renders desirable
discussion of such application, there shall be full and frank
communication between the Contracting Powers concerned.


Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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