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41 Minutes of Fifteenth Meeting of Principal Delegates to Imperial Conference

E (PD) (37) 15 (extract) LONDON, 8 June 1937


3. The Meeting had before them the Report of the Technical
Committee on the Pacific Pact (E. (37) 33). [1] The Report had
been prepared in accordance with the arrangement arrived at at the
Meeting of Principal Delegates on June 2nd (E. (P.D.) (37) 11th
Conclusions, page 11). [2]

MR CHAMBERLAIN suggested that, if it were generally agreed,
perhaps the best method of initiating their further consideration
of this matter would be for Mr Eden to make a statement with
regard to the Report.

MR EDEN said that as a preliminary he would like to inform the
Meeting of two new developments, both connected with Japan, which
had taken place within the last 48 hours.

The first was an interview which he had had on the previous day
with the Japanese Ambassador in London. He would like to read the
note which he had made of the interview:-

'The Japanese Ambassador asked to see me today when he said that
he wished to put certain questions to me which might seem somewhat
indiscreet at this stage, on the subject of the projected Pacific
Pact to which Mr Lyons had referred in his opening speech at the
Imperial Conference. Had we as yet any definite proposals in mind?
I replied that we had not. So far, matters had not proceeded
further than an informal exchange of views on the proposal. If and
when we were in a position to put forward anything more definite
we would of course make preliminary soundings among other
Governments, when I would ask His Excellency to speak to me again
on the subject. In response to a question the Ambassador then gave
me what he described as his own personal impressions of his
Government's attitude to a Non-Aggression Pact for the Pacific. He
said that he thought that they would have no objection in
principle to such a pact, but that they might regard its
negotiation as a little premature at this time. The first
necessity in his judgment was to seek to improve relations with
other Powers in the Pacific and more especially with His Majesty's
Government in the United Kingdom. From such improvement a Pacific
Pact would flow naturally. The Ambassador also showed a certain
apprehension lest the new Pact should be similar in form to the
Nine-Power Treaty, and I had the impression that this would not be
welcome to Japan.

M. Yoshida also asked me whether I had any information as to the
attitude of the United States to a Non-Aggression Pact in the
Pacific. Mr Davis [3], when he had been here, had spoken to M.

Yoshida on the subject and had appeared to consider that the
correct way to proceed was through bilateral arrangements which
could gradually be extended to include an ever larger number of
Powers. He wondered, therefore, whether it was our intention to
widen the basis of any Anglo-American trade agreement which might
be reached in order that that might include Japan. I replied that
we were acutely conscious of the significance of economic matters
and their relation to any political agreement, but that we had as
yet much work to do before anything in the nature of an Anglo-
American trade agreement was in sight. In the circumstances any
question of extending it must inevitably be remote. There was no
reason, however, why trade and economic matters which affected
Japan and ourselves should not be discussed pari passu with any
discussion of political problems. I had the impression that the
Ambassador's main object in raising this question at the present
time was to ensure that the Japanese Government might not suddenly
be presented with a fully drafted Pacific Pact and asked to sign
it. I, therefore, gave His Excellency the assurance that no such
procedure was in contemplation.

Finally, the Ambassador remarked that he had some little time ago
received from the Japanese Government certain proposals for the
betterment of Anglo-Japanese relations. He had wished to make
certain changes in the texts and had submitted his amendments to
Tokio. These were now being considered by the new Government and
he hoped to receive a reply in the near future.'

The second item of news was a telegram received yesterday from the
Charge d'Affaires in Tokio [4], which read as follows:-

'At a reception for Heads of Missions this afternoon Minister for
Foreign Affairs [5] informed me that an understanding with United
Kingdom was the most important work which new Japanese Government
had to perform. This had been his ambition when he was Minister
for Foreign Affairs in 1935 but when he became Prime Minister he
had not enough time to devote to it. He believed it was possible
and hoped to put it through within the next two or three months
and before Prince Chichibu left England to return to Japan. He had
accordingly told officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to
speed up final instructions to Japanese Ambassador in London. Such
an understanding was essential to the peace of the world or at all
events the Far East. He did not know why Anglo-Japanese alliance
had been abrogated but "look at the result ever since".' (Tokio
telegram No. 181 (R), dated June 7th, 1937.)

Mr Eden went on to say that the two messages did not entirely
coincide. The statement by the Japanese Foreign Minister must, of
course, be taken as the more authoritative.

The two messages taken together confirmed our previous information
that Japan was anxious for some relaxation of the present tension
in the Pacific. The new Japanese Government appeared to be more
stable than its predecessor, and therefore more capable of
conducting an important negotiation. The matter would obviously
have to be handled with great care at each stage, if alarm was not
to be caused in one quarter or another.

Turning to the Report of the Technical Committee (E. (37) 33), Mr
Eden said that this was a valuable document and would be of great
assistance. It might be thought that the Report conveyed a rather
pessimistic impression regarding the difficulties in the way of
negotiating the suggested Pact. It was, however, right that the
difficulties should be pointed out. In his own opinion these
difficulties would not be found to be insuperable.

MR LYONS agreed with Mr Eden that the difficulties indicated by
the Technical Committee were capable of being removed. The
Committee had been right, however, in drawing attention to them.

He (Mr Lyons) much appreciated the pains which they had taken in
examining his suggestion.

Mr Lyons thought he was right in assuming that the Principal
Delegates were in agreement in general principle with the
desirability of negotiating the proposed Pact. If this was so,
they could make progress.

He would like the Meeting to agree-

(i) That a Pact covering the Pacific area mentioned in paragraph i
of the report is a desirable objective.

(ii) That the Pact might embrace the following:-

(a) Non-aggression, including respect for each other's

(b) A reaffirmation that war is renounced as an instrument of
national policy.

(c) A provision for political collaboration.

(iii) That the following countries might be approached with a view
to participation:-

The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United
States, Japan, the Soviet Union, China, France, the Netherlands,
Portugal, and Siam.

(iv) That His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should be
asked to take the initial steps by sounding the United States and
Japanese Governments, and that it should have discretion as to the
time and manner of doing so.

Mr Lyons added that he for one would leave the matter in the hands
of the United Kingdom Government with absolute confidence. Even if
the proposal did not meet with complete success, the effort would
have been well worth while, provided that it resulted in better
relations between the United Kingdom and Japan. Those 'better
relations' would, of course, have to include the United States as
a third party.

MR MACKENZIE KING said that the Canadian Delegation were prepared
to give their general support to the Report of the Technical
Committee and to the proposal just made by Mr Lyons. Anything
likely to bring about closer relations between the British
Commonwealth and Japan was well worthy of support.

He was prepared to agree to the procedure suggested in paragraph
13 of the Report, namely, that the first step should be to sound
the United States and Japanese Governments, and that the United
Kingdom Government should be invited to undertake the soundings
and should have discretion as to the time and manner of doing so.

MR SAVAGE called attention to the importance of the news
communicated by Mr Eden. At the same time as the Conference was
considering an approach to Japan, it was clear that Japan was
beginning an approach towards the United Kingdom Government.

It was very important not to take a false step. It would be a
false step in his opinion not to respond to the advance made by
the Japanese Ambassador in London. The whole negotiation was of
first-rate importance in the interests of peace. It seemed to him
(Mr Savage) that the Japanese meant business. No approach from
that side ought to be discouraged, even if our own preference was
for advance in some slightly different direction.

Mr Savage added that he must not be misunderstood as meaning that
we should make an agreement permitting Japan to take further
liberties in China. The Chinese Government also must participate
in the Pact.

Mr Savage said that it was difficult to read the Report of the
Technical Committee without being discouraged by the difficulties
to which it called attention.

GENERAL HERTZOG said that he had no comments at the present stage.

LORD ZETLAND said that he agreed with what was proposed including
the procedure set out in paragraph 13 of the Report.

MR CHAMBERLAIN said that the United Kingdom Delegation greatly
appreciated the suggestion that they should have discretion as to
the time and manner of sounding the United States and Japan. The
new Japanese approach to this country seemed to indicate that this
was the right method of proceeding.

He had not had an opportunity of consulting Mr Eden, but his
personal view was that a pact limited to the island territories of
the Pacific would not be worth while as a means of obtaining any
real amelioration. In addition, as the Technical Committee had
pointed out, such a limited pact would make no appeal to China. As
regards the difficulties in the way of a mainland pact, these had
been brought out by the Technical Committee. He agreed with Mr
Eden in believing that they were not insurmountable. They went to
prove that it was worth while making a great effort to reach the

Japan appeared to be in a more reasonable mood than for some time
past. He was in complete agreement with Mr Savage that nothing
must be done to jeopardise the prospect of better relations with
Japan. Japan herself would no doubt recognise that no settlement
could be permanent or satisfactory which did not cover inter alia
her relations with China.

He was very grateful to Mr Lyons for the concrete proposal which
he had just made. Its terms struck him (Mr Chamberlain) as
admirable. The only suggestion which he would make would be that
in (iv) the wording should be 'by sounding the United States,
Japanese and Chinese Governments, etc.'
The great obstacle in the path was of course the situation in
Manchukuo. It was almost an insoluble problem, yet it was so great
a source of danger for the future that it would have to be
tackled. If a solution could be found during the forthcoming
negotiations that alone would be a fine piece of work.

It was no good shutting one's eyes to the fact that Manchukuo
would not go back to China. The only question was how to reach a
settlement without damaging the prestige of the League of Nations.

In one way or another it would be necessary to persuade China to
recognise the establishment of Manchukuo as a separate state. The
Chinese were a practical people at bottom and in the end he
believed they would admit the inevitable. They would only give
their recognition, however, provided that they were given a
reliable guarantee that this was the end of Japanese aggression.

They would never agree if there were any fear of Manchukuo being
used as a jumping-off ground for further incursions south of the
Great Wall.

The Pact ought to be one of non-interference as well as non-
aggression. Interference was a usual means of beginning trouble in
the Far East. He thought, however, that this was covered by Mr
Lyons' phrase 'respect for each other's sovereignty'.

To sum up, the Pact would be of little use unless it included the
mainland. On the question of procedure, Mr Lyons' suggestion would
meet the case admirably with the addition of a mention of the
Chinese Government under (iv). The initial soundings would thus be
limited to the United States, Japanese and Chinese Governments.

Other soundings, e.g., of Russia, would come at a somewhat later

MR EDEN said that two points only remained for him to emphasise.

The first was that any public announcement should be carefully
drafted so as to make it clear that the Pact would not be at the
expense of China.

His second point was that the United Kingdom Government ought to
have complete discretion as to the manner of sounding the Japanese
Government, i.e., either by approaching them on behalf of the
Commonwealth or by responding to the recent Japanese advances.

This was an aspect which had been usefully emphasised by Mr

MR CASEY reminded the Meeting that the original Australian
proposal was based on Anglo-Japanese rapprochement, which was
regarded as essential to the success of the proposal.

MR NASH enquired how the problem was affected by the recent
agreement between Germany and Japan.

MR EDEN said that this agreement certainly introduced a
complication, in so far as it was unwelcome to Russia. M.

Litvinoff [6], however, had told him that he was in favour of a
Pacific Pact. It would be necessary of course to remember Soviet
susceptibilities throughout.

The proposal as to procedure made by Mr Lyons was approved,
subject to the amendment to (iv) suggested by Mr Chamberlain,
i.e., that the initial steps should be to sound the United States,
Japanese and Chinese Governments.

1 Document 38.

2 Document 36.

3 Norman Davis, adviser to U.S. President F. D. Roosevelt. His
report of his conversation with Yoshida is printed in Foreign
Relations of the United States, 1937, vol. III (Washington, 1954),
pp. 74-76. For his views on non-aggression pacts and proposals for
neutralisation of certain Pacific territories, see ibid., pp 974-

4 Probably J. L. Dodds.

5 Naotake Sato.

6 Maxim Litvinov, Soviet People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs,
July 1930-May 1939.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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