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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 Canada 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 Covenant.

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 situation.


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

Category: International relations

Topic: History