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56 Mr M. MacDonald, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Circular Dispatch B79 LONDON, 23 July 1937

Received n.d. [on or before 12 August 1937]


I have the honour to transmit the accompanying copy of a despatch to His Majesty's Representative at Tokyo [1] reporting upon a discussion with the Counsellor of the United States Embassy in London [2], at the Foreign Office on the 16th June, on the subject of the proposals for a Pacific Pact.

2. In this connection the Chinese Ambassador in London [3], who called on Sir Alexander Cadogan [4] at the Foreign Office on the 10th June, was informed that, as regards the next steps to be taken, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom hoped to ascertain the views of the other governments principally concerned. Sir Alexander Cadogan took the opportunity of asking whether His Excellency knew what were the views of his government on the subject, but he was unable to give any definite reply. He promised, however, to telegraph to Nanking to ask his government whether they could give any detailed expression of their views.

His Excellency volunteered the opinion that a pact merely relating to insular possessions would be of no interest to China, but he added that he thought his government would certainly desire that the pact should include some provision for consultation. Sir Alexander Cadogan observed that if the pact were to extend to the mainland, His Excellency would realise that the question of Manchukuo would present various problems. Sir Alexander did not himself see the solution of these, but it might be that the Chinese Government would have some suggestions to make. The Ambassador promised to enquire and to communicate the reply to Sir Alexander in due course.

1 Enclosure to this Document.

2 Ray Atherton.

3 Dr Quo Tai-chi.

4 U.K. Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.


Mr. A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to Mr J.

L. Dodds, Counsellor, U.K. Embassy, Japan

Dispatch 302 (COPY) LONDON, 19 June 1937

With reference to my despatch No. 285 of the 7th June [1] I have to inform you that the Counsellor of the United States Embassy [2] called to see Sir Alexander Cadogan [3] at the Foreign Office on the 16th June to question him about the proposal for a Pacific Pact. He asked particularly whether there had been any resolution of the Imperial Conference on the subject.

2. Sir Alexander Cadogan said that there had been no resolution, but that a discussion of the proposal put forward by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia [4] showed that all the delegations considered it to be a desirable (though perhaps a rather remote) objective. The matter had been studied in more detail by a committee of experts, who had submitted that a Pact might take several forms and who had felt it their duty to draw attention to some of the difficulties involved. The experts' report had come before the Conference, who had recognised that the negotiation of a Pact was a matter which could not be rushed. It had been agreed that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should sound the various Governments on the subject. Japan would evidently present the most serious difficulty and it was therefore important to ascertain what her attitude was likely to be. It was recognised that negotiations for a Pact should not be allowed to cut across the impending Anglo-Japanese exchange of views. [5] One of the principal difficulties in the way of the Pact would be the question of Manchukuo and North China and it was felt that negotiations would probably have to wait upon a Sino- Japanese detente and very likely also upon a settlement in regard at least to North China. This latter aim might be facilitated by successful negotiations for an Anglo-Japanese understanding, and it was therefore agreed that His Majesty's Government would have to see how these latter negotiations progressed and choose the moment for sounding the Japanese Government on the larger objective.

3. Before taking that action, it would be useful to know the wishes of the United States Government (concerning which Mr Atherton had no information).

Sir Alexander Cadogan told Mr Atherton that he understood the Chinese Government would take no interest in a Pact confined to insular possessions, and it would consequently have to apply to the mainland with all the difficulties that that would imply in connexion with Manchukuo and the risk of being drawn into Sino- Japanese quarrels. Further, there seemed to be a general impression that there should be some provision for consultation.

It would therefore be very interesting to His Majesty's Government to have the views of the United States Government in the light of these two considerations.

4. Mr Atherton said that he was going to the United States in a month's time and would discuss the matter in Washington.

5. He expressed himself as being personally doubtful as to the wisdom or the feasibility of the idea. He thought that the Japanese Government had recently felt their isolation rather acutely, and he feared it might be a mistake when they were showing some signs of a chastened mood to make advances to them before convincing evidence had been forthcoming from their actions that there was a real change of heart in Japan. He emphasised, however, that this was only his personal view and promised to try to get the considered opinion of his Government.

C. W. ORDE (For the Secretary of State)

[AA : A981, PACIFIC 23]

1 Not printed.

2 Ray Atherton.

3 Deputy Under-secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

4 J. A. Lyons.

5 On 24 June 1937 it was announced that Shigeru Yoshida, Japanese Ambassador to the U.K., had received instructions to begin discussions with the U.K. Government on the issues of China and Anglo-Japanese trade relations. No definite date was fixed, however, before fighting broke out in China on 7 July, and the conversations were postponed sine die.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History