Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 400 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 22, Chapter 6-2

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus
(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 22, Chapter 6: US Retaliation: Washington Naval Conference-2

December 5 , 2023

The Washington Naval Treaty (also known as the Five-Power Treaty Between the Five Powers Concerning the Limitation of Naval Armament) was signed at the Washington Conference. Its essential points are:

(1) Respective ratios of capital ships to be held by each signatory was set as follows:

Britain 5
United States 5
Japan 3
France 1.75
Italy 1.75

(Discussion of (2) – (4) omitted here.)

(5) The status quo, with regard to fortifications and naval bases, would be maintained; no new
fortifications, naval bases, or coastal defenses would be constructed in the territories listed

(A) The insular possessions which the United States now holds or may hereafter acquire in the Pacific Ocean, except those adjacent to the coast of the United States, Alaska and the Panama Canal Zone, and the Hawaiian Islands;

(B) Hong Kong and the insular possessions which the British Empire now holds or may hereafter acquire in the Pacific Ocean, east of the meridian of 110° east longitude, except those adjacent to the coast of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia and its Territories, and New Zealand;

(C) The Chishima (Kurile) Islands, the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands, the Ryūkyū Islands, Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands and any insular territories or possessions in the Pacific Ocean which Japan may hereafter acquire.

But exceptions were made for the US (Hawaii) and Britain (Singapore). Both nations were permitted to fortify those territories at their discretion.

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the pillar of Japanese diplomacy for 21 long years, came to an end. This was a cause for rejoicing for the US. One Japanese diplomat, disappointed that the Four Power Treaty had replaced the alliance, said, “We have discarded whiskey and accepted water”. To the Japanese the  new treaty had neither significance nor utility.

The new Nine-Power Treaty Concerning China had the most historical significance for Japan. Signatories agreed to respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial and administrative integrity of China. They also promised to help establish and maintain the Open Door Policy and equal opportunity for the commerce and industry of all nations. The Nine Power Treaty had incorporated the Open Door Policy into an international treaty.

The Nine-Power Treaty effectively rejected Japan’s China policy, which emphasized the special relationship between Japan and China. It constrained Japan to an excessive extent, and became the primary point of contention between Japan and the US, ultimately leading up to the Greater East Asian War.

The greatest flaw of the Nine-Power Treaty was its assumption that eventually a solid stable government would appear in China, and that China would unite and form a modern nation. But China became even more chaotic and headed toward violent exclusionism. Unfortunately, it was Japan that bore the brunt of China’s reality.


MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact