THE problem of naval bases in the Pacific assumed new significance from the beginning of the present year, for that was the date when the political and naval agreements concluded at the Washington Conference in 1922 formally terminated. The three outstanding achievements of the Washington Conference were the Nine Power Treaty; the acceptance of a 5:5:3 ratio for capital ships by the three leading naval Powers, the United States, Great Britain and Japan; and the adoption of a self-denying ordinance in the matter of the construction of new bases and new fortifications in certain of the Pacific possessions of the three nations in question.
All these achievements are now of purely historical interest. The Nine Power Treaty, under which all Powers with Pacific interests except the Soviet Union (then unrecognized by most of the large countries) agreed to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, was to all intents and purposes set aside by Japan's action in occupying Manchuria in 1931 and 1932 in the face of condemnation by the League of Nations and protests by the United States. In addition, Japan, through its Foreign Office spokesman, has put forward a claim to a preëminent position vis-à-vis China, with the right to veto any loans offered China by other countries which it might regard as "political." Such a claim is scarcely compatible with the coöperative régime envisaged at Washington. As neither China nor the Western Powers recognized it as valid, a note of uncertainty and instability has been introduced into Far Eastern international relations.
The Washington naval agreements have now gone the way of the political. Japan gave the prescribed two years' notice of denunciation of the Naval Treaty on December 29, 1934. Neither the conversations which took place in London toward the end of 1934 nor the conference which was held there a year later could find any formula of adjustment between the Japanese demand for full parity of naval strength with Great Britain and America and the unwillingness of the latter