Results of the Washington Naval Conference

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The major nations that participated in the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22) entered the negotiations from differing positions of power and departed with differing levels of satisfaction:

The Washington Conference was clearly a compromise endeavor, not a victory for any one nation. The Four-Power Pacts were well-intentioned efforts to calm tensions in the Pacific, but the lack of any real enforcement mechanism doomed the accords' effectiveness. However, a major benefit was gained by Britain and the United States by the termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.

The naval limitation provisions did provide an important degree of savings for participating nations, but as time went on, funds were simply diverted to the construction of smaller vessels not covered under the agreement. In addition, many naval experts believed that the future significance of the giant battleships had already been eroded, citing the Battle of Jutland as evidence for their position.

Later efforts were made to try to close loopholes in the Washington treaties. An effort at Geneva in 1927 failed. Some success was gained in London in 1930, when the powers extended the construction moratorium to 1936 and offered other concessions to Japan.

The postwar experiment at disarmament and limitation of arms came to an end in 1936, when Japan ended its participation.


*Capital ships were those vessels exceeding 10,000 tons or bearing guns in excess of an eight-inch caliber, effectively denoting battleships and aircraft carriers.

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