The world’s first disarmament treaty, the Washington Naval Treaty, was signed today in 1922. The goal of the treaty was to prevent an arms race among the world’s naval powers in the wake of the First World War.
At the time, the British had the most powerful navy in the world, followed by the United States. The Japanese Imperial Navy was a distance third, but held a strategic advantage in that its navy was a One-Ocean Navy unlike the US and Britain.
The treaty strictly limited the number and weight of capital ships and aircraft carriers.
|United Kingdom||525,000 tons||135,000 tons|
Capital ships could have guns no larger than 16-inch caliber. Carriers and smaller warships were capped at 8-inch guns. These limits gave way to a building competition between the nations with 10,000-ton Treaty Cruisers, most notably the US’s Pensacola-class and Northampton-class Cruiser.
Despite the “small arms race” resulting from treaty limitations, the United States scrapped 30 existing or planned ships because of the treaty; Britain, 23; and Japan, 17.
From the beginning, Japan considered the ship ratio to be an insult by Western Powers. That feeling of disrespect would fester for several years, specifically against the United States, and would culminate in a Japanese denunciation of the treaty in 1934.