Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
83 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
Circular telegram. netherlands east indies.
In view of President Roosevelt's attitude as indicated in paragraph 7 of my telegram M.4121 and confirmed by paragraph 6 of my telegram [No. 80] and in face of the present Japanese threat, we feel that we should go beyond the previous oral assurance given to the Dutch (my telegram of 6 September, M.295).2 We are therefore communicating with them today proposing a military understanding whereby each party would undertake to co-operate immediately to the fullest extent of its available resources in the event of the other party being forced to take military action to repel an attack upon any of its territories in the Far East. We are adding that we have reason to believe that our views are shared by His Majesty's Governments in the Commonwealth of Australia and in New Zealand, and that if the Netherlands Government are prepared to enter into such an understanding with us we page 92 will at once suggest to those Governments that they should also participate. The text of the Note will be telegraphed as soon as possible. President Roosevelt is being advised of the communication which we are making to the Netherlands Government, and informed that we feel sure he will agree that the Dutch should from now on be brought fully into our discussions of the measures to be taken to counter further Japanese moves.
1 Not published. Reporting on his interview with President Roosevelt, Lord Halifax in paragraph 7 of his telegram of 2 December said inter alia that he thought that President Roosevelt would be disposed to support whatever action His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom were prepared to take in the event of the Japanese reply to the Note of 2 December being unsatisfactory or of a Japanese attack on Thailand. Halifax added: ‘At one point he [Roosevelt] threw in an aside that in the case of any direct attack on ourselves or the Dutch, we should obviously all be together….’
2 Not published. This assurance, at first given orally and then supported by a Note on 5 September from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to the Netherlands Minister in London, stated that the United Kingdom Government ‘consider themselves to have already assumed the duty of safeguarding and restoring the possessions and rights of the Netherlands to the best of their ability’, and that ‘an attack upon the Netherlands East Indies would lead them to do the utmost in their power to this end’. The British Government, however, reserved the right to decide whether military action was practicable.