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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

79 — 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

3 December 1941

My telegram M.412, paragraph 3.1 The following is the text of a document given by the President to the Under-Secretary of State, and handed over by the latter to the Japanese representatives yesterday morning, 2 December.

‘I have received reports during the past days of continuing Japanese troop movements to Southern Indo-China. These reports indicate a very rapid and material increase in the forces of all kinds stationed by Japan in Indo-China.

‘It was my clear understanding by the terms of the agreement, and there is no present need to discuss the nature of that agreement, between Japan and the French Government at Vichy that the total number of Japanese forces permitted by the terms of that agreement to be stationed in Indo-China was very considerably less than the total amount of forces already there. The stationing of these increased Japanese forces in Indo-China would seem to imply the utilisation of page 88 these forces by Japan for purposes of further aggression, since no such number of forces could possibly be required for the policing of that region. Such aggression could conceivably be against the Philippine Islands; against many islands of the East Indies; against Burma; against Malaya, or the whole through coercion or through actual use of force for the purpose of undertaking the occupation of Thailand. Such new aggression would, of course, be additional to the actual aggression already against China, our attitude towards which is well known, and has been repeatedly stated to the Japanese Government.

‘Please be good enough to request the Japanese Ambassador and Ambassador Kurusu to inquire at once of the Japanese Government what the actual reasons may be for the steps already taken, and what I am to consider is the policy of the Japanese Government as demonstrated by this recent and rapid concentration of troops in Indo-China. This Government has seen in the last few years in Europe a policy on the part of the German Government which has involved a constant and steady encroachment upon territory and the rights of free and independent peoples through utilisation of military enterprise of the same character. It is for that reason and because of the broad problem of United States defence that I should like to know the intentions of the Japanese Government.’

1 Not published. Paragraph 3 read: ‘He [President Roosevelt] then discussed at great length the Japanese reinforcement of Indo-China and said he had been considering the possibility of some concerted parallel statement with us. He thought, however, that the wiser course was to begin by making a communication to the Japanese in the form of a question, which he proposed to instruct Welles to give to the Japanese this evening (Monday) or tomorrow morning. I saw Welles when I had finished with the President and he undertook to let us have a copy….’