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

10 — The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

7 August 1940

His Majesty's Government in New Zealand much appreciate your most secret telegram of 3 August. They fully realise that in the existing circumstances there must arise occasions upon which action must be taken by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom without consulting the Dominions, and in such cases the New Zealand Government may be relied upon to understand the situation and in general to accept the decision that is made. But they entirely agree with His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia that in matters affecting the Far East, which so directly concern the Dominion of New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Australia, every possible opportunity should be taken of obtaining the views of the Governments of those Dominions before action is taken, and this is especially the case where the policy adopted is subject to marked fluctuation. They find it difficult to understand your statement that you ‘had gathered after the full explanation as to the particular case which was communicated through our High Commissioner in our page 17 telegram of 14 July, that the New Zealand Government acquiesced in the line which we were taking’, and, solely with the object of clearing the record, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand wish to point out that they have never at any time expressed acquiescence in the line that was taken in respect of the Burma Road and that, in any case, the message to which you refer was dated 14 July, three days after you had informed them of the altered policy in connection with the Burma Road.1

His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have now had an opportunity of perusing the telegram of 6 August from the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia to the Australian High Commissioner in London2 with reference to your Circular telegram M. 45,3 in connection with which they have the following comments to make:


They fully agree as to the desirability of consultation.


They warmly support the policy of making every possible effort to avoid hostilities with Japan. Their feeling, however, is that continued concession at the expense of our friends, our rights, and our principles is not the best way of achieving this object, which is more likely to be attained by a reasonable and discreet display of confidence and determination. In short, they feel that the policy now being adopted, though it would have been much more likely to be effective and much less likely to be dangerous if applied earlier, is nevertheless still the right one.

This telegram has been repeated to Canberra.

1 No. 5.

2 Not published. This telegram contained the Commonwealth Government's views on British proposals concerning retaliatory action for the recent arrest of British subjects in Japan. The Commonwealth Government recommended further consideration – and consultation with the United States – before such action was taken.

3 Not published. Reported a British decision to arrest certain Japanese nationals in British territory against whom there was a prima facie case on the grounds of espionage.