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

19 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington)

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington)

8 October 1940

Circular telegram.

Please give the following message to the Prime Minister:

Recent reports from His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington show a stiffening of the United States attitude, and suggest the possibility of arranging for some form of concerted reaction to the German-Italian-Japanese pact.

In a recent conversation with His Majesty's Ambassador, Mr Cordell Hull threw out the idea of private staff talks between the United States, the United Kingdom, the Dominion Governments concerned page 30 and the Dutch authorities on the Far Eastern question. We have welcomed this suggestion and have indicated that we should like these to be held at the earliest possible date.

His Majesty's Ambassador has been informed that any other suggestions for co-ordinated reaction to the Japanese-Axis pact which the United States may feel able to put forward will be most sympathetically considered here. We share the view, which is evidently gaining ground among members of the United States Administration, that any steps taken should be such as would not increase Japanese pressure on the Dutch. (Please see in this connection paragraphs 2 and 3 of my Circular telegram D. 503.1)

The question of parallel declarations by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the Dutch authorities, giving some form of guarantee for the insular territories in the Pacific south of the Equator, was mentioned recently in the discussion between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Australian Minister at Washington2 with Mr Hull, and we have authorised His Majesty's Ambassador to elucidate this proposal in further discussions with Mr Hull.

The question of a possible visit by a United States squadron to Singapore has also been considered by the United States authorities, but, as indicated in my Circular telegram M. 64 of 5 October,3 they are not in favour of this at present.4

1 Not published. Paragraphs 2 and 3 read:

‘2. Netherlands East Indies. The Netherlands Government inform us that the Japanese are now asking for 3,150,000 tons of oil per annum over and above normal exports to Japan of 600,000 tons. These demands are unacceptable to the Netherlands Government and they say they will resist them. They recommend that the attention of the United States Government be drawn to the connection which they and the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies see between the increasing Japanese demands and the United States embargo policy. His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington has been instructed to inquire of the Netherlands Minister the result of any communication which the latter may have had with the United States on this subject.

‘3. We have pointed out to Lord Lothian that we feel that the Japanese attack on the Netherlands East Indies is more likely to come from Japanese determination to maintain oil imports than as a counter measure to the opening of the Burma Road. Moreover, since he is satisfied that the United States Government could not stand aside and watch the Japanese absorb the Netherlands East Indies, it would be natural that he should impress upon them that this danger is perhaps more imminent than they seem to suppose in consequence of the evident Dutch determination to resist increasing Japanese demands. In fact the moment has come for the United States Government to decide whether they wish to encourage the Netherlands East Indies to resist Japanese pressure, in which case the Dutch will naturally ask for United States military support: the alternative being for the Netherlands East Indies to reach [group mutilated–agreement?] with Japan, which may well lead to Japanese penetration and economic domination of the Netherlands East Indies.’

2 Lord Casey, PC, CH, DSO, MC (then Rt. Hon. R. G. Casey); Australian Minister to the United States, 1940–42; Minister of State Resident in the Middle East, 1942–43; Governor of Bengal, 1944–46; created Baron, 1960.

3 Not published.

4 Mr Fraser replied on 9 October welcoming ‘the possibility of still closer relations between the British Commonwealth and the United States’ and expressing the New Zealand Government's agreement ‘that concerted pressure on the Japanese would be desirable’. He said that the Government ‘warmly supported’ the proposed staff talks and was prepared to take part in them.