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

3 — 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

3 July 1940

With reference to your Circular telegram of 26 June [No. 1], my Ministers ask me to convey to you the text of a telegram which has today been despatched to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia1 as follows:

‘I thank you for your telegram of 28 June2 with reference to the Far Eastern situation. We entirely agree with you on the following points:


The delicacy and danger of the situation.


The desirability of obtaining a clear indication of United States policy in the Far East.


The desirability, if circumstances allow, of retaining the United States Fleet in the Pacific.


The extreme undesirability of any act or omission on our part which might have the effect of unnecessarily precipitating trouble with Japan in our present situation.


The undesirability of any attempt to haggle with Japan.


The undesirability in the best interests of the British Commonwealth of the involvement of the United States in a war in the Far East.


The probable futility of the suggestion that in the present circumstances Japan might be induced on the lines proposed to offer to restore the territorial integrity and independence of China.

‘On the other hand we are most sceptical as to whether Japan could in the existing situation be persuaded to make a satisfactory tripartite declaration as to the status quo in the Pacific, or whether such a declaration page 9 if made would have any value at all unless accompanied by a full United States guarantee, which would seem unlikely at the moment.

‘Again we cannot bring ourselves to believe that the offer of mediation that you propose, in the absence of United States collaboration, offers any substantial promise of successful results. Nor are we convinced that a simple acceptance of the present Japanese demands would be morally right or even politically expedient. Indeed, we are inclined to feel that an acceptance of the Japanese demands or an offer of mediation between Japan and China might well be interpreted by the Japanese as a plain indication of our realisation of the weakness of our position and of our readiness on that account to sacrifice the Chinese and the principle of resisting aggression for the purpose of endeavouring to protect our own interests. We are at present inclined to feel that an appearance of continued confidence is more likely to be effective with the Japanese than any step which might be interpreted as a display of weakness. On the whole, however, we are inclined to defer the formation of any definite judgment on this most difficult problem until it has been possible to ascertain the result of the approach which has already been made by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to the United States Government.

‘A copy of this telegram has today been despatched to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs.’

1 Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia during the war were:

26 Apr 1939–29 Aug 1941Rt. Hon. R. G. Menzies, PC, CH, QC.
29 Aug 1941–7 Oct 1941Rt. Hon. A. W. Fadden, PC.
7 Oct 1941–death, 5 Jul 1945Rt. Hon. J. Curtin, PC.
6 Jul 1945–13 Jul 1945Rt. Hon. F. M. Forde, PC.
13 Jul 1945–19 Dec 1949Rt. Hon. J. B. Chifley, PC. (Died 13 Jun 1951.)

2 Repeated in No. 2.