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

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

page 10

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

11 July 1940

Circular telegram. My Circular telegram of 10 July, D. 327.1 Following for Prime Minister:

In view of the attitude of the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs2 His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo has suggested that the best course as regards the Burma Road would be an agreement on our part to suspend the transit of war material through Burma for a period of three months, on the understanding that during this period special efforts will be made to bring a just and equitable peace in the Far East. Should these efforts fail, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would remain free to permit the transit of trade to be resumed at the end of three months.

2. Sir Robert Craigie has pointed out that the possibility of the resumption of traffic in October would be a lever for ensuring adequate Japanese attention to any suggestions which we and the United States might make meanwhile for the settlement of the China dispute, and would give time for the elaboration of concrete proposals for British and United States economic and financial assistance to Japan which would prevent her [group mutilated–falling?] wholly under the influence of Germany. The loss to China through the closing of the route during the rainy season would be inconsiderable. Last year during the corresponding period traffic fell to one tenth of the normal figure.

3. After further consideration of the situation it has been decided to inform Sir Robert Craigie as follows:

4. The solution which we should prefer if it could be obtained would be that for a period of three months, and on the understanding referred to in the latter part of paragraph (1), the transit of the materials in question should be not banned, but limited to the quantities during the corresponding period last year.

5. If Sir Robert Craigie cannot obtain this solution or thinks it unwise to attempt it, he is being authorised at once to put forward the proposal in the form which he suggests. He has been informed that the more restricted the list of war materials is the better. He will be at page 11 liberty to add at his discretion that we assume the Japanese Government will utilise the interval to discuss the suspension of the export of munitions to China with the third Powers from which they emanate.

6. Sir Robert Craigie is being instructed to add that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are making this very considerable concession to Japanese opinion in face of great opposition, but that they do so in the confident hope that it will lead to a genuine improvement in Anglo-Japanese relations. Their position will become very difficult if, nevertheless, there is to be a continuance of hostility on the part of the Japanese public and press. He will point out that His Majesty's Government have never accepted the view that they are in any way responsible for the prolongation of hostility between Japan and China, that the gesture they are now making is evidence of their good intentions, and that they look to the Japanese Government to take prompt action to put an end to the anti-British campaign which so far they have done little to suppress. He has given us to understand that once this difficult corner in Anglo-Japanese relations is turned there will be an end to threats and [group omitted–demands?]. It is for the Japanese Government to ensure that this forecast is correct.

7. The United States Government are being informed of our decision and of the reasons for reaching it.

1 Not published. In this telegram the Dominions Secretary reported that the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hachiro Arita) had expressed disappointment at the British reply to the Japanese demands and requested an assurance that exports of war material from the United Kingdom to China via the Burma Road ‘would remain insignificant’. Mr Arita had emphasised that the Japanese people were ‘in no mood to put up with “procrastination”’.

2 Mr Arita was Minister for Foreign Affairs from 16 January to 21 July 1940.