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

22 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

page 32

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

5 April 1941

Circular telegram.

1. We have been considering possible steps which we could take inter alia in the economic sphere as counter action in the event of further Japanese moves to the south. Two suggestions have been made which seem worth considering as possible reprisals. They are:


The placing of Mitsui, Mitsubishi, or Okura on the Black List, and


Denunciation of the Anglo-Japanese Commercial Treaty.1

2. Our preliminary views on these two suggestions are as follows:

3. Black-listing of one or other of the above firms might bring home to Japanese industrialists the perils of bad leadership….2 A summary listing of all three might have even more adverse effects on the trade of Empire countries than on Japan itself. The same violent reaction might also be anticipated to this step as is to be feared from a complete oil embargo or other extreme economic sanction.

4. The argument in favour of denouncing the Anglo-Japanese Commercial Treaty is that, although a year must elapse before its expiry, a denunciation would have a considerable political effect in Japan, particularly if accompanied by some statement to the effect that, in view of Japanese restrictions on British trade, it has become obvious that the treaty in its present form no longer served any useful purpose. If Japan were to take Indo-China after coming to an agreement with Russia and the treaty were then to be denounced, Japanese industrialists would perhaps feel the sacrifice had been unnecessarily great and the unpopularity of the Government's pro-Russian policy would increase.

5. We have asked His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo for his views on the above suggestions. We realise, of course, that it is not possible page 33 to give a precise appreciation of their effect, failing an exact indication of the occasion for their application.

6. We should be grateful for any observations Dominion Governments may wish to offer on these two proposals.

1 Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, signed 3 Apr 1911.

2 A brief comment on the priority for black-listing has been omitted.