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

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

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

25 July 1941

Circular telegram. Japan.

We have considered our conclusions further in the light of views expressed by the Canadian, Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments. We fully appreciate the vital importance, to which all three Governments have called attention, of securing the clearest possible indication that the active armed support of the United States will be immediately available if the Japanese force the issue to the point of war. The only question to our mind is how can this best be secured.

2. Having regard to constitutional difficulties in the United States, we feel quite certain that to ask the United States Government now to give us such an assurance would be most unwise. Any attempt to attach such a condition to our taking action similar to that which the United States are prepared to take might well discourage the United States from taking action at all and, in any case, would not in our view produce the desired result.

3. We have considered whether it would be possible to inform the United States Government that we are prepared to take action parallel with theirs, and at the same time to make it clear that we are assuming that if, in consequence, an attack on the Netherlands East Indies or ourselves results, they will be prepared to give us armed support. We feel, however, that the United States Government would have no alternative but to make reservations which would seriously embarrass us.

4. In our view the United States Government will in fact be compelled to support us if the need arises. It is clear that if the Japanese are provoked to extreme measures it will be as a result of the drastic effect of action taken by the United States and not of our co-operation therein. Both by reason of the [group mutilated – vigorous?] war policy of the United States towards us and their special interest in the page 48 Far East, we do not believe that they would find it possible not to give us their full support.

5. With these considerations in mind we feel convinced that the proper course is to follow the United States lead boldly and without attaching reservations. If this should lead to a tense situation and Japanese threats of hostile action, then will be the time to raise with the United States with the best prospect of success the question of a guarantee of mutual support.

6. We earnestly trust that His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions will feel able to agree to our taking this line with the United States Government. We feel it essential to make known to the United States Government forthwith our willingness to take parallel action with them, and should be grateful, therefore, for a reply by most immediate telegram.