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

40 — 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

The following is the text of a statement made in Parliament today by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs:2

I ask the leave of the House to make a brief statement on recent page 49 developments in Indo-China. The Japanese Government have presented demands to the Vichy Government for the occupation of naval and air bases in Southern Indo-China.1 Although there is as yet no official news of the conclusion of a definite agreement between the Japanese and Vichy Governments or of the occupation of further bases by Japanese forces, it is quite evident that both these events are imminent. That this new aggression was meditated by Japan has been clear for some time past. I made allusion two days ago to the cloud of accusations against the authorities in Indo-China and allegations that it was the intention of Great Britain to attack Indo-China, not to mention other assertions of an equally baseless character. Propaganda of this kind is the customary prelude to a fresh act of violence by the Axis and their associates. In the present case the fact that the occupation of bases in Southern Indo-China is taking place with the consent of Vichy does not obscure the fact that Japan has achieved her object by making demands [backed] by threats of force if they were not complied with. The miserable plight of the Vichy Government in the face of these demands provides one further example of the blessings of collaboration with the Axis. To the sorry tale of humiliation to which the Vichy Government have subjected the French people is added the new indignity of having to accept the so-called protection of Japan against a threat which, as everyone knows, does not exist.

His Majesty's Government regard these developments as a potential threat to their own territories and interests in the Far East. In anticipation of them, His Majesty's Government have been in close communication with the United States Government, the Government of the Netherlands and, of course, with His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions. The attitude of the United States has been publicly announced in no uncertain terms by the acting Secretary of State,2 and I am sure that the House will join me in welcoming that timely and salutary statement.

I do not propose today to give an account of the measures which His Majesty's Government have prepared to meet these and other possible developments. I will give the House further information at an early date, but I can state at once that certain defence measures in Malaya have already been enforced in view of the plain threat to our territories which the Japanese action implies.

2 Rt. Hon. Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 23 Dec 1940–26 Jul 1945.

1 A pact granting Japan these bases was signed at Vichy on 29 July.

2 Mr Sumner Welles.