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

53 — 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

2 September 1941

Circular telegram. My Circular telegram of 28 August [No. 51].

His Majesty's Minister at Washington reports that the United States Secretary of State, while showing no reluctance in regard to the proposed warning, indicated his preference for the second formula page 61 and the avoidance of mention of the United States lest it should appear that our warning was being given merely at their instance. Mr Hull also suggested:


That (as had been our intention) our warning should be made confidentially to the Japanese Government and that the text of it, at any rate, should not be made public.


That our objection to Japanese encroachment should not relate to the ‘South-West Pacific area’ but be made more broadly and take the form of a warning against continuance of the war and expansion policy and the programme of conquest by force. The basis of this suggestion is the desire of the United States to meet the suspicions of China and Russia, the former of whom might read into our formula the possibility that we should leave her in the lurch if our territory were safeguarded, while the latter might think we were seeking to divert Japan from our territory towards Russia. (It appears that the United States authorities have grounds for believing that such apprehensions exist, and that the words ‘neighbouring countries’ in the United States warning were adopted largely to meet the suspicions of the above Governments.)


That the express mention of the word ‘war’ be avoided on the grounds that public opinion in Japan is in a state of ferment and the situation between the Japanese Prime Minister and the extremists is delicate.

2. As regards United States negotiations with Japan, Hull indicated that the message from Prince Konoye of 28 August had made resumption possible,1 and he said that if the conversations reached a stage where a basis was found for negotiation of a general settlement of the Pacific situation he would inform us. He was determined to adhere strictly to his basic principles, and he thought the United States negotiations had one chance in twenty-five or fifty of succeeding. If they failed he would perhaps have gained useful time, while if they succeeded so much the better. He was, however, thoroughly alive to the various dangers of his policy, e.g., that Japan after a settlement might break it in a few months' time, in which case the effect on the morale of the Chinese army and people might be serious. He would have to bear such dangers constantly in mind.

3. Recent events such as the President's warning and the Prime Minister's broadcast, the United States Government's oil policy in respect of Russia and Japan, and the despatch of a United States Military Mission to China,2 had caused violent reactions in the Japanese press page 62 and public opinion. Prince Konoye (with what sincerity Hull did not know) had begged that no pretext should be given to Japanese extremists to upset him on a charge of sacrificing Japanese Imperial policy.

4. Further consideration in the light of the above is being given to the question of the action to be taken by us.

1 Konoye suggested a meeting between himself and President Roosevelt ‘to explore the possibility of saving the situation’.

2 Under the leadership of Brigadier-General John Magruder, the mission arrived at Chungking in November 1941.