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

55 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand1

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand1

19 September 1941

My telegram of 2 September [No. 53].

We have now given full consideration to the question whether it would be desirable to convey a formal warning to Japan as to the consequences which would follow any further encroachments on their part in the Far East.

It will be remembered that in his broadcast of 24 August the Prime Minister, referring to the menace created by Japan's latest expansionist activities, said, ‘It is certain that this has got to stop’, and added that if the efforts of the United States to bring about an amicable settlement in the Far East failed, ‘we shall, of course, range ourselves unhesitatingly at the side of the United States’. This followed communication by the United States Government of a memorandum to the Japanese Ambassador at Washington, which closed with a warning in the terms given in my telegram of 27 August [No. 49].

A subsequent discussion with the United States Secretary of State indicated that the United States authorities would prefer that we should not link up any warning on our part with theirs, but that they would prefer us on the other hand to adopt a formula which would be as wide as theirs and would omit mention of the word ‘revised’.2

We have ourselves reached the conclusion that in the present circumstances no useful purpose would now be served by the issue of a warning by us at once so wide and so relatively vague as that of the United States. We feel this would add nothing to the warning page 64 conveyed already in the Prime Minister's broadcast and might even detract from its force. The broadcast made clear both our attitude towards the Japanese expansionist policy and our complete support of the United States, and has, we feel sure, been taken by the Japanese Government as complementary to the United States warning. Unless, therefore, events show the need for something more, we consider it better to let the matter rest where it is.

We should propose, therefore, that the United States Government be informed accordingly. It is, however, important that the United States Government should be given no grounds for thinking that we had not taken action in this matter fully corresponding to their own. We propose, therefore, to word our communication so as to indicate that if they thought that we could usefully make any further statement we would do so, but that in our judgment it was undesirable to add anything at this stage to the Prime Minister's broadcast.

We should be glad to learn as soon as possible whether His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions concur in a communication being addressed to the United States Government on the above lines.

1 Mr Fraser arrived back in New Zealand on 13 September.

2 The word revised in the draft formula was ‘war’. See No. 53, paragraph 1 (c).