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

60 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of Australia8

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of Australia8

31 October 1941

While His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are largely in agreement with the views expressed in your most secret telegram No. 444 of 31 October,9 and while in the case of an attack by Japan on Russia it appears inevitable that the British Commonwealth will declare war against Japan, they feel that the decision to be taken in this most difficult and delicate matter is so substantially dependent upon the views of the United States Government that it would be unwise to make the contemplated suggestion until the views of the United page 68 States have been obtained in accordance with Dominions Office circular telegrams of 24 October [Nos. 57 and 58]. They are not entirely convinced that it would be wise to make this démarche without the concurrence of the United States, and they are not entirely without apprehension lest such a step without United States co-operation might lead the Japanese to believe that they had successfully driven a wedge between the British Commonwealth and the United States.

Another serious factor of the existing situation which makes them hesitate to agree to the proposed declaration at the moment is our knowledge of the obviously limited scale of operations which, in fulfilment of the declaration, could be launched against Japan without United States assistance—a fact with which the Japanese Government are quite conversant. In such circumstances the New Zealand Government fear that the proposed declaration would fail as a deterrent, that it might in fact be viewed by Japan as a challenge to immediate action, and be considered as premature and too precipitate by the United States. On receipt of the views of the United States Government, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand will review the position and will communicate with the Commonwealth Government. I shall be grateful if a copy of this communication can be shown to the Hon. Mr Nash.1

8 Mr Menzies resigned on 29 Aug 1941 and was succeeded by Mr A. W. Fadden, who in turn resigned on 7 October after being defeated in a division on the Budget. A new government was formed by Mr J. Curtin, leader of the Australian Labour Party.

9 Not published. The Prime Minister of Australia requested New Zealand's comments on the draft of a proposed warning to Japan that any attack by her on Russia would be resisted by force by the British Commonwealth.

1 Mr Nash was in Australia for discussions on the trans-Pacific air service.