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

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

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

1 November 1941

Circular telegram. My telegram of today, Circular D.660.2 Japan.

The following is the text of a further telegram received from His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo regarding his interview of 29 October with the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs:

page 69

‘I had intended to confine my remarks about Indo-China to the particular question of recent acts by occupying authorities infringing French sovereignty, but the Minister for Foreign Affairs was clearly anxious to carry the matter further, observing that these were only symptoms of the trouble and that it was important to bear constantly in mind the underlying reasons for the stationing of Japanese troops in Indo-China. These he defined as:


The defence of the security of Japan and of areas in South-Eastern Asia vital to such defence;


The defence of Japan's economic position, which had now become a vital matter.

‘2. As regards (a), I said that the plea of a threat to Japanese security simply did not hold water, seeing that Japan's southward advance had now proceeded to a point 1500 miles from Tokyo and only some miles from British territory: on the contrary, the threat was obviously now to our security. As regards (b), I could see no possible necessity for military occupation to secure economic advantages which, in any case, had subsequently been accorded to Japan in full measure by the Vichy Government. On this, the Minister for Foreign Affairs added as a further reason the necessity for ensuring the safety of Japanese troops which had been sent earlier to Tongking as part of the campaign against China. In any case, he added, the important thing was now to prevent any aggravation of the situation, which in the present critical state of affairs might in turn necessitate an extension of Japan's military measures. (While he had mentioned no country other than Indo-China, he was clearly hinting at the possibility of some advance beyond the border of Indo-China.)

‘3. I said that on this question of further southward expansion I thought it best to be perfectly frank and definite, while inviting His Excellency to take my observations in the same friendly spirit in which they were offered. The change in strategical equilibrium brought about by the Japanese occupation of Southern Indo-China had constituted a threat to our neighbouring territory and, given the disposition of Japanese troops and air bases, could only be aimed at us. We had hitherto confined our counter measures to the economic field, but I was personally convinced that any further aggressive action on the part of the Japanese military in these regions would provoke immediate counter action on our part, the time for words and protests having passed. Japan had now pushed forward right up to our vital line running through Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies and Australia and New Zealand: we and other powers concerned in the defence of that line would in no circumstances agree to any impingement on it or to any further weakening of our security in that area. We at the [same] time wished to avoid trouble with Japan, the effects page 70 of which for both our countries would be incalculable and from which Germany only would benefit; but let the Japanese armed forces not conclude from this that we were afraid of Japan or insufficiently armed and prepared to meet any further movement imperilling our security in these regions.

‘4. The Minister for Foreign Affairs made no comment on these candid observations beyond acknowledging the friendly purpose of my remarks and repeating that they showed how vitally concerned was Great Britain in preventing any further aggravation of the present situation in South-Eastern Asia.’

2 Not published. Reported a discussion on 29 October between His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs on Japanese military infringement of French sovereignty in Indo-China.