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

80 — 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

4 December 1941

My telegram [No. 78].

The following reply, dated 3 December, has been received today from His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington:

‘I saw the President with the Under-Secretary of State this evening and read to him your telegram.1 The President agrees with the [group mutilated – interpretation in your?] second paragraph that the first two hypotheses are, in practice, indistinguishable. Before giving a definite reply on your suggestion of a simultaneous warning, he wished to be clear on the following points:

‘1. Do you mean by the words, “If she uses Indo-China as a base for further aggression”, some actual act of jumping-off by Japan or the building-up of a base which clearly must be intended for further aggression?

1 See No. 78.

page 89

‘2. I said I read your telegram to mean the first, although it was plain that the building-up of a base would pro tanto diminish Japanese dependence on vulnerable supply lines. The President was much alive to this, but I think his own mind leant in favour of making a warning, if given, [group mutilated – conditional on?] actual jumping-off.

‘3. The point also arose in the discussion whether your wording, “as a base for further aggression”, was or was not intended to cover the hypothesis of intensified attack on the Burma Road from Thailand. The President, however, said he thought that was academic as the concentration of troops in Southern Thailand could hardly be intended for attack on the Burma Road by land except through Thailand, in which case the issue would be clear. The only practicable alternative in his view would be for the Japanese to bomb Rangoon, when again the issue would be clear.

‘4. The President assented to the interpretation of support as recorded in paragraph 8, my telegram M.412,1 as meaning armed support. The character of this armed support must be decided by the staffs.

‘5. In the circumstances of hypothesis (c), the President indicated assent to our putting the Kra Isthmus plan into operation in this eventuality, and I have no doubt in this case you can count on the armed support of the United States.

‘6. I read the President the last two sentences of paragraph 2 of your telegram,2 to which he gives assent. In this connection he said their information led them to think it probable that Japanese attacks might be directed against the Netherlands East Indies, particularly against some islands north of Sumatra. He made the comment on this that any action of the kind would prove more easy of presentation to United States' public opinion on the ground of threat to the Philippines by encirclement.

‘7. He recognised the force of your paragraphs 4 and 5 concerning the proposed guarantee to Thailand, and the intimation at the present moment to the Thai Prime Minister of [group omitted – our?] intention. He thought, however, that you might consider two other suggestions. First, that we should make a private communication to Thailand that we had no intention of invading them but that if the Japanese, with or without Thailand's agreement, went in, we should immediately do the same in our own self-defence. Second, that in view of Japanese-inspired propaganda intimating that we intended to invade Thailand,

2 See No. 78.

page 90 you might make a public statement now to the effect that His Majesty's Government had no intention of committing aggression against Thailand and were only concerned to see her sovereignty and independence preserved.’

A further telegram will be sent as soon as possible.