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

72 — 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

29 November 1941

My immediately preceding telegram.

Lord Halifax saw the Under-Secretary of State yesterday and has telegraphed the following account of the conversations:

page 80

‘1. I asked Welles whether things had moved at all since the President's interview with the Japanese. Welles told me that nothing further had transpired since the President's talk and the handing over of the general note to the Japanese.

‘2. From intercepted telephonic conversations, the United States Government understood there was an internal crisis going on in Japan, and that communication by cable from Japan had been suspended for some hours today between 10.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. They had no information as to the reason for this. Meanwhile, the Japanese here were presumably awaiting instructions.

‘3. He showed me the record Hull had made of the President's conversation with the Japanese. The character of this had been quite general, the Japanese taking the line of regret that no temporary agreement had been found possible, and the President developing the argument that, anxious as the United States were for peace, they could not make any effective advance to this end nor would there be any substantial hope of such efforts being effective so long as the Japanese pursued the policy of aggression in support of Hitler. He emphasised the incompatibility of the Japanese actions with any substantial hope of improvement in relations and of securing peace. He said that the temper of United States' public opinion was such, and the issues at stake in the world were so sharply outlined, that the United States could not bring about any substantial relaxation in the economic situation unless Japan gave the United States some clear manifestation of peaceful intentions. If, however, Japan were able so to act, the United States would respond with concrete steps. If Japan followed Hitler and pursued the course wanted [?] the President was convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that Japan would be the ultimate loser.

‘4. I asked Welles whether he could give me any indication what would be the United States attitude in the event of a Japanese attack on Thailand. He said that he could not answer this question officially until they had further discussion with the President after his return on Tuesday, but speaking for himself he said he felt that Japan had come to [group omitted – realise?] that any further Japanese aggression should be resisted by the United States of America.

‘5. He thought the Japanese were likely to move during the next few days rather than fill up Indo-China with troops and wait.

‘6. Your telegram M.402 just received.1 As you will have seen from my telegrams, the United States Government are at present no longer page 81 regarding the modus vivendi as practical politics, contributory causes being the Chinese reaction, the suggestions of His Majesty's Government which did not appear to Hull capable of inclusion in the interim agreement and, I fancy, their own reconsiderations in the light of comments received.’

1 Not published. This telegram to the British Ambassador in Washington, repeated to New Zealand, gave the United Kingdom Government's comments on the proposal by Mr Hull to try to reach an interim agreement with Japan. The main British comments were that the proposal contained terms so favourable to Japan that they left no room for bargaining and that it took too little account of the Chinese position and of probable Chinese reactions.