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

92 — 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

7 December 1941

My immediately preceding telegram

1. Since the possibility remains open that the immediate destination of the Japanese convoys is another port in Indo-China, there may still be time for a warning to Japan by the United States, the Dutch and ourselves on the lines contemplated in the recent exchange with President Roosevelt. We have therefore thought it desirable to continue page 99 preparations for delivery of such a warning in order to be in a position to proceed with it if and when the President should give the signal to do so.

2. We have not yet heard whether the President has decided to send a message to the Emperor or not. If he has not yet made up his mind, his decision may now be influenced by the news of the sailing of the Japanese convoys. We must assume in any event that he may wish to proceed with some form of warning at any moment, in which case warnings from ourselves and the Dutch may be required to follow almost immediately afterwards.

3. It would, we feel, add greatly to the impressiveness of the warning (if the President should wish us to proceed with it) if it could be delivered on behalf of all His Majesty's Governments jointly. We very much hope His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions will feel able to concur with this course and identify themselves in this manner with the warning proposed.

4. In view of the urgency of the matter, as explained in paragraph 2, we have thought it desirable to prepare and telegraph to His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo a draft note to the Japanese Government conveying a warning in the sense agreed in recent discussions with the President. The text is contained in my immediately following telegram, and it will be seen that, in the hope that the suggestion made in paragraph 3 above will be acceptable, it has been drafted as a joint communication. Sir R. Craigie has been instructed to hold this draft note in reserve, pending receipt of further instructions, and it has been explained to him that the text as well as the form is subject to the concurrence of His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions. The draft has been telegraphed simultaneously to His Majesty's Ambassador in Washington for the observations of the President. It has also been shown to the Netherlands Government, which is entirely in agreement with the line taken in it and is preparing to act similarly.

5. We should be grateful if we could be informed by most immediate telegram whether you concur in the terms of the draft note and in the procedure suggested. In the circumstances it would be helpful if you would cause your reply to be repeated to His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo.

6. It will be appreciated that in drafting the note we were presented with a special difficulty owing to the desire of the President that the Burma Road should be omitted from the warning (see my telegrams [No. 87], paragraph 2, and [No. 88], paragraph 1). In the circumstances we have thought it would be best to relate the warning directly to the concentration of troops in Southern Indo-China. The draft note thus brushes aside the Japanese explanation about North Indo-China and leads logically to the Japanese threat to Thailand as well as, of page 100 course, the Netherlands East Indies. This has the merit of being in accordance with immediate realities, and the fact that the Philippines are also omitted (in accordance with paragraph 3 of my telegram [No. 87]) should, we feel, make the absence of mention of the Burma Road less noticeable.