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

75 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

page 83

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

1 December 1941

Your most secret telegram of 30 November [No. 73]. The views of His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are as follows:

1. An immediate approach to the Thai Government would seem to them desirable, informing the Thais of the apprehensions of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and of the United States Government, and of the facts upon which these apprehensions are based, calling their attention to the markedly disadvantageous position in which they and we would be placed in the event of an unopposed Japanese landing on the Kra Isthmus, and suggesting that they might consider most urgently the possibility of inviting us, in the circumstances envisaged, to defend this territory in collaboration with Thai forces under the most definite and explicit assurances of respect for Thai sovereignty and independence. In the event of such a request being received from the Thais, then clearly it would be advisable (subject to the general considerations set out in paragraph 3) to forestall any Japanese occupation of Thai territory. Should the Thais refuse to extend such an invitation, then the matter would again be at large and should be decided in the light of the considerations set out below.

2. With or without such a Thai invitation, the New Zealand Government feel that if the United States Government are in general agreement and are willing to proffer such assurances of assistance as the American constitutional situation will allow, then again an attempt should be made to forestall a Japanese occupation. It might, if time allows, be advisable also to attempt to persuade the United States Government to join us in the intimation to the Japanese suggested by the Thai Prime Minister, as set out in your telegram M.400 of 28 November,2 that if Japan goes to war with Thailand she will find herself at war with us.

3. In the contingency, which they feel is not unlikely, of a Thai refusal to receive assistance and a United States inability to promise co-operation, then the matter must be decided on general considerations of the strength available in the locality, the means available to us to prevent a landing, the undesirability of allowing a territory of such high strategical value to fall into enemy hands without an attempt on our part to prevent it, and the effect on world opinion, both enemy and friendly, of such inaction on our part.

1 This message was repeated to the Prime Minister of Australia.

2 Not published.

page 84

4. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand do not feel that they are in a position to pass any considered judgment of real value on some of the considerations outlined in the last preceding paragraph, and while they assume, of course, that no action will be taken unless and until it is an established fact that Japanese ships are approaching the Isthmus or have, in fact, crossed the ADB line,1 they are prepared to leave the decision to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with the assurance that, whatever the decision of the British Government, the New Zealand Government will adopt it and support it.

5. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand assume that the Netherlands authorities are being taken into full consultation with a view to their maximum co-operation with us.

1 As defined in the report of the American-Dutch-British conversations at Singapore in April 1941.