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

285 — The High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington) to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

The High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington) to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

8 May 1942

The Prime Minister saw me today with reference to a suggestion made by Admiral King that the full responsibility for the defence of Fiji and Tonga should be assumed by the United States, that the American Army division intended for New Zealand should proceed to Fiji, and that the New Zealand forces there should then return to New Zealand.

page 320

This suggestion was conveyed to the New Zealand Government by the New Zealand Minister in Washington yesterday for the first time, with a request for their immediate reactions. The New Zealand Government, who had been negotiating with the United States authorities with reference to an increase in the force available for the defence of Fiji, replied last night that their first reactions were generally favourable and asked to be supplied with further details. They have this morning been informed by Mr Nash that the suggestion has already been approved by the President, and that as the islands are in the area for which the United States have strategic responsibility, Admiral King's suggestion, as approved by the President, must be carried out. This appears to be the case. The New Zealand Government, who intended, of course, to consult His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, the Governor of Fiji, and His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia as soon as it appeared possible that the proposal would receive the serious consideration of the American authorities, are surprised at the rapidity with which the situation has developed and regret that time has not permitted of fuller consultation. They would be grateful for a very early indication of the British Government's views. The New Zealand Government for their part are proposing to concur.

The New Zealand Government are today informing the Governor of Fiji and asking for his comments.

The High Commissioner for New Zealand in London has been supplied by Mr Nash with copies of the relevant telegrams.