11 Memorandum prepared for Delegation to Imperial Conference

Extract n.d. [c. 6 March 1937]



The memorandum began with a detailed account of Anglo-Japanese relations from 1933 to early 1937, including negotiations for an Anglo-Japanese agreement in 1936-37.

In a minute of 21st January the Minister for External Affairs [1] raised the question whether there was any contribution which the Australian Government could make to the British Government as to its views on the suggestions recently made by Japan for an agreement with Great Britain. The Minister expressed the view that, while Great Britain and Australia are bound by their obligations to the League and China, the approach made by Japan should none the less be encouraged.

My [sic][2] Minister for External Affairs submitted the following views.

'Better relations between Great Britain and Japan and even a definite understanding-perhaps in general terms, somewhat on the lines of the recent Anglo-Italian pact-are most desirable from the point of view of Australia.

It is a question whether Japan's attitude as exemplified in the London Naval Conference [3] I the various Peking incidents, the Keelung incident [4], and the recent pact with Germany [5], is not such as seriously to discount her protestations of a desire for an agreement. In view of the reports of the Ambassador in Tokyo, I am inclined to think the desire is a sincere one. It must be noted, however, that the policy of the military party in Japan does not always run on parallel lines with that of the Government. In fact it has often been the antithesis in recent months. From information received from various sources, it is somewhat doubtful if the militarists in Japan, apart from several of the Higher Commanders, would welcome any close understanding with Great Britain. Indeed, they are using the alleged antagonism and obstruction of Great Britain to Japanese aspirations and policy in Eastern Asia as one of the justifications for their rearmament programme, and the elimination of this source of propaganda might not serve their ends.

The proposed terms of the British Government's reply to Mr Yoshida [6] are probably not calculated to discourage him, although a general impression remains after reading the despatches that the reception of the Japanese advance was somewhat lukewarm.

It seems highly desirable, that a cablegram be sent to the U.K. [7] stating that the Australian Government is closely following the situation and considers that it is advisable, from the point of view of Australian policy, that more friendly relations and a closer understanding should be established between Great Britain and Japan.' [8]

1 Sir George Pearce.

2 ? The.

3 The Japanese delegation withdrew from the London Naval Conference on 15 January 1936 because other powers at the Conference refused to concede her the right to naval parity. Japan formally announced her decision not to adhere to the London Treaty on 29 June 1936.

4 Throughout 1936 there were anti-British incidents in Japanese- controlled areas of China and Manchuria. At Keelung three British seamen were arrested and assaulted by police on 7 October 1936, and a naval officer was insulted when he requested their release.

5 Japan and Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25 November 1936.

6 Shigeru Yoshida, Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

7 See Document 12.

8 Memorandum prepared in Department of External Affairs.