146 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 244 LONDON, 15 April 1940, 7.30 p.m.


As a result of strong representations by Allied Mission to Scandinavia and by the Norwegian Government that if Norwegian resistance to be maintained immediate Allied action in Southern Norway imperative, Plan to this end now being put into operation, the first objective being the recapture of Trondheim.

Strong impression here attack on the Netherlands likely at any moment. The position under consideration by the United Kingdom and French General Staffs, and every effort being made to induce the Dutch and Belgians to agree to undertake joint action to be taken in such eventuality.

In the event of attack the position of the Netherlands East Indies has to be considered.

Press here have reported statements of Japanese press to the effect that Japan will take measures to protect her interests in the N.E.I. should the Netherlands be embroiled in the European war. According to a press agency message, spokesman of the Japanese Foreign Office is to make a statement on the subject later today. [1] 'Times' correspondent at Tokyo stated that press is anxious lest the United States might undertake to protect the Dutch colonies, and some newspapers hint that a nominal British control which left political status quo and Japan's economic interests intact would not be opposed.

At the moment the Foreign Office view is that the United Kingdom Government should approach the Netherlands Government and ask what they propose doing about the Netherlands East Indies in the event of German invasion of the Netherlands, also ask the Netherlands if they see any objection to United Kingdom notifying Japanese Government that maintenance of the status quo in the N.E.I. is regarded as an important British interest. It is hoped also to ascertain whether the Dutch have in fact approached the United States in the matter. Secondly I think that the question should be taken up immediately with the United States Government and discussed with utmost frankness.

Considerable body of opinion considers that Italy likely to enter the war on the German side in the near future. In my view decision will be greatly influenced by how the position in Norway develops.

German success there or elsewhere would probably bring Italy in.

Here also I feel that a frank discussion with the United States would be desirable as Roosevelt both directly with Mussolini and through the Vatican might exercise a steadying effect.


1 The following statement by Hachiro Arita, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, was reported in the Times on 15 April:

'With the South Seas region, especially the Dutch Indies, Japan is economically bound by an intimate relationship of mutuality in ministering to one another's needs. Similarly, other countries of East Asia maintain close economic relations with these regions.

That is to say, Japan and those countries and these regions are contributing to the prosperity of East Asia through mutual aid and interdependence.

Should the hostilities in Europe be extended to the Netherlands and produce repercussions in the Dutch Indies, it would not only interfere with the maintenance and furtherance of the above named relations of economic interdependence and co-existence and co- prosperity, but also give rise to an undesirable situation from the standpoint of the peace and stability of East Asia. In view of these considerations the Japanese Government cannot but be deeply concerned over any development accompanying an aggravation of the war in Europe that may affect the status quo of the Dutch Indies.'

[AA: A981, EUROPE 30, ii]